Steak is one of the most popular options for dining out, whether it’s a special occasion or just a good old-fashioned night on the town. And what comes to mind when you think of a really good steakhouse? A comfortable atmosphere, highly skilled kitchen and waitstaff, and incredible cuts of beef are probably on the list.

But does every steakhouse deliver in each of these areas? The answer is definitely no. When you go out for a steak, you don’t just want a decent experience — you want a great steakhouse experience. Here are a few qualities you should look for.

Qualities of a Great Steakhouse

1. High quality beef

First and foremost is the beef. There is no point in indulging in a steakhouse dinner that isn’t centered around high quality cuts. Look for steakhouses that serve USDA Prime cuts. The highest quality steakhouses will dry age their beef in house, providing the most tender cuts and exceptional flavor. Excellent imported cuts like Kobe and Wagyu are also something to look for.

2. Perfect preparation

Even the highest quality beef is no good if it isn’t prepared well. Most steakhouses broil their steaks at incredibly high temperatures and finish them with a sear. This gives you that slightly crusty exterior and juicy interior that steak lovers crave. A perfectly cooked steak doesn’t need much seasoning beyond salt and pepper, and should be cooked exactly to your liking when it hits the table.

3. Knowledgeable staff

Steakhouse waitstaff should know their product inside and out. Not only should the waiter be able to answer any and all of your questions about the different cuts of beef on the menu — they should be able to offer quality recommendations for sides and drinks. There’s nothing like going in with high expectations and being let down by a waiter who doesn’t know the score.

4. Impeccable service

Let’s face it, service matters. A great steakhouse experience includes servers who are attentive, but not bothersome — enthusiastic, but not over the top. Plates for all members of your party should be brought at the same time, and you should never feel rushed to finish a meal. Ideally, the service aspect of your experience should be a bonus, not a detriment.

5. Inviting atmosphere

While some steak aficionados love the white tablecloths and leather booths of classic steakhouses, others might prefer the clean lines and modern décor of newer establishments. Either way, there are a few non-negotiables when it comes to steakhouse atmosphere. You want a restaurant with some background noise but where you can still hold a conversation at your table, and where you and your party have enough space to enjoy your meal without feeling crowded in by other tables.

6. Fair prices

No one chooses a steakhouse when looking for a cheap meal, but that doesn’t mean that the experience should be a rip-off either. Compare menus across multiple restaurants to make sure that prices are fair and match the quality of the experience. Splurging will be worth it if the experience is perfect, but no one wants to pay a huge bill for a lackluster meal.

Choosing the Perfect Steakhouse

If you do your research before making a reservation, you’ll have better chances of having a great experience through and through. Not every steakhouse can meet all of these criteria — but when you find one that does, stick with it!