I was recently invited by @JustAFoodieNYC into Palm Too for an influencer dinner with a group of Instagrammers. We tried an assload of shit, and all of it was pretty fucking tasty. Take a gander below, you goddamn savage meat maniacs:
I tried a bit of every steak on the menu (aside from the prime rib, which is only offered on Fridays and Saturdays). I’ll break the scoring down for each cut here.
Filet Mignon (14oz): 9/10
This baby had a nice crust on the outer edges, adding a really pleasing charred flavor that was the perfect contrast against the buttery smooth, pink flesh inside. If that reads a bit sexual to you, that’s because it was a jerkworthy piece of meat and I fucking intended the sexual innuendo.
Let’s move on…
This baby was pretty solid. While it’s not as thick as I’m used to seeing a porterhouse cut, this was meant as a “for one” steak. That’s nice, as most joints only offer a porterhouse for two or more diners. At 28oz, it did the trick for filling my bottomless shit-pit stomach.
Wagyu Rib Eye (12oz, boneless): 7/10
I was expecting a bit more from this cut. It was still good, but when eaten side by side with the other offerings at the table, it just didn’t hold up. There was a slight bitter element to it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – just a character trait of the meat.
This fucker was tasty, and I’m torn between this and the filet for my favorite of the night. I’m leaning toward the filet, but that might only be because I tried more of the filet than the rib eye. But what I did try of this rib eye knocked my balls back into my stomach and made me feel like a little girly boy. My buddy @Food_P.o.r.n_NY took that cool shot, by the way. I can’t take credit for his genius.
Strip Steak (14oz): 8/10
The strip on this solo cut was on par with the strip side of the porterhouse, only here it’s obviously a thicker, dedicated cut.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
There are a ton of size options available here for the main four steak cuts, aside from the porterhouse (only one size). The selections are all prime quality and wet aged for 35 days or more. The meats hail from the Chicago area, a place called Consumers Meat Packing.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions are generous here, and the plating is basic – nothing fancy. I mean there’s sawdust on the floor for fuck’s sake. This joint is old school and I like it!
My meal was free, so I’m giving full points here. Everything is reasonably priced, however. In fact there’s even a whopper strip steak for three that only costs $99. That’s a steal if it’s your cut.
The bar area is a bit small for hanging, but it’s really charismatic and old timey. I’d definitely love to plop my ass down and sip on some old fashioneds or martinis here, especially while snacking on some thick cut bacon. In fact two of the guys I ate with did that exact thing just a few weeks back on a steakhouse bacon crawl. Awesome idea.
They also mix a good dry martini to boot.
Specials and Other Meats: 9
In addition to a special featured steak, there’s veal, lamb and pork here for alternative meats – even a wagyu beef selection for those with the bug. Fuck chicken.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We tried a ton of shit so I’m just going to rattle them off and highlight the best ones.
Green Beans: Very nice and distinctly “Asian” in flavor profile.
Half & Half (potato chips and onion straws)
Nova Scotia Lobster Mac & Cheese (with bacon crust): So rich and decadent. One of the better sides I’ve ever had. Sorry – no pic!
Doughnuts (also no pic)
Key Lime Pie: A classic, tried and true dessert done right. No pic!
Cheesecake (nope! no pic!)
Carrot Cake: Seven layers of pure joy for me.
Seafood Selection: 8
The lobster is definitely the way to go here. They offer a variety of preparations and several size options, depending on your budget and appetite.
Salmon and sea bass are also available as well as entree sized portions of the sesame crusted ahi tuna and crab cake apps.
The shortest amount of time that a waiter has worked here is about 20 years, so these guys are seasoned experts and absolutely phenomenal when it comes to congenial service. It’s also pretty impressive that they can sling all this food out in such a small kitchen (we took a little tour of the back).
Since I always chat about the bread basket in this section, here it is:
The sesame bread was my pick of the bunch. Butter could be softer.
This place is classic. There’s a cork floor with sawdust sprinkled throughout; a tribute to the old days when The Palm first opened, and the staff would track sawdust into the restaurant while running in and out to get steaks from the butcher shop across the street.
At first, The Palm was an Italian joint. The name was supposed to be “Parma,” after the city in Italy to which the owners were paying homage with their cuisine. The licensing folks at City Hall didn’t hear the brother owners correctly, and so the word “Palm” was licensed instead of Parma. They rolled with it.
Early on, an artist customer was unable to pay his dinner bill, so he offered to do portraits of the customers and staff as payment. That’s how the artwork all over the walls became a feature.
It’s a great place with a great history. The simple decor and manly vibe is a beloved calling card of a traditional American steakhouse like The Palm.
The massive success of Benjamin Steakhouse and The Sea Fire Grill has afforded the owners, two guys named Benjamin who cut their teeth at Peter Luger, to open another location – Benjamin Prime – in which to sling their incredible food.
