Few restaurants are as tied to their location as Peter Luger Steak House, and few have achieved such exalted status. In a city famous for its steakhouses, Peter Luger has long been considered the best. The restaurant is layered in history, and you feel it the moment you step through its front door, only to be swept up by a raucous crowd drinking martinis at the formidable front-room bar. Join them while you wait for your table to be ready in one of the several rooms this place comprises. Luger cares not for the plush opulence of midtown meat temples. This place more closely resembles a German beer hall. Eventually you'll be crammed into a seat at a long table, then greeted by a waiter. You order steak not by cut, but for two, three, or four people, and you're rewarded with juice-drooling bone-in slabs from the steer’s short loin, plucked from Luger's own dry-aging box, cooked until crusted and cut into strips. You will be admonished if you order your steak anything other than rare, so it's best to just let the kitchen take control. Sides you order separately, and if your group is large enough, you want many of them: Creamed spinach, onion rings, and German fried potatoes are a good place to start. Begin your meal with a wedge salad, the sizzling slab bacon, and a jumbo shrimp cocktail. If you go for lunch, do not — we repeat, do not — miss the burger. Ask for it coated in cheese, and possibly topped with bacon, but do not ask for ketchup. This is the way things have been done at least since Sol Forman bought this place at auction in 1950, though the restaurant’s history goes back much farther. It began in 1887 as Carl Luger's Café, Billiards and Bowling; the last Luger owner, Peter, later put his name on the sign. Forman was a regular at the steakhouse for more than two decades, and he despaired when it fell into disarray after Peter Luger passed away. Rather than find a new restaurant, he resolved to fix up the place himself. He put his wife, Marsha, through meat-inspection training, and she took over selecting the cuts that the restaurant would use. She taught the skill to her daughters, Marilyn Spiera and Amy Rubenstein, who now run the business with Spiera's daughter, Jody Storch. (A fourth generation has joined the team as well.) Another quirk from the olden days: Luger doesn't accept credit cards. Come armed with a debit card from a U.S. bank, or loaded with cash.
© 2015 Village Voice, LLC, All Rights Reserved