A really good steak is not something most people want to eat with the complete lack of ceremony. Sure, a high-quality cut of meat prepared to perfection, and served on its own with nothing but a glass of water, would still be better than no steak at all. But the average person is unlikely to find themselves in such a situation. When people eat steak, they tend to have a lot of different choices of what to eat and drink with it. Often times, steak is a rare treat and people want to make the most of it. They want to know what will go best with the beef on their plate.

In a previous post, we wrote about what beverages tend to best enhance the flavor of the high quality steak. Now we’re going to talk about sides. In particular, we’re going to explore whether there are any side dishes that definitely enhance the flavor of steak, and whether there are any that definitely detract from it. If you’re interested in making the most out of your next steakhouse experience, read on.

The long and short of it is that besides you choose are really all about personal taste and preference. Obviously there are a number of standards, including a whole army of potato dishes (baked, au gratin, wedges, etc.), piles of steamed or cooked green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, green beans, just to name a few), seafood sides (jumbo shrimp, lobster,etc.) and various other salads, root vegetables, bean dishes and other sides.

Are you hungry yet?

The point is, no reputable steakhouse is going to offer a side dish that definitely does not go well with steak. A slice of pizza, for example, or a glazed donut. What will set one steakhouse apart from the others is how it balances creativity and tradition in the sides it presents to you.

For instance, compare regular mac and cheese to something like lobster mac and cheese. Compare regular onion rings to onion rings that have lager in the batter. Consider the quality and seasoning of those mushrooms, that asparagus, that creamed spinach. Compare a potato that’s been baked once to a potato that’s been baked twice.

On the other hand, most steak lovers don’t want to get too fancy. A little innovation is good, but at the end of the day, it’s about the steak. The sides are there to round out the dining experience, and can be amazing in their own right, but they should never seek to outshine the flavorful simplicity inherent in a nice cut of beef. Tradition is a big part of the classic steakhouse experience, and you’ll see most high quality steakhouses constantly striving to do what they do best, while offering just enough innovative flair to keep things interesting and satisfying.

Asking your waiter about sides is a good tip, as they usually know what sides the place is best known for. Try asking what sides the regular customers tend to order, and you’ll probably end up with some great advice.

Just remember—as long as you’re in a reputable establishment, and it’s on the menu, it’s probably going to go just fine with your steak. If not, don’t be afraid to send it back!