Nestled on 40th Street just below Grand Central in a modern yet elegant setting, Benjamin Prime attracts more than the usual steakhouse crowd. In addition to banktown big shots, business tycoons and groups of middle-aged guys on bro-dates, there’s a notably more female and young demographic dining there as well. The Benjamins attribute that to their diversified menu, which plucks the best from both Benjamin Steakhouse’s and The Sea Fire Grill’s menus, curates them and gently tweaks them anew.
The crowd mix is no surprise to me, since they offer things like a prix fix lunch for $35 and a three-hour $1.50 oyster happy hour from 4pm-7pm during the week. But they’re also garnering the attention of people – even celebrities – who are looking to host events in their handsome upstairs space, which boasts the ability to be either an open floor plan or sectioned-off rooms. The entire upstairs is enveloped by an impressive glass wall that showcases thousands of bottles of top choice wines; a perfect place to gather.
I was invited in for a complimentary meal to help promote the joint on Instagram and social media by the restaurant’s PR folks. I was impressed, and you guys know I’m always honest with you on here, regardless of whether my meal is free. In short, this place is pretty fantastic. Take a look at what we tried:
The porterhouse packed a good dry-aged punch for 28-days. I’ve had stuff that was aged twice as long but didn’t have half the flavor, so they’re definitely doing something right here.
That characteristic dry-aged beef aroma fills the room when the plates are coming to the table, and you can hear your steak before you see it, as they’re served sizzling on hot plates in the traditional, old-school steakhouse style.
While that serving method is generally not my cup of tea (I like a well rested steak and I worry about grey-banding on the edges), it is certainly done in the correct way here. The waiters don’t just plop the steak onto the table, walk away and allow it to continue cooking to well done on that screaming-hot plate. No. They will immediately serve you the delicious, pre-sliced, medium-rare steak, unless you’re an asshole who actually WANTS it to cook more on the plate.
In any case, I loved this porterhouse, and now I need to come back to try the rib eye, which is my favorite cut of beef.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
The masters at Benjamin Prime hand-pick their meat directly from the Pat LaFrieda processing facility. The restaurant is one of the few (if not the only) permitted to do that. This means you’re getting the best of the best at Benjamin Prime. The steaks are then aged in the restaurant’s own aging box.
Cut selections include porterhouse (for two, three or four), NY sirloin, filet mignon, rib eye and a wagyu NY strip. That covers all the bases and then some.
Portion Size & Plating: 8
It may be a bit tough for me to comment about portion sizes since we received a few items that were extra big to share with eight diners, while other items were individualized and smaller, just so we could have a taste. Based on what I could see around me, though, I can safely say that the portion sizes are all generous. The plating is standard, traditional American steakhouse style: nothing fancy, but just elegant enough to make your mouth water.
Since this was a comped meal for me, I clearly have to give it full points! But the menu isn’t unreasonable, which is kind of shocking since the location is primo Grand Centralville real estate. In fact, I mentioned above in the intro paragraphs about the crazy price fix deal and oyster happy hour that they offer. Both of these are excellent bargains.
The bar was pretty crowded on a Monday at 6:30pm, which is great. It was hopping. It’s somewhat of a narrow space that stretches backward from the main entrance, but there is some window access and high-top seating to get comfy. The bar itself is gorgeous, with gas fireplaces lining the wall in back.
I tested their drink slinging skills with a dry gin martini, and they passed with flying colors. They also have a really nice menu of special house cocktails that looked delicious.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
They offer a Niman Ranch aged rack of lamb that I’m dying to try. But if you’re looking for chicken you can go fuck yourself, because it isn’t offered on the menu. Man up and eat red meat for fuck’s sake. You’re at a steakhouse!
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 10
We sampled a bunch of stuff on the savory side, but we didn’t get into dessert. As such, I reserve my review score here to be amended if necessary (I suppose I always do that anyway for subsequent visits). But based on the savory success, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be satisfied with the sweet.
Benjamin Prime does something wild that I’ve never seen before: a dedicated tartare menu section. They offer four: (1) a duo with salmon and yellowfin; (2) filet mignon with truffle cream and shaved truffle; (3) strip loin with caramelized onion and foie gras; and (4) wagyu beef with caviar and egg cream. Come on! That’s fucking cool.
We tried the filet and the strip versions. I went in thinking I’d like the filet (left) better because of the truffle, but I came away liking the strip (right) better because of the onion and foie. The strip delivered a really robust, powerful punch of funky flavors. Awesome.
The sea scallops are perfectly seared and extremely tasty. I could eat a dozen at a clip, no sweat. The celery root puree really makes them pop in terms of flavor.
Bacon. Fucking ridiculous. Just get it.
I mean come on… Look at this… It’s just as thick as it is wide!
They serve a “creamless” style creamed spinach, which I always love when I see it on menus. It’s just better than the traditional, heavy style. They really nailed it with this one.
