Steakhouses are as much a part of Midtown as high-rises and luxury department stores. The country’s best-known steak emporiums—Mortons, Ruth’s Chris, Del Frisco’s—have branches here of course, but you will also find a number of only-in-New York establishments, some dating back to the days when traffic jams were caused by horse-led carriages rather than taxis.
255 5th Avenue (between 28th and 29th Streets)
Ben & Jack’s has steakhouse cred: It was founded by several front-of-house veterans of Brooklyn’s legendary Peter Luger Steak House. The two-story, 10,000-square-foot wood-paneled eatery includes two full bars and five private dining areas, making this an ideal venue for parties and corporate gatherings. But the restaurant is just as much of a treat for smaller groups or solo carnivores. It is best known for its dry-aged porterhouse steak for two, three, or four, though you can also order prime rib, filet mignon, and even chicken, seafood, and pasta. The appetizers and sides, like the gentleman’s-club decor, is just what you would expect from an old-school steakhouse: shrimp cocktails, Caesar salad, French onion soup, all manner of potatoes.
237 West 54th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues)
Like Ben & Jack’s, Empire was founded by veterans of Peter Luger—in this case, brothers Russ, Jack, and Jeff Sinanaj. Another Empire outpost is on East 50th Street. The 54th Street restaurant includes a petite outdoor patio that can seat 20. Along with porterhouses for two to four people, rib-eye steaks, and racks of veal and lamb, Empire serves Wagyu steaks imported from Japan and traditional seafood and chicken dishes. Spicing things up a bit is the signature steak sauce, a proprietary blend that includes a zesty dash of horseradish.
228 West 52nd Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue)
Gallaghers Steakhouse. Image: Americasroof/Wikimedia
The origins of Gallaghers are pure New York. It was founded as a speakeasy in 1927 by former Ziegfeld girl Helen Gallagher and gambler-about-town Jack Solomon. Gallagher was married to Ed Gallagher of the vaudeville musical-comedy team Gallagher & Shean (Al Shean, incidentally, was the uncle of the Marx Brothers). After her husband’s death in 1929, Helen Gallagher and Solomon married. The restaurant’s colorful history, reflected in the numerous photos and illustrations of the celebrities who have frequented it, is hardly the primary reason to visit, however. Gallaghers dry-ages its meat in its on-premises locker, which you can peer into courtesy of a picture window, and it is the only restaurant in the city that grills its steaks over hickory coals, resulting in a distinctive smoky flavor.
72 West 36th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
Keens Steakhouse. Image: Edsel Little/Flickr
Before Broadway was the center of the New York theater world, there was the Herald Square Theatre District. Theater producer Albert Keen founded what was called Keens Chophouse in 1885, next to the Garrick Theater. Actors came to the venue for a quick drink between acts and for more substantial fare after their performances. Although Keens now declares itself a steakhouse, and its steaks are hand-picked and dry-aged on the premises, it is better known for its mutton chop, a 26-ounce saddle of lamb. Proof of the dish’s longstanding popularity: Keens served its millionth such chop back in 1935. Just as famous is the restaurant’s pipe collection, much of which is displayed on its ceiling. Regulars paid five dollars for the privilege of keeping their narrow-stemmed clay pipes at Keens to prevent them from breakage. Buffalo Bill Cody, Albert Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt, and Babe Ruth were among the more than 90,000 members.
37 East 50th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
Though founded in 1996, Maloney & Porcelli has a clubby aesthetic similar to that of older steakhouses, best exemplified by the large statue of a steer that overlooks the main dining room. Executive chef Aaron Bashy, a veteran of Le Bernardin, Aureole, and the Water Club, among others, oversees a menu of steaks dry-aged and butchered in-house, lobster, and classic seafood and chicken dishes alongside less-traditional options such as individual pizzas topped with goat cheese and fig or guindilla peppers and sopressata. Its nightly wine dinners complement an appetizer, entrée, and dessert with unlimited tastings of four wines.
57 West 58th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
While the interior and the menu of Quality Meats pay homage to steakhouses past, they also reflect contemporary tastes and an innovative élan. Steel butcher hooks and market scales have been transformed into lighting; planks of walnut run above and below mirrors on the walls. Along with filet mignon, dry-aged porterhouse for two, veal chops, and the like, Quality Meats has a charcuterie bar that serves artisanal cheeses alongside salamis and prosciutto. Likewise, in addition to tried-and-true sides such as potatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms, you can choose “new classics” including gnocchi and cheese and corn crème brûlée.
44 West 56th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse. Image: Jazz Guy/Flickr
Having originated in Bayside, Queens, Uncle Jack’s now has two Manhattan locations (the other is in Hell’s Kitchen). Owner William Degel works with Nebraskan ranchers to ensure that all cattle meet his specifications. In addition to made-in-the-USA steaks and chops, the restaurant serves authentic Japanese Kobe beef. As succulent as the meats are, you could also make a meal of the restaurant’s seafood offerings—not just the catch-of-the-day entrées but also the appetizers, such as shrimp-and-lobster dumplings, crab cakes, and seafood platters that include oysters and crab legs. Uncle Jack’s also offers gluten-free versions of most of its dishes.