Eating at a steak house used to be an exercise inmasculinity. The quality of the experience was determined by how ancient thewaiters were, how gruff the service was and how few choices were on the menu.The steak—invariably USDA prime or Black Angus—came second, more as prop forconversation and an excuse for male bonding. Like a set piece passed on one’sway into the dining room.
That’s all changed. Now the best steak houses arehelmed by touchy-feely types who can—and will—tell you the life story of eachcow that crosses your plate. In fact, the life of the cow has become just asimportant (if not more important) as the quality of the char. What the cow ate,where it ate, how it lived and how it died have become the indicators ofquality.
A prime example is Brooklyn’s St. Anselm, which ownerJoe Carroll insists it’s not a steak house, even though lines form for his redmeat. Carroll, who sources his beef from Oregon’s Masami Ranch, can talk allabout the relationships between steer and farmer, farmer and land and farm totable. Meanwhile, in Montreal, all ingredients in Joe Beef’s kitchen fall intothe co-owners Fred Morin and David Macmillan’s philosophy of “if we can drivethere in the afternoon.”
The ways in which steaks are being prepared has becomemore innovative, too. Take, for example, the a la carte steak menu atPortland’s Laurelhurt Market, which is also a butcher shop. The meat comes fromlocal purveyors and is served in all kinds of fancy ways, from steak frites togrilled flat iron steak to grilled rib eye to 12-hour smoked wagyu brisket.
To get a taste for this new kind of beef, here aresteaks to eat before you die—from eating too much steak.