We also did some three-cheese mac & cheese, as well as creamy corn with pancetta. Both were really great.
We also snacked on some blistered shishito peppers. These were awesome. They’re lightly salted, have a great char, and boast a hint of fresh, herbal heat that kicks in with the occasional fiery one.
Seafood Selection: 8
There’s a ton of great looking seafood on the menu here, and I think that’s part of the reason why they’re attracting a slightly different customer base than Benjamin Steakhouse. Here, they’ve made an effort to combine the best of both their steakhouse brand and their seafood restaurant brand. Next time, I will order a fish entree as an app to share, so I can properly score this category based on more than just the scallops (which were incredible, as I mentioned above).
Nothing short of perfection here. The staff is absolutely great, from the front of the house, to the wait staff, to the bus boys, to the management. They’ll make you feel like royalty in this place.
They’ve really done a tremendous job with the space here. The main dining floor has high ceilings and good light from the windows along the street, but it’s cozy enough to feel private and intimate. Upstairs is great for even more privacy or a special event. They’ve managed to strike a nice balance: Benjamin Prime achieves the modern vibe while simultaneously maintaining the right amount of traditional.
Nebraska Famous Steaks sends frozen steaks out to customers who purchase meat from them. Most people are familiar with this concept by way of other companies like Omaha Steaks. I had not heard of Nebraska Famous Steaks until they reached out to me. Their ask was simple: Would I like for them to send me some meat to try out at home and post some pictures, write a review, etc? My answer was fast: Yup.
Here’s what they sent me:
I was blown away. I wasn’t expecting so much!
I have to say, their filet mignon destroys Omaha Steaks. The filets I recently cooked up from Omaha were thin, while these were nice and thick. Quality was similar, however, at good choice.
The Nebraska Famous Steaks rib eyes had some really nice marbling throughout the muscle tissue, and a nice sized spinalis cap. I was impressed! And also excited to eat them.
I did my usual quick and easy cooking method for steaks at home: sous vide followed by blow torch. Here’s a video of the whole process, from unboxing through to plating.
And I took a shitload of photos, of course. I simply seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic, then seared, and then added some flake salt. We also ate this with some wasabi as well. Nice touch!
The Rib Eye is the most ultimate of steaks, period. It is an awesome cut of beef.
Etymology: The etymology on this is pretty self-explanatory. The “rib” part of the name is because this cut of meat is connected to a rib bone. The “eye” part of the name is a reference to the circular, more centrally located portion of the cut that is more uniform than the outer portions of the cut. You will likely see the Rib Eye steak, or rib chop, called by many names.
For example, the Cowboy Rib Eye is a bone-in version of the cut:
There’s also the Tomahawk Rib Eye, which is so named for its resemblance to a Tomahawk-style hatchet. When butchered, a long “handle” of rib is cut clean to expose the bone (it is “Frenched,” as they say), and the steak meat is left at the end of the handle to form the hatchet blade:
Here’s a shot of my buddy; he’s about to get clobbered with a Tomahawk Rib Eye by Chef Josh Capon at Bowery Meat Company:
There’s also the Delmonico cut, otherwise known as a Scotch Filet. Applying what you’ve learned here, you can probably guess that this cut is boneless (filet means “boneless” in French). Delmonico’s claims this cut as their own because they named a house special boneless cut Rib Eye steak after their restaurant, way back in the early 1800’s when they first opened.
Anatomy: The rib section of beef spans from ribs six through twelve, and, obviously, hails from the rib section of the animal.
Rib Eye steaks are mainly composed of the Longissimus dorsi muscle (the “eye” portion of the steak) and the Spinalis dorsi muscle.
The more anterior your cut, the more Spinalis you’ll find in the steak. The Spinalis is the coveted cap of meat that wraps around the fatter end of the steak and usually has much more marbling than the rest of the Longissimus eye, or interior of the steak. That “fat cap” is also called the Deckle when it is butchered away from the remaining eye.
Highly skilled butchers know how to remove it from its position across an entire standing rib roast section of ribs, so as to keep it all together as one giant cut. But then that ruins the rib chop, in my opinion, since you’re taking away the best part. Some steakhouses have taken to tying several Deckle cuts together in a spiral formation to create an all-fat-cap steak. Bowery Meat Company has one such cut, which they call the Bowery Steak:
STK also offers one on special from time to time:
The Spinalis has a more intense marbling, and, thus, much more flavor and tenderness. If you are so bold, the next time you order a Rib Eye at a steakhouse, ask for an anterior cut that has more of this fantastic Spinalis muscle.
Preparation: There are a ton of ways to prepare a rib steak. The most comon forms are searing in a pan, grilling, or broiling. Another common method of preparing this kind of meat is roasting. A “standing rib roast” is a section of Rib Eye steaks that has not yet been portioned into individual steaks.
When this rack of ribs is roasted slow and low to a pink medium rare, the end product is called Prime Rib.
