Eating at a steak house used to be an exercise in
masculinity. The quality of the experience was determined by how ancient the
waiters 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 for
conversation and an excuse for male bonding. Like a set piece passed on one’s
way into the dining room.
That’s all changed. Now the best steak houses are
helmed by touchy-feely types who can—and will—tell you the life story of each
cow that crosses your plate. In fact, the life of the cow has become just as
important (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 of
A prime example is Brooklyn’s St. Anselm, which owner
Joe Carroll insists it’s not a steak house, even though lines form for his red
meat. Carroll, who sources his beef from Oregon’s Masami Ranch, can talk all
about the relationships between steer and farmer, farmer and land and farm to
table. Meanwhile, in Montreal, all ingredients in Joe Beef’s kitchen fall into
the co-owners Fred Morin and David Macmillan’s philosophy of “if we can drive
there in the afternoon.”
The ways in which steaks are being prepared has become
more innovative, too. Take, for example, the a la carte steak menu at
Portland’s Laurelhurt Market, which is also a butcher shop. The meat comes from
local purveyors and is served in all kinds of fancy ways, from steak frites to
grilled flat iron steak to grilled rib eye to 12-hour smoked wagyu brisket.
To get a taste for this new kind of beef, here are
steaks to eat before you die—from eating too much steak.