Jody Storch, one of three female meat buyers for Peter Luger, the no-frills steakhouse underneath the Williamsburg Bridge, is my new hero. Over lunch at her family restaurant, she ordered salmon, confessed to a weakness for wine spritzers, griped about not having any pull in the New York restaurant scene, and chatted about everything from nudie calendars in the meat locker to Soul Cycle (she’s a fan, but doesn’t buy into the new age chanting).
Storch doesn’t have anything to prove. Neither does the famous chophouse that has been serving expertly broiled, perfectly marbled USDA porterhouses since 1887.
I’d never been to Peter Luger, but I made the trek in the name of research (keep an eye out for my roundup of America’s best steakhouses in Travel & Leisure). First impressions: The restaurant feels more biergarten than chophouse thanks to fachwerk walls, decorative steins and simple wood furnishings. And I was a little afraid of the woman at the hostess stand with the purple hair. But I was charmed by my waiter in his white apron and black bow tie and intrigued by the gravy boat of horseradish-flecked steak sauce he sets down before me.
Jody ordered for me: Bacon, onion and tomato salad, the porterhouse for two, a.k.a. “the double”, fries and creamed spinach. If you ever go, this is what you should order, too. Forget Benton’s: The bacon at Luger’s is fatty, salty, and delicious. And it’s even better with tomato, onion, and steak sauce. The sides were good as well, if slightly less memorable: Creamed spinach was, well, creamy and spinachy (though more spinachy than creamy, which I prefer). The thick-cut fries were crisp and potato-y and an excellent a vehicle for the steak jus and butter that pooled beneath the sizzling hunk of flesh. There was much spooning of said jus and butter over the charred, tender beef, followed by a slow parsing out of meat and sides, and then, finally, I was allowed to eat. The feeling was not unlike on Christmas morning when, finally, my siblings and I were permitted to open our presents.
And biting into a piece of this butter-finished beef was not unlike getting the Lego set or computer game that I really really wanted. It was the best steak I’ve ever had, a hand-selected, perfectly marbled piece of prime beef, simply prepared and presented with a bit of pomp. Why not finish the meal with a hefty piece of New York-style cheesecake? A bowlful of shlag (that’s German for whipped cream) on the side? Yes, please.
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