It then gets sliced out into portions for individual consumption. This is a mammoth cut that we got from Burger & Barrel:
I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is Yes: Prime Rib and Rib Eye steak are the same exact thing. They are just prepared differently, using different cooking methods.
Cheaper cuts of rib steaks are actually the most common type of beef found in Philly Cheesesteaks as well. The meat is cut super thin and then cooked on a flat top with cheese, onions and other toppings, then shoved into long sandwich bread (incase you’re an asshole who has no fucking clue was a cheesesteak is).
Side Bar: is a Philly Cheesesteak better than a Cheeseburger? I think so… Man… Now I’m hungry for both…
Flavor: This steak has a high fat content, and that makes it very important to have a quality cut of beef, or an aged cut of beef. In high quality and aged cuts, this fat will render out or melt away much easier during the cooking process. This will impart a tremendous amount of flavor into the steak, and it will leave the remaining flesh with a very tender and soft texture. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Fat is not the same as gristle. Fat is good. Fat is your friend. Any good butcher will get the gristle off and leave the good fat behind. And when that good fat is REALLY good, it’s like having a delicious beef jelly with each bite of steak.
As discussed above, the Rib Eye is really like having two steaks in one (The small Spinalis Deckle or fat cap, and the larger Longissimus eye). The Spinalis is soft, tender, has lots of fat flavor and sometimes develops a crisp during cooking. The eye is more dense, but still well marbled so that it retains intense flavor. The eye is more uniform than the Spinalis. So: two steaks in one, kind of like the Porterhouse. Plus, there’s a nice, meaty beef spare rib to gnaw on at the end, if you order a bone-in chop.
Since there is generally more fat and marbling in this cut across its entirety, you will get better flavors than with the tenderloin or Strip, in my opinion. Clearly, high fat content is not for everyone. If you want to avoid fats in your diet, then go with the tenderloin. I actually really enjoy the flavor of fat. Fat, now, is sometimes referred to as the sixth flavor sensation. There were always four: (1) savory, (2) sweet, (3) bitter and (4) sour. “Umami” claims to be the fifth, and is meant to encompass the earthy, funky, fermented flavor sensations that you experience with mushrooms, truffles, aged beef and blue cheese. I just dislike the word “umami,” so I use “earthy” instead. The sixth is “fat,” apparently, as decreed by various food people who get paid to sit around and do these things. I’m not sure how it works, but I seem to be able to recognize a distinct sensation on my tastebuds, along with a buttery flavor and slippery feel, whenever I eat shit like pork bone ramen or a Rib Eye steak. Maybe there’s something to it?
Anyway, I hope this was an informative and educational post for you meat minions out there. Knowing this shit, I think, is very important.
Etymology: According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this steak is marketed under various names, including Ambassador Steak, Club Steak, Hotel-Style Steak, Veiny Steak, Kansas City Steak and New York Strip Steak. Delmonico’s offered Strip as a signature dish way back in the early 1800’s. Due to the cut’s association with NYC, the New York Strip Steak name was born.
Anatomy: The Strip is cut from the other side of the tenderloin, across the vertebra on the T-bone or Porterhouse.
Also known as strip loin, the Strip Steak is cut from the short loin part of the animal, from a muscle that does little work, like the Filet Mignon. It is generally more tender than the similarly situated but more posterior-located sirloin section of the animal. While it is essentially the same kind of meat as sirloin, the muscles in the rear do a bit more work than the short loin, so can be a bit more tough.
Preparation: For me, the Strip is best at medium rare, to preserve the tenderness and reduce any mealy or grainy textures that can develop from overcooking. It is always best to get a really great quality cut for this chop, something prime+, as all the intra-muscular fat, or marbling, will become soft and the muscle will tenderize all over. You will often see it marinated or rubbed with spices, to impart additional flavors, but grilling and broiling in the traditional style is fantastic as well, especially with butter and herbs. It can be served bone-in or boneless. Leaving the bone in will impart more flavor and help with the cooking process, since the bone conveys heat into the center of the meat while locking in juices. At home, marinade this puppy in something like soy sauce and garlic, and slap it on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side and you will have the perfect home-cooked steak.
Flavor: This cut contains fat in levels that are somewhat in between the tenderloin (virtually none) and the Rib Eye (plenty of good, melty fat). Like the tenderloin, there is little variation throughout the cut, so the flavors and textures are more uniform for the Strip Steak, unlike the Rib Eye which has varying textures and flavors from one end of the cut to the other. The texture of a Strip can sometimes be a little bit grainy or mealy, and a bit more tight than a Filet Mignon or a Rib Eye – especially if it’s cooked too much.
Etymology: Filet, in culinary terminology, means boneless. Mignon, in French, means dainty or small. As such, this is a steak ideally suited for chicks: small/dainty, and with no bone.
