Friday, March 13, 2009

Peter Luger Steakhouse - Over-hyped, Overpriced and Underwelmed

Peter Luger Steakhouse - 225 Northern Blvd, Great Neck NY 11021

As mentioned, Dan's 30th birthday extravaganza extended through the weekend. And at the conclusion of it, we found ourselves at the legendary Peter Luger Steakhouse in Great Neck, Long Island. Although it wasn't the original location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we thought it would still promise an unprecedented experience.

While the birthday boy couldn't be happier, I wasn't impressed and wouldn't return again. Here's why...

Located on the border of Queens and Long Island, Peter Luger is situated in Great Neck, NY a nice town that doesn't exactly feel like suburbia and is easy to get to for both Queens residents and Long Islanders.

From first glance you could tell that Luger's is traditional. The outside is white with wooden moldings and old-school lanterns, while the inside is embellished with more wood accents. The feel is almost gothic with the many lanterns, chandeliers and large oil paintings. The prevailing aura is warm and cozy and I could see Luger's being a nice venue to celebrate the winter holidays.

There are plenty of large tables for big groups, as it seems to be the norm when dining here.

My expectations were super high in this area and I'm sad to report that I was underwhelmed. While there wasn't anything explicitly wrong with the food, it was just unexciting and plain.

Sliced Tomatoes and Onion - Although the description of this dish was simple, I was expecting something less ordinary than what came out on the plate. We were literally served large beef-steak tomatoes with sliced raw onions. I didn't understand why this even existed on the menu and why they charged $12 for it. What a rip-off! The tomatoes and onions were good but who couldn't just slice this up on a plate at home. One benefit was that when dressed with Peter Luger's own steak sauce, it brought all sorts of delicious flavors out of the tomatoes and onions.

Caesar Salad - Now this was a well done starter. All ingredients were wonderfully fresh, the dressing was creamy and tangy and the parmesan cheese on top was the piece-de-resistance--thick, flavorful and absolutely addicting.

Steak for Eight - We actually ordered steak for seven because there was a lot of meat served with this portion. Half the table got medium and the other half got medium-rare. I preferred the medium--don't care if it's un-foodie like--but I thought that the medium-rare tasted too raw. The flavors settled nicely in the medium cut and I liked the char on the outside. But steak texture is a very personal thing so naturally, some of my dining companions disagreed with me.

The Sides - This is my favorite part of any steak dinner, more so than the actual steak. Our sides included creamed spinach, Luger's special German fried potatoes and onion rings. I liked the potatoes best because they reminded me of what my dad makes at home. They were slightly well done and interlaced with caramelized onions. The creamed spinach was a close second, as it was gentle on the palate and so luxurious too. I didn't care for the onions rings at all and thought they were too greasy. Nothing compares to the gargantuan, cake-like batter onion rings at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Luger's version didn't stand a chance.

Dessert - Dan and I ordered the "Holy Cow" Hot Fudge Sunday, which was impressive-looking but tasted just OK. The chocolate sauce was flavorless but the homemade whipped cream was good, there was just too much of it. The other side of the table ordered key lime pie--it was very good, and I especially liked the homemade crust. Again, they overdid it on the whipped cream.

Service and Cost:
The service was superior and one of the best I've ever witnessed. The waiters are all older, experienced men who know their steak and who don't mess around. Their attitude is friendly and warm but straightforward - no bull. It was nice that they not only cut our steak for us but also placed it carefully on our plates. The same was done with the sides and although we didn't always see our waiter, he was paying close attention to everything, refilling our glasses when needed or wrapping up a dish to take home. Overall, the service was excellent and felt like family.

The prices at Luger's are exorbitant and not worth spending. Steak for seven cost us a whopping $298, while the sides ranged from $8.95 - $11.95 and dessert was $9 each. Needless to say, the whole dinner cost a small fortune.

2 Mmmms


  1. Foodista--you should check them out for a lunchtime burger sometime. I'm told it's much more reasonably priced and less crowded. J always used to go to the Brooklyn location with his work buddies and never had a bad thing to say (and we all know how picky he is!!) Just a suggestion!

