Eating delicious steak is often viewed as a luxury. As a somewhat pricey cut of meat, we understandably want the quality of the steak to feel worth it and match — or even exceed — our expectations. Yet the quality of steak between chains can fluctuate, depending on a variety of factors.
Beef quality falls under three main categories by the US Department of Agriculture: Select, Choice, and Prime. Select tends to be leanest and cheapest, Choice is a step above, and Prime has the most marbling along with the highest price tag. In general, Prime beef is produced from young cattle that are very well-fed. There are also different breeds of cattle to consider, such as Angus and Wagyu. Angus is a type of American cattle known for its beefy flavor, while Wagyu is a type of Japanese cattle renowned for its thorough marbling and exceptional tenderness. Kobe beef comes from a specific breed of Wagyu that originates from the Hyogo region of Japan. Because restaurants tend to offer a mix of these on their menus, we've decided to give you a rundown on some of the best cuts from a few of our favorite steakhouse chains.
Read more: The 13 Best Steaks For Grilling
Morton's has over 50 locations across the US and several locations abroad, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Mexico City. Morton's was founded by Arnold Morton and Klaus Fritsch, who both worked at the Playboy Club. Morton tried one of Fritsch's cheeseburgers that they were testing out for an updated menu, and Morton enjoyed it so much that he partnered with Fritsch to start up a new restaurant that grew into the Morton's steakhouse chain.
Morton's uses Prime beef — Prime is the highest grade from the USDA, accounting for less than two percent of the US's beef supply. The beef at Morton's is aged between 23-28 days to enhance its flavor. Some of the best steaks on the menu at Morton's include the tomahawk ribeye, which is a ribeye that has several inches of rib bone still attached to the cut. Ribeyes are known for being thoroughly marbled; marbling is the thin web of intramuscular fat that creates ultra tender steak during the cooking process. Morton's also sells Japanese Wagyu strip steaks and filet mignon. One of the things that makes Morton's steaks so delicious is the fact that the restaurant offers a variety of butters and sauces, including blue cheese butter and cognac sauce au poivre.
Smith & Wollensky
Smith & Wollensky serves Gold Grade American wagyu from Snake River Farms, which matches the delicious flavor of rich American beef with the famous succulence of Japanese wagyu. The restaurant is also well-known for its Swinging Tomahawk, which is a 44-ounce American Wagyu bone-in ribeye. The ribeye in this dish is hung from a hook in the bone at the table over a skillet of roasted potatoes. The steak is flame-kissed at the table with a handheld torch and some butter, which flares beef fat down the ribeye and drips onto the potatoes to give them extra flavor.
Other cuts on the menu at Smith & Wollensky include Wagyu flat iron steaks, NY strips, and USDA Prime dry-aged T-bone steaks. You can also order Enhancements for all of the steaks with items like gorgonzola crust, coffee & cocoa rub, and roasted bone marrow. Between its Prime beef, Wagyu, and amazingly tasty Enhancements, Smith & Wollensky is one of the best steakhouse chains in the country.
Saltgrass Steak House
Saltgrass Steak House has nearly 100 locations around the country and sells Certified Angus beef steaks. Certified Angus beef is renowned for its intense marbling, which adds to the steak's buttery texture and flavor. In order to be classified as Certified Angus beef, the steaks have to be repeatedly evaluated by professional graders at the USDA. Some of the key points in the USDA's evaluation criteria include measuring the level of marbling and examining the beef for unsightly imperfections like capillary ruptures. Holding Certified Angus beef to a higher standard like this guarantees that the steaks are not only going to be exceptionally flavorful, but also visually appealing.
The steaks on the menu at Saltgrass are anywhere from 6 ounces all the way up to 22 ounces. They are served with a side salad or a soup. To provide a hearty twist of southern comfort food, Saltgrass also sells country fried steak made with Angus beef that comes with a classic creamy gravy.
Wolfgang Zwiener moved to New York City from Germany and worked at Peter Luger's Steakhouse for 40 years before opening Wolfgang's Steakhouse. Wolfgang's serves USDA Prime Black Angus beef. The steaks are dry-aged on site and carved to order by butchers.