Occasionally on a steakhouse menu you will see a “bone-in filet.” Given what I just mentioned above, that phraseology is completely self-defeating and confusing, as it simultaneously means both “bone-in” and “boneless.” However, it seems this sort of language is becoming commonplace. If it were up to me, I would prefer “bone-in tenderloin” to be listed on menus instead. There is no wording conflict with that phrasing, and it is an accurate description of what is being presented. In other words: all Filet Mignon is tenderloin, but not all tenderloin is Filet Mignon.
Anatomy: Traditionally, a Filet Mignon was cut from the anterior end of the tenderloin. In the beef chart image below, you can see a portion of the tenderloin section highlighted in red.
That is where Filet Mignon was typically located, though most butchers label all steaks cut from the tenderloin as Filet Mignon (this allows for larger portions). The tenderloins run along both sides of the spine. They taper from thick, in the posterior of the animal, to thin in the front.
In their unbutchered form, they contain what’s called the “silver skin” still attached to the flesh. This is a thick connective tissue that is pretty much inedible. When butchering the full tenderloin, you will want to slice that off (it is NOT tender).
While this next photo is a repeat shot of a lamb vertebra Barnsley chop (the mutton chop from Keen’s), the anatomy is exactly the same for beef. This will illustrate exactly where the filet comes from. Essentially this is a double porterhouse, with a filet and a strip on each side. In addition to understanding the Filet Mignon, this image is useful in demonstrating the anatomy of the Strip and Porterhouse cuts as well, since they all come from the same place – the vertebrae of the animal:
Preparation: Preparations of this cut vary greatly. You may see this cut sliced thin and pounded flat, served raw for carpaccio. You may also see it finely chopped for tartare. A simple pan sear with butter and herbs, however, is probably the most common preparation.
Yet another style is Chateaubriand, which is a large section of the thick portion of the tenderloin that is roasted boneless, then sliced and served with a reduction sauce.
There is also Beef Wellington, which is a portion of tenderloin that has been coated with pate and then wrapped in puff pastry dough prior to cooking.
Flavor: Widely considered the most tender and least fatty cut of beef on the animal, the flavor should be uniform from one end to the other, with very tender and soft texture the whole way through. There is hardly any fat content in the standard cut of Filet Mignon. Some chefs will wrap the filet in caul fat (a lacy, fatty, web-like membrane that surrounds the stomach of an animal) before cooking. The webbing melts away during cooking and imparts a fat flavor into the meat. But it is more common to use things like butter, or to wrap a filet in bacon to add the fat flavor into the meat.
Etymology: There is some difference of opinion on the origin of the word “Porterhouse,” with several restaurants and cities claiming to have created the name. For example, Martin Morrison served large T-bones in his Pearl Street (Manhattan) “Porter House” around 1814.This history was popular in the late 1800’s, but some say a Cambridge, Massachusetts proprietor by the name of Zachariah B. Porter added his name to the steak. Still, others argue that the Porterhouse name stems from various 19th Century U.S. hotels or restaurants called Porter House, such as the Porter House Hotel in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Anatomy: The Porterhouse is a cut of steak from the short loin portion of the animal that contains both strip loin and tenderloin meats. See the highlighted portion in the diagram below:
It is cut from a lumbar vertebra that is sawed in half through the vertebral column.
The downward prong of the “T” is a transverse process of the vertebra, and the flesh that surrounds it (spinal muscles) makes up the meat of the Porterhouse.
Essentially, it is a large T-bone steak from the rear of the animal that has two different types of meat (tenderloin and strip loin), one on either side of the “T.” In the picture below, the strip loin or Strip Steak is on the right, and the tenderloin or Filet Mignon is on the left.
The small semicircle at the top of the ‘T’ is half of the vertebral foramen, which is the name of the hole that passes through each vertebra for housing and protecting the spinal cord. They run the whole way up the back, all the way up to the brain of the animal.
The anatomy of a Porterhouse differs from that of a T-bone only in that the Porterhouse contains a larger portion of tenderloin than its T-bone counterpart.
This is primarily due to the fact that Porterhouse steaks are cut from further in the rear of the animal, from lumbar vertebrae, where the tenderloin is much thicker. Experts differ, however, on how large the tenderloin must be to differentiate a Porterhouse from a T-bone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications state that the tenderloin of a Porterhouse must be at least 1.25 inches thick at its widest, while that of a T-bone must be at least 0.5 inches.
Here is a shot of a short loin with multiple vertebrae still intact and not portioned out into individual Porterhouses and T-bones.
You can see on the left there is a good sized, thick portion of tenderloin. That thins down as you move the the right, and seems to disappear by time your eyes reach the far end of the cut.
Just to drive home the anatomy a little more, here is a great excerpt and image from Russ Cooks:
“Up close and personal, this is where the T-bone fits.
