The Meat of the Matter
Westchester’s Favorite Steakhouses
(page 2 of 3)
Morton’s filet mignon can also come bone-in, a rarity.
Morton’s The Steakhouse
9 Maple Ave, White Plains
(914) 683-6101; mortons.com
Before every restaurant meal was accompanied by paeans to ingredient provenance, there was Morton’s The Steakhouse, whose mature, tux-clad waiters have been entertaining diners—fully armed with visual aids—since 1979. Expect Saran-wrapped silver trays bearing hunks of well-marbled raw meat; frisky, Godzilla-esque live lobsters; mammoth beefsteak tomatoes, and football-sized Idaho potatoes, all passed before your eyes for your visual delectation. Like it or not, the Morton’s presentation is an evocative scene-setter; after it, you know exactly what you’re in for. Plus, the performance offers tableside entertainment as you tuck into warm loaves of soft, onion-studded bread and maybe even a big-boy cocktail like a Manhattan. White napkins are exchanged for black to keep diners’ dark-clothed laps free from lint, which is a considerate touch in this democratic dining room.
Morton’s staff offers a preview of all their meats, raw.
Befitting a chain that originates in the stockyard city of Chicago, you’ll find massive cuts of tender, wet-aged prime beef. While porterhouse is the classic Morton’s cut, you’ll find the less common bone-in filet mignon at its White Plains location, where the mildly flavored, buttery loin is improved by proximity to the porterhouse’s T-shaped bone. All of Morton’s steaks are carefully seared in super-hot grill drawers, and—if conversation should lag—there’s always Morton’s open kitchen, which is our idea of dinner theater. Safely ensconced at our table in this clubby, tunnel-like space, we can enjoy the cheery sounds of searing meat, see the bustle, and participate in the action—all from a safe, clean distance. For refreshment, Morton’s also offers 300 globe-trotting labels, earning this chain a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence.”
Flames’s cowboy rib-eye steaks are raised in the Waygu tradition.
533 N State Rd, Briarcliff Manor
(914) 923-3100; flamessteakhouse.com
One of the markers of a great steakhouse is that your mouth waters before you even step in the door—because, after all, eating steak is a primitive act, as are most pleasurable things. At Flames, where the parking lot is enveloped in the seductive aromas of searing beef, anticipation starts as soon as your toes hit the tarmac.
This Briarcliff Manor steak standby, which has been open since 1992, has received ovations in both Crain’s magazine and Wine Spectator, who note the beefy intensity of its monolithic, two-and-one-half-inch thick porterhouse steaks. Even Westchester’s culinary celebrity (and competing restaurateur) Chef Peter Kelly of X20, has to agree. “I’m a huge fan of Flames,” he says. “I think it’s the suburban equivalent of Peter Luger’s—only better, since the single great thing at Peter Luger’s is the steak, but at Flames, everything on the menu is terrific. Not fancy…just great.”
Flames’s steak is dry-aged in a special aging room.
The Flames steak starts in its on-site aging room, where the fresh cuts of beef are allowed a roomy, 28-day dry-aging period (see sidebar on Ageism, page 66). The result is a powerful, inescapably carnal flavor that’ll never be found in your grocery store butcher’s case. The Flames porterhouse, available in slabs for one, two, three and four, is the classic showcase for this treatment, where even the filet portion of your steak will fill your mouth with beefy intensity. And, as Kelly notes, the story doesn’t end with steaks: look for delectable versions of steakhouse traditions, like crisp-topped clams oreganata where parsely-studded breadcrumbs yield to tender, bright-as-the-ocean clams. And, as one might guess from its inclusion in the pages of Wine Spectator, Flames sports a 300-label, 6,200-bottle cellar that’ll satisfy even the staunchest oenophile.
Marc Charles’s dining room may be hard to find but worth the trip.
Marc Charles Steakhouse
94 Business Park Dr, Armonk
(914) 273-2700; marccharlessteakhouse.com
Though not easy to find (Marc Charles Steakhouse is located ’round the back of the Armonk La Quinta hotel), this modest little steakhouse headed by the chef behind Opus 465 is worth the effort. Aside from their takes on the classic steakhouse fare, there are other innovative selections like the Pacific wrap (ahi tuna, crab meat, and avocado wrapped in nori with panko crust finished with garlic and sesame glaze). This cozy, under-the-radar nook is a good option for a carnivorous evening. Plus, if your group feels confined by the tunnel vision of beef-centric menus, Marc Charles Steakhouse offers a wide diversity of choice.
At Marc Charles Steakhouse, seafood can be added to any steak and even the potatoes are customized.
While you’ll find all usual cuts at Marc Charles Steakhouse, each plate can be customized. Look for the “Every Steak Can Surf” option, where lobster tails, shrimp, and King crab legs can be added to your steak, or the phalanx of rubs, melted cheeses, compound butters, and sauces that can be ordered singly or in combination for a totally personalized dinner. In fact, not even mashed potatoes escape the Marc Charles treatment: they’re available either plain, or with a selection of seasoned butters, truffle oil, bacon and Gorgonzola, etc.
Of course, none of this should distract from the simple beauty of these well-marbled, luscious steaks, which arrive at Marc Charles bearing the textbook chain-link of perfect grill marks. It’s your choice—geometric minimalism or a Baroque profusion of ornament.
Ruth’s Chris’s filet mignon has a perfect balance of a seared outside and a juicy inside.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
670 White Plains Rd, Tarrytown
(914) 631-3311; ruthschris.com
As with many of the restaurants in New Orleans, the beginnings of Ruth’s Chris were humble. It was born in 1965 when a woman (Ruth Fertel) with a chemistry degree and insufficient alimony bought a modest corner steakhouse in the Big Easy. While extending her perky hospitality to the Chris Steakhouse’s established customers, Fertel also modified the restaurant’s cooking equipment, helping to design grills that reach temperatures of 1800˚F. Her innovation leaves steaks perfectly seared outside and running with juice inside.
There are two markers to a Ruth’s Chris steak. Wet aging produces a nearly fork-tender steak, while a generous topper of butter (added as the steak is whisked into the dining room) crackles and browns as it hits the volcanically hot plate. It’s a lethal one-two punch, in which the seductive aroma of butter joins the primal, mouthwatering scent of seared steak.
Ruth’s Chris has had 40 years to perfect its side dishes.
While colossal cuts like Ruth’s Chris’s buttery cowboy rib-eye (see glossary, page 65) are the draw—and no wonder, when it arrives looking like a fat, edible paycheck—this casual chain also stocks a massive, California-heavy wine list. Its rooms are liberally lined with cozy wood finishes, and always jammed with cheerful, masculine-tending groups. And while restaurant chains are out of fashion among foodies, they do have their merits: at Ruth’s Chris, they’ve had 40 years (and 145 worldwide outlets) to carve a market and satisfy its demands. Ruth’s Chris’s continuing expansion speaks to its success.
When not throttling grass-fed steer on the hoof, Julia Sexton, guilt-free carnivore, is a restaurant critic and food blogger for Westchester Magazine: check out her CRMA-winning blog “Eater”.