The Meat of the Matter
Westchester’s Favorite Steakhouses
(page 1 of 3)
Photography by Andre Baranowski
We’re on a tear of beefy steaks, buttery potatoes, and crisp, deep-fried onion rings. Don’t tell PETA—and pass those pointy knives our way.
BLT’s Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Miailo holds a prized bone-in sirloin.
Steakhouses, like haikus, succeed within an established set of rules. All steakhouses have luscious beefsteaks, obviously. And flanking those, you’ll find the usual suspects in sides: sautéed mushrooms, stacks of onion rings, and mashed, gratinéed, and French-fried potatoes. Caesar salads traditionally whet the appetite, along with oysters and snappy shrimp cocktails. And as a bone thrown to your already at-risk health, you’ll probably find some richly sauced veggies, like creamed spinach, rounding out the spread.
True, the steakhouse menu is predictable, but when has that ever been a problem for comfort food? Just as when we return to a beloved bistro, we go to a steakhouse for familiarity. We want the mouthwatering aroma of searing beef; a clubby, welcoming vibe; and big, deep glasses of resonant reds. It’s like sinking into an easy chair.
Comfort aside, it’s important to remember that steakhouses always have been progressive. Before even Chez Panisse, steakhouses offered “ingredient-driven” menus, where prime grades, heritage breeds, nut-and-bolts aging methods, and farm-to-table provenance were as joyously celebrated as sauce Béarnaise. Plus, in anticipation of the relaxed tone in chic restaurants, steakhouses have always been low key. They’re the places to loosen your tie and kick back, even with a heritage-breed steak and fine wine.
Here in Westchester, we’re lucky. While other suburbanites have to travel to the City, we’re loaded with destination steakhouses within our borders. We toured the best of the bunch and on the following pages tell you what we found.
BLT’s well-lit interior—just look at those shades—attracts a buzzing crowd on weekends.
221 Main St, White Plains
(914) 467-5500; bltsteak.com
One plus one equals more than two at BLT, which brought a whole lot of culinary-world brand power to the already buzzy towers of the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester. The soaring space is lit by two-story windows (and, at night, water-tower-sized cylinder shades). Visible from the street and sidewalk, its transparency acts like a beacon to Westchester’s carnivores. Once summoned, BLT’s diners are not disappointed—bright lighting and cheery blackboard specials makes this dramatic spot as welcoming as it looks.
Not-to-miss starters include a changing roster of East and West Coast oysters, or Chef Tourandel’s sexy plate of tuna tartare, where jade avocado makes the perfect backdrop for firm, ruby-hued bluefin. Meanwhile, BLT’s signature starter, grill-striped, double-cut bacon, makes an even better beginning: here, a crisp, smoky sear leads to a soft and lushly juicy bite.
BLT serves up a mouthwatering, bone-in sirloin.
BLT is known for its elite steaks, like the American Wagyu which comes in melting rib-eye, top cap, and skirt (see our glossary on page 65). Even so, it’s wise to check the blackboard for specials. On our last visit, Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Miailo came up with an 18-ounce organic, grass-fed-and-finished New York strip steak, whose old-fashioned, brawny beefiness made us regret all the grain-fed meat we’ve eaten. Also spotted: Miailo’s sage-roasted Ossabaw pork, the holy grail in boutique, heritage-breed pork products. (In fact, Ossabaw pork is much rarer than Kobe beef.)
And while most of the restaurants in this roundup offer fish, few can compare with BLT’s—not a surprise, since Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel is equally famous for his seafood.
The Willett House’s interior recalls our industrial past.
The Willett House
20 Willett Ave, Port Chester
(914) 939-7500; thewilletthouse.com
While BLT garners more buzz than any steakhouse in our roundup, Port Chester’s Willett House remains Westchester’s standby. This glorious red-brick remnant of the Byram River’s industrial past (complete with a pressed-tin ceiling and wide-plank floors) was built as the Westchester Grain Company factory in the 1880s. The Byram offered a convenient shipping path to the Long Island Sound and Manhattan. The building’s current incarnation as a steakhouse couldn’t be more ideal; it bears the same gaslit patina that gives Brooklyn’s Peter Luger’s its old-timey vibe.
The Willett House’s porterhouse for two comes sliced so you can immediately see its juicy insides.
Unlike Luger’s, though, the Willett House offers wet-aged steaks, which sacrifices some beefy intensity for buttery tenderness and mouthwatering juiciness. We’re not complaining: the classic Willett House steak is a massive porterhouse for two, which arrives on the bone, but chevron-sliced, and it coasts onto the table like a great white shark, flanks slashed to show rosy beef perfection. Meanwhile, the steak’s platter is slightly tipped on a tabletop saucer to display a well of juice, crackling with aromatic beefiness. It’s the best-case sauce for the Willett House’s gorgeous, rich mashed potatoes because, as at Peter Luger’s, there are few fancy sauces on offer. At the Willett House, it’s all about the peppery house-made steak sauce, or nature’s own sauce—the steak’s natural drippings.
Wise diners take advantage of the Willett House’s 900-bottle-deep cellar, which offers well-chosen, California-centered (though world-spanning) vintages at many price points. And, if that’s not enough to send you home reeling, all of the Willett House’s desserts are house-made—even its oddball (and addictive) layered crème brûlée-slash-cheesecake.
The decor at Frankie and Johnnie’s appeals to its loyal crowd of power players.
Frankie and Johnnie’s Steakhouse
77 Purchase St, Rye
(914) 925-3900; frankieandjohnnies.com
While not as historic as its original and still operational 1926 location in Manhattan (whose speakeasy origins linger on in a subterranean dining room and Jazz Age memorabilia), Frankie and Johnnie’s in Rye is certainly loaded with swagger. Jammed to its soaring balcony with tie-loosening power diners, it’s the see-and-be-seen hotspot among politicos and financial machers—the sort of steakhouse at which you can almost smell money along with your dinner.
Yet to slap this spot with the slur of “power scene” is to disguise its subtlety, found in a 650-label, California-focused wine list; a cozy, hearth-warmed bar; and regiments of tapers that create flattering golden light. In all, this steakhouse appeals to more than beef-and-brawn diners. Plus, at Frankie and Johnnie’s, welcomes are warm and personal—which may account for this cheerful joint’s following.
Frankie and Johnnie’s rib-eye steak is dry-aged in-house.
It could also be the beef, which is hand-picked from the newly catch-all grading “prime,” and then dry aged in-house. This process, in which the initial cut shrinks as much as 20 percent through evaporation, concentrates the steak’s beefy flavors, while rendering its flesh buttery-textured and moist. Look for massive, delectable rib-eye steaks, made more perfect with mounds of salty, lightly crispy fried onions—though, we admit, the uptown splurge of a “surf and turf” is perfect for Frankie and Johnnie’s. Here, a generous, crosshatched hunk of juicy sirloin is matched by the extravagant, scarlet curl of a lobster tail. All that’s missing here are bathroom attendants and a requisite three martinis.