The black line across the top of the two T-bones pictured here is the outside (top of the back) of the steer. You can see the T-bone in the schematic illustration higher up on this page as the topmost part labelled Rib. Above the ribs, what you touch if you pat the steer’s back, is the New York strip. Beneath the ribs is the tenderloin from which a filet mignon is often cut. T-bone steaks cut closer to the shoulder are known as Porterhouse while those cut closer to the loin are just T-bones.”
Preparation: Most times, T-bones and Porterhouses are either grilled, seared in a pan, broiled or blasted with high heat in specialty steak ovens made for charring the outside of the meat without over-cooking the inside. Butter is essential, and heavy seasoning is important as well. Herbs and garlic help boost the flavor too.
Flavor: Since this cut contains both the Filet Mignon and the Strip Steak, I refer you to the flavor sections for those cuts below, with a notation that the bone being left in often adds a more robust flavor while helping to retain tenderness and juiciness. These are very popular items at steakhouses because they can be cut large enough to feed anywhere from two to four people. Additionally, with two different types of meat in one steak, one can vary the flavors that one experiences with each bite.
If you dine out often in this great city, you’ve no doubt seen the name Pat LaFrieda featured prominently, in bold or italics, beside some of the best beef offerings at the finest restaurants.
The name has become synonymous with top notch quality beef, along with other proteins like lamb, poultry, game and pork. Personally, I can vouch for this. Many of my favorite dry-aged, high end cuts of steak and delicious burger grinds come from LaFrieda. In fact, the best steak I’ve ever had in my life was a LaFrieda tomahawk from Osteria Morini, and I’ve eaten a lot of fucking steak!
Currently, the LaFrieda business is a 36,000 square foot processing facility in New Jersey that ultimately feeds 300,000 carnivores a day. But it wasn’t always like that. So, what happened, and what makes LaFrieda beef so great?
Like all great success stories, LaFrieda’s started with a vision. Or perhaps it was a lack of vision, to be precise. You see, in late 1800’s Naples, a young Anthony LaFrieda was popped in the face during a street fight, resulting in a black eye. A butcher came out of his shop from nearby and slapped a cold steak over Anthony’s eye to soothe the pain. But that butcher ended up giving Anthony a job, and that’s when the family business took root.
Anthony learned the art of butchery in Italy and brought it with him to the US in 1909. Eventually he opened a meat shop in Brooklyn, 1922. He ran it with his five sons, Pat (the first) being one of them. They began servicing restaurants in the 1950’s with a shop in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, and in 1964 Pat and his son (Pat the second) took ownership of the business, calling it Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.
The business grew, and the shop changed locations a few times throughout the west village, eventually landing at Leroy Street for 30 years, starting in the 1980’s. It was there that Pat the third, age 12, began to learn his family’s trade, thereby carrying the business from great grandfather, to grandfather, to father, to son; a four generation meat dynasty!
The Business Today
Pat the third’s vision for the business was a bit different than his elders. He wanted to work directly with restaurants to provide them with the best product, trimmed and portioned exactly to their specifications. He even went so far as to begin creating custom burger blends for his customers. He wanted to help restaurants develop products that showcased their chef’s talents, and to treat restaurant customers as if they were also LaFrieda customers.
It worked. This concept made the Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors brand a highly sought after commodity among the NYC restaurant elite. But the meat isn’t only relegated to high-priced steakhouses and fancy “white table cloth” joints. You can find Pat LaFrieda custom burger blends and steaks all over the place, from bars to neighborhood mom and pop shops. The concept that Pat the third created allows for all kinds of budgets, since custom portioning and cutting is the specialty.
I mentioned earlier that the operation is now run out of Jersey in a large facility. Well, there, LaFrieda has a full aging room on site, with over 5,000 primals aging at any given time. LaFrieda supplies both choice and prime beef, and grinds upwards of 50 unique burger blends every day. In fact, LaFrieda grinds out 75,000 burger patties every day, in all different sizes, including all different proteins, and within all different niche markets (like organic, all natural, grass-finished, etc.). Amazing.
But LaFrieda beef isn’t only just for bars, restaurants and hotels. Pat the third stays true to his great grandfather Anthony’s original butcher shop business model, as you can order directly from their website for home delivery. In fact a friend of mine just recently ordered up and grilled a bunch of rib eyes for a party he hosted.
I did the same as well, actually. It was tremendous. Take a look HERE, as I documented the whole thing.
LaFrieda currently works with small farms and processors from all around the country to acquire the best meats from the best producers. As my “Meet Your Meat” series continues and develops, I will be featuring some of these farms in similar articles. My goal here is to provide you meat maniacs with a better understanding of where your food comes from, from feed to food, so to speak.
Interview with Pat
I had the pleasure of communicating with Pat via email before publishing this article, and it made for some interesting Q&A. Take a gander below:
Me: Okay, first, some more serious questions. I have this romanticized notion in my mind that you get to hang around beef and taste steak all day long while beautiful maidens fan you and feed you grapes. But deep down I know it can’t be beautiful and dreamy like that. So what is a typical work day like for you?