  2. Ahhh, an exco-worker of mine went there for her fiancé's birthday had the same thing to say. Well... they really enjoyed their steaks but said it was more than $100 per head and sucks they only do cash. Hey, there's a draw for some reason, the place is doing well and always busy. All the more power to them. Doubt I'll be going anytime soon. Glad to hear what you thought.

  3. Mmmm...Ruth Chris is the best.
    However in this instance, you guys would have been better just to go to Christos Steak House.

    Speaking of, when are you doing their review??

  4. Thanks for the suggestion Kimberlah - not sure if I will go back though. It's too far for me to go to for lunch :( I think it's more of a guy place - no frills.

    Sirbeef - yes, I LOVE Christos. I reviewed them last year. Here is the link:

    Margs - I think this place continues to attract a crowd because it's one of the oldest steakhouses and because its upscale (people want to say they've been there). I'm not sold though and think it's a waste of money. Sort of like Water's Edge... for some reason, everyone talks about it, but again not impressive.

  5. Hi Foodista!

    I have a different take on the issue of expense.

    You said that your party ordered steak for seven which cost you $298. But this is right in the ballpark at any fine steakhouse. Depending on the cut, most steaks cost between $40-50; some cuts are a little less ($35) and others much more ($100), but typically you are in the $40-50 range. Using this as a baseline, steak for seven at $298 is about $43 a person. If you feel that the portion was good, the cut excellent and well aged, and the steak prepared to specification, then you were not overcharged. Don't get me wrong, it is expensive, but no more so than any comparable steakhouse in the city.

    I agree with you that when they bring out a regular tomato and sliced onion with some dressing on it and it's $12, it's a rip off. To be honest, there are certain things which I simply will not order at a steakhouse. I always go for sides that I know from prior experience are excellent or that I will not make myself at home.

    Most of these steakhouses started out with a "no-frills dining for the guys" attitude, where the dishes really were the most basic imaginable. People liked the plainness and their appreciation of taste derived from the quality of the cut, the aging and whether or not the meat was prepared to specification. In the 1880's when they said steak, they meant, a good cut of grilled beef on a plate with nothing else. That tradition has endured to this day at the high end places. In truth, as long as excellent service is provided, the tradition of "steak is made to order and arrives by itself" has become an excuse to charge some serious money for add-ons. Steakhouses are all about getting the finest, well-aged cuts of meat and top shelf wine and service.

    In reality, at fine steakhouses, most, or at least an equal amount of money is often spent on the wine, which can easily go for $40 to $500 a bottle. When friends or acquaintances ask me to recommend a steakhouse I tell them to plan on spending at least $100 per person. I assume $40-50 for the steak, a minimum of $10-20 on a glass of wine (if you're going by the glass, although a nice bottle in the $30-50 range is usually sufficient for four people), one side per person $10-15 and coffee and dessert $10-15. Add in tax and tip and you are usually in the $100-125 range per head. If you want an appetizer add another $10-15.

    There is no doubt that it is an expensive meal, but Luger's prices are not radically different than other steakhouses. If you really weren't satisfied with your meal, that's a reason not to return, but it doesn't sounds like you were overcharged. I think if you go in with an expectation of what you are going to spend, the sticker shock won't ruin the meal as much at your next steakhouse. Also, and I mean no disrespect here, but when you say that the sides are the best part of the steakhouse experience for you, well, you're really just not a steak connoisseur. This being the case, you probably should go to less expensive places since you're not appreciating the difference. I'm not trying to be snobbish about it because I've had excellent steak at "non-steakhouse restaurants", but it really is only worth it if you're really into steak.


  6. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments above - much appreciated. I agree with you - I am not a steak connoisseur but I do enjoy a good cut of meat. I love going to Christos Steakhouse and Ruth's Chris for flavorful steak and interesting sides. The no-frills atmosphere and food at Luger's just didn't do it for me.

    In terms of cost, my husband said the same thing as you. If you divide the total number of people that dined that night into the cost of steak, it wasn't as shocking. I knew going into it that it would be expensive, but I guess that I was just waiting for it to wow me and it never did. I thought that the steak was on the greasy side and it bothered me that I didn't get my own piece--I wasn't into the family style thing. Call me selfish! :)


  7. thanks for the tips foodista! I have been comtemplating a trip over to Luger's for a bit now -- it tempts me every time I go over the williamsburg bridge! I think I have to try it now that I know some tips!



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