The menu at Wolfgang's is smartly curated. The appetizers almost exclusively feature seafood, offering everything from crab cakes and tuna tartare to oysters and littleneck clams. Because of this, kicking off a meal with appetizers at the restaurant almost guarantees a surf and turf dining experience. The steaks at Wolfgang's include porterhouse, Prime NY strip steak, rib eye, and filet mignon. Cuts of steak at Wolfgang's come out sliced and sizzling on a hot pan to ensure that the beef is hot and juicy by the time it arrives at the table. Wolfgang's keeps it simple and classic when it comes to sides, offering dishes like creamed spinach, grilled asparagus, sauteed broccoli, onion rings, and baked potatoes.
Peter Luger Steak House
Peter Luger has been open since 1887. It started out as a cafe with pool tables and a bowling alley; over time, the business shifted focus away from games and more on its quality of food. Today, the steakhouse dry-ages its beef for about one month on-site to maximize flavor. On an average day, the restaurant typically dry-ages about 2,500 short loins and a few hundred rib eyes.
After the steaks are cut with a bandsaw, the filets are hand-trimmed to perfection by the restaurant's butchers. The steaks are simply seasoned with salt right before being put in the broiler. Clarified butter is ladled onto the plates, the steaks are cut into thick slices and rested over the butter, then the plates go back into the broiler for a few minutes to finish cooking. By the time the plates are pulled out of the broilers, the steak is perfectly cooked and brought out to diners piping hot. They are served on hot plates in a little pool of sizzling butter to keep them tender. Peter Luger Steakhouse also sells some of its Prime dry-aged beef online for shipment.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Ruth's Chris Steak House is one of the more predominant high-end steakhouse chains in the US, with over 130 locations across the country. Ruth's Chris is well-known for its USDA Prime beef. Some of the cuts the steakhouse sells include 40-ounce porterhouse steaks, 16-ounce NY strip steaks, 24-ounce T-bones, and 16-ounce ribeyes. Diners with a smaller appetite will appreciate Petite Filet, while customers who are feeling extra hungry may want to take advantage of the 40-ounce bone-in ribeye.
Ruth's Chris offers a handful of ways to complement its steaks. Cold water lobster tails bathed in Cajun butter, blackened and broiled shrimp, Oscar-style crab cakes, and bleu cheese crust are all available to smother entrees with some extra luxuriousness. Similar to Wolfgang's and Peter Luger, Ruth's Chris Steak House broils its steaks and serves them on a heated plate with butter. The butter on the hot plate bastes the steak and gives the beef a rich flavor that's truly delicious.
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
It's right there in the name: Fleming's uses Prime beef that's sourced from small farms in the Midwest. The Prime beef section of Fleming's steak menu showcases bone-in ribeye, tomahawk steak, dry-aged ribeye, and NY strip steak.
Each USDA-certified Prime steak comes with a choice of béarnaise, smoked chili butter, or herbed horseradish butter. Fleming's dry-ages its ribeye for up to two months, which intensifies the beef's flavor. The restaurant recommends pairing the cut with its smoked chili butter, which is made with smoked chilis, fresh garlic, kosher salt, crushed red pepper, and chopped parsley. While 60 days is about the longest the steaks at Fleming's are aged, the restaurant reports that, at minimum, others are dry aged for at least three weeks. The kitchen broils its steaks and then makes sure that each cut gets properly rested. Fleming's also has a great drink menu that complements its steak and includes everything from pinot noir to a classic old fashioned made with Basil Hayden's bourbon.
Black Angus Steakhouse
Black Angus Steakhouse has been honing its craft since 1964. The restaurant serves Certified Angus beef that's been dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days, before being hand-trimmed by a professional. At Black Angus, the steaks are cut daily.
What makes Black Angus' menu stand out is the Experiences section, which features specially curated meals. One standout is the cedar plank-grilled filet that comes with bacon shallot butter and smoked sea salt along with a recommended drink pairing of a smoked whiskey sour. But the crowning jewel of the menu might be the Whiskeys of the World Pairing Dinner — a three-course meal that's truly a feast. For a reasonable price of under 50 bucks, this dinner comes with smoky BBQ chicken tenders, a filet mignon served with mashed potatoes and brown butter brussel sprouts, and a spiced carrot cake — all served with a different whiskey cocktail during each course.
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