Pat: Johnny, that is a great question and one that is asked often. When I first joined the family business, my Dad began his day at 3am every morning. Although that sounds early, in order to grow and maintain the customers that we already had, I changed our start time a little earlier every so often. The way NYC works for a chef is a logistical nightmare. With storage space being so tight, chefs normally wait until after dinner service to place their order for the next morning, roughly at 10 pm. Most restaurants want their delivery before 9 am. In between the time that a chef orders and the time of delivery, the butcher needs to translate the order into a computerized system, custom portion whatever was ordered, weigh, package, load and invoice the restaurant before sending the order off in a delivery truck, into the Hell of NYC traffic. That all boils down to me beginning my day at 3pm, running the labyrinth I just described until 5am. Never wanting to disrespect my Dad, I never asked him to start his day any earlier so my last two hours at work are the most pleasurable, being that they overlap with his. A beautiful maiden offering grapes he is not, but funny he is.
Me: I’ve always joked that I must have been a butcher in a past life or something, given how fascinated I am with the art and skill of it. But I’ve actually heard that being a butcher is really difficult work with odd hours. I suppose like any career, there are challenges and rewards. While your current business is much different from the shop your great grandfather opened, what are some of the challenges and rewards you’ve experienced in your lifetime of butchery, processing and meat purveying?
Pat: Space, was always the biggest challenge and it came in more than one form. For storage and portioning meat, we were always tight for space. As our expansion increased from the mid-nineties, real estate prices began to soar so butchers had to operate within the space that we had. Growth was great, but it made our quality of life worse because there was nowhere to put our inventory after a short few years. The thought of leaving Manhattan was a nightmare, but when the city put a bicycle lane through our loading area, we knew it was time to build a new facility out of the city. Another form that space takes is the worst part of the meat business and that’s the time between when we need to pay our farmers and the time in which our customers pay us. The gap is so vast, it would put most out of business faster than we got parking tickets in the bus lane of our loading zone.
Me: I’m always trying to give my readers a better understanding of where their food comes from. What are some of the farms you deal with when sourcing the meat that you process? Anything local or big-name that us steak aficionados might know?
Pat: Long before the recent political campaign, we have always preached to buy domestic, yes, product that is raised and grazed in America. We have the safest meat supply in the world and since meat is one of our last natural resources, with manufacturing jobs plummeting, why would Americas not want to preserve that? I believe that “Local” is a gimmick however. In NYC for instance, NY State does not grow beef anywhere near as good as Kansas, so why would I want to pedal that garbage to prestigious NYC institutions that count on an amazing experience to survive. As for other meat, like rabbits, there is no place better than NY State to source them. That is how we base our sourcing, locating the best in class for each category as long as it’s domestic.
Me: How often do you interact with the farmers who actually raise the animals or run the feedlots?
Pat: We work very close with farmers for our sourcing. My cousin is in Dodge City right now as I write this, to ensure that our product is humanely handled, properly raised and finished.
Me: I’m a huge fan of dry-aging beef because the process concentrates flavor and increases tenderness, along with adding earthiness. Often we see steaks that were aged for 28-35 days on menus, but some places tout steaks that are aged upwards of 100 days like they are delicacies. Is 28-35 days a sweet spot for how long the beef should age, and is there any downside to aging for longer periods of time aside from the normal loss of weight that happens from the dry-aging process?
Pat: We age up to 120 days. As long as the humidity is controlled, the temperature is constant and the air circulation is vast, the meat will not rot. After 120 days, diminishing returns will begin to effect the product in that the funk of the dry age gets a bit bitter. 28 days is the young side of the range and is very universal whereas 120 days is the far end and is intended for those who have acquired the pallet for such.
Me: Okay now some fun stuff. There’s an old myth that a butcher’s favorite steak is the hanger, or “butcher’s steak,” as it is aptly called. Is there any truth to that, and what is your favorite cut? Dad’s, grandfather’s and great Grandfather’s favorite cuts?
Pat: Hanger was a butcher’s favorite because it is the only muscle in the animal that must get removed first before the animal is split. It is not symmetrical so before today’s practice of removing it first, the net result would be an ugly steak that only the butcher would eat because it was not appealing to the public back then. My family’s favorite cut has always been Outside Skirt steak.
Me: Are you like me, in that beef is your favorite meat protein? If not, which is your favorite?
Pat: Beef for sure because it is universal in cooking, with Lamb close behind.
Me: How often would you say that you eat red meat or beef?
Pat: I eat red meat daily. It is an amazing source of protein and crucial vitamins, it was intended by nature for us to eat and I happen to have a decent amount of it at any given time.
Me: Do you have a favorite steakhouse, or place to eat steak when not making your own?
Pat: I’m often asked to pick a favorite restaurant and from the bottom of my heart, I mean what I say when I answer that it truly depends on where I’m standing when I’m hungry, what my pallet is desiring at that moment and the friends that I’m with at that time. If you let that be your guide, you will have many favorites as I do.
Me: And finally, your Sophie’s Choice moment: If you could only have one for the rest of your life, would it be a burger or a steak?
Pat: I had to think long and hard on this one. In my lifetime, I could have answered this question differently every week depending on my last experience before being asked. A few days ago, I would have responded STEAK because I just had a great one at Benjamin’s, then our corporate chef made me a truffle burger yesterday that has had me hungry for another ever since, so because you are asking me today, it’s all about the BURGER.
The Patina group of restaurants is awesome. If you sign up for their email list they send you a $50 credit to use for your birthday, and they give you a pretty big window of time to come in and use it. We used my wife’s credit for a dinner at Sea Grill recently.
I started with a hearts of palm salad. I was hoping for more hearts of palm, expecting less leafy greens, but it was good nonetheless; just a bit tangy from all the citrus.
I had the wagyu strip loin for my entree. At $56 this is a very small portion. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked, however, so that’s a plus. The cut could have used a bit more char on the edges, but it still comes in at a 7/10. It would have been an eight if it wasn’t for the price/size ratio, even with wagyu in mind.
My wife tried the oyster stuffed quail. It sounded really interesting, but ultimately the flavor combination was a bit odd. The bird itself had a nice game, iron and blood flavor, which is exactly what you want sometimes when getting down on game birds. I think those oysters just threw it off for me.
For dessert we shared the key lime pie. This was tangy and tart, and it was a generous-sized piece; easily good for sharing.
19 W 49th St
New York, NY 10020
My wife and I were in Philly for the weekend to see family and take in some sights. After a long day of walking around, we hit Butcher & Singer for a late evening carnivorous meal.
We ordered their Pat LaFrieda 50oz tomahawk rib eye. This thing was monstrous.
But, as you can tell, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare.
Let’s get right in there:
Gorgeous. And they did a fine job on this thing, especially considering there was no aging done to the cut. That bone adds a lot of flavor into the meat though. It was perfectly seasoned with a good crust on the outside, and the flavor penetrated deep into the muscle tissue for a nice even bite. I just missed that aged funk a bit.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
A strip, two filets, two rib eyes, and multiple sized porterhouses are available here. Not too shabby, but also nothing over and above. In addition, there are no dry-aged selections. They do a great job cooking these fuckers though, so that’s a plus. And all the meats are LaFrieda, so you know you’re getting top notch quality here.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions are all nicely sized here, with the exception of the bacon. I felt there could have been two strips for $12. Plating is simple and basic – nothing fancy.
I mentioned the bacon above. In addition, I felt that the tomahawk was a bit pricey for a non-aged cut at $125. Their porterhouse seemed to be a better deal for two diners. In any event, it was still well worth the shell-out, and they ended up comping our dessert, which was very nice of them.
I wish this bar was bigger, because I would definitely give it a 10 based on the quality of the cocktails alone. There was some lounge seating as well, which was nice, but ultimately this bar was a bit small for such an immensely high-ceilinged joint.
In any event they mixed a perfect martini.
And they sported an awesome cocktail menu, with an entire page dedicated to Manhattans.
Definitely a cool place to hang out, even if you’re not eating.
Specials and Other Meats: 8
There are pork chop and lamb chop selections here, as well as a girly chicken entree. Not bad, but I’ve seen better.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We started with the thick cut maple bacon, which was awesomely sweet and savory at the same time.
Yes, that bacon is smiling at you.
I wish there was one more slice for that price of $12. Oh well.
For sides we went with a half portion of creamed spinach, which was generous for just $6. This was just okay. It did the job.
The stuffed hash browns were excellent. This was basically a latke of shredded potatoes with chunks of diced potato and sour cream inside. Fried to a crisp. Excellent for leftovers with fried eggs on top.
For dessert we went with the ice box lemon cake, which was similar to a key lime pie, only frozen. I liked this very much.
Seafood Selection: 9
There’s a great deal of nice looking seafood on the menu. Branzino, swordfish, shrimp, lobster and salmon. We also got a peek at the seafood tower app from across the restaurant and it looked marvelous. Not to mention they also had some east and west coast oyster varieties that were being offered on special.
Our waitress was awesome. She knew her meats in and out, and she was quick with answers to my questions about the beef itself, where it came from, whether it was aged, etc. Also, the bread was good. It was served with a soft, whipped butter, and it was warm and fresh.
Fantastic. I am guessing this was an old bank that was converted into a steakhouse due to the incredibly high ceilings.
And they’ve got a nice bull head in the rear.
They play fancy 1920’s music, which is a nice change up from the typical trendy bullshit I’m hearing in NYC these days. Bravo.
BUTCHER & SINGER
1500 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19102