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How to Have the Best Steak Experience Ever

When you walk through the doors of a steakhouse, are you really expecting to have the best steakhouse experience you’ve ever had? It’s far more likely that you’ll just be hoping for a good experience ­– unless you’ve managed to snag reservations at one of the more famous and reputable joints in the world. In that case, you might actually be expecting something that’s better than anything you’ve had before.

But there is no reason to set your sights low. Steakhouses are in the middle of a Renaissance, even if they never really went away to begin with. Some of the most talented chefs out there are focusing on steak, and a lot of exciting and creative things are being done. When you visit a steakhouse, your expectations should be higher than they were ten (or even five) years ago. New ideas and super high-quality steaks are changing the way we think about this type of cuisine, and standards are higher than ever.

That said, the reality is that every steakhouse experience is unique; there is no perfect blueprint for a steak or a steakhouse, and that is what makes it so exciting to go out and discover new ones. Having said that, there are certain characteristics that are widely shared by high quality establishments. The source beef is obviously a big. If you have mediocre or even low-quality steaks in the kitchen, it doesn’t matter how cutting edge that kitchen may be, or how skilled the chefs who are running it. The result on the table is ultimately limited to the quality and grade of beef. Most good steakhouses offer information about their steaks directly on the menu; and even if not, the staff should have all the information you care to know about the source of the various steaks on offer.

Guest reviews are also very important when you are looking for your next good steakhouse experience. Social proof as become hugely important across the hospitality industry, and steakhouses are no exception. People pay good money for a good steak, and a lot of steak lovers can only afford to enjoy one or two steak dinners a week; or one two per year, for that matter. This makes it more important to maximize the quality of those experiences, and that is why guest reviews are so important.

And finally, of course, there is the question of whether you truly enjoyed the meal that was served, and whether you were delighted buy the quality of the ingredients as well as the skill that went into the preparation. When a meal really rises above the rest, there is a visceral quality to it. With every bite, you enjoy it more and more. The truth is that not every steakhouse out there can give you this kind of experience, but many of them certainly can; and they go above and beyond expectations day in and day out. That is the kind of steakhouse that will eventually serve you a plate that you remember as the best steakhouse experience you have ever had.

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Does “Bone-In” Steak Have Better Flavor?

Although steak is a culinary area that prides itself on maintaining high standards (at least amongst serious steakhouses), it’s still an area where tastes and traditions vary wildly. Dinner at a lauded Brazilian steakhouse, for example, will (and should) be a different experience than dinner a classic American steakhouse, or a Japanese steakhouse, or a French steakhouse – the list goes on.

The one thing we all have on common, both as lovers of steak and as creators of the steakhouse experience, is beef. We need the quality of the meat to be high, with specific qualities that translate to better flavor – such as marbling. We like steak that comes from reputable sources that use high quality practices in order to raise healthy cattle. When it comes to steak, this is where quality begins.

But let’s explore the question at hand: Does bone-in steak have a better flavor? The answer is entirely dependent on the quality and source of the beef – as well as the chef who is preparing it. No matter what, a high-quality T-bone steak from a reputable source, prepared by an expert chef, is going to taste better than a filet mignon that’s low on the quality spectrum. Steaks are so complex and variable that it’s sometimes futile to make broad characterizations about what cuts of steaks are better than others.

Some people swear that flavor from the bone actually gets into the meat during the cooking process. This is a nice idea, but is it true? Believe it or not, researchers have actually studies this, and seem unable to find clear evidence that the flavor of a bone-in steak will be different or altered somehow by the bone itself.

It’s worth noting, however, that the rib-eye steak (which obviously is an example of a bone in steak) is consistently at the top of lists that rank the best cuts of beef. Again, these things are a personal preference; but ribeye is definitely a favorite amongst steakhouse chefs and steak aficionados. The deep marbling of that particular cut of beef makes the meat incredibly tender and flavorful; but as to whether it takes so good because they’re a bone inside, that will probably always be cause for debate.

These questions are really more rhetorical than anything ­– because we all know that when you sink your teeth into a great-tasting steak, you’re enjoying the moment. There are some incredible bone-in steaks out there, and a good steakhouse chef knows how to prepare them properly. There are also some incredible boneless cuts to enjoy. Once again, preparation is key. Most of us have had the experience of buying an expensive steak or piece of fish at the market, and being disappointed with the final result. That’s why steakhouse chefs have years of experience and training.

Part of being a steakhouse aficionado is gaining experience with the different cuts and qualities of steak, so that you can truly start to make your own judgements about which steaks are most enjoyable to you.

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3 Modern Steakhouse Trends

When it comes to cuisine, things are constantly evolving. In the modern day and age, we have innumerable examples of fusion and invention in the kitchen – that’s what makes food so great. It’s an ongoing conversation, and new discoveries are constantly being made.

There are also those things that have a timeless quality, and don’t seem to change no matter how much the world changes. The steakhouse experience is arguably one of those things. The beauty of a steakhouse is in the simplicity as much as anything else. If you have super high quality cuts of beef, a skilled chef in the kitchen, high quality sides, and a nice atmosphere, there’s arguably very little that can or should go wrong. With that said, here are 2 modern steakhouse trends you should know about.

1. New atmospheres

Atmosphere or “aesthetic” is one of the things that’s mostly likely to change over the years as some steakhouses close down and other ones open for business. You might have a more “open” and contemporary look, or you might see a more thematic or conceptual take that involves different rooms, lower ceilings, or any number of features. Nobody is saying that atmosphere isn’t an important part of the steakhouse experience – but in the grand scheme of things, it’s more about what’s on the plate.

2. Gluten free options

Gluten free is, of course, a big trend lately. You see it everywhere on menus, TV shows, web sites, blogs. Steak has the luxury of being naturally gluten-free – but this cannot be said for warm buttered bread (unless it is gluten free). Still, if you’re into the gluten-free diet, your local steakhouse is a good place to fill up and be satisfied without touching any wheat gluten. At least you can enjoy the smell of the fresh-baked bread.

3. Locally sourced

This is one thing that really can add quality and freshness to the table; which is good for any type of restaurant, including the steakhouse. It’s obviously not always possible to source local produce, depending on where a steakhouse is located. But freshness and quality of ingredients are hugely important; talent in the kitchen cannot make up for bad ingredients. Even adding a few local and vibrant ingredients can make a big difference.

It’s still all about the steak

It’s obviously true that steakhouses will continue to change and try new things as time goes on. But it’s probably also true that the core of the steakhouse experience will be the same twenty or thirty years from now as it is today, and as it was twenty or thirty years ago – or sixty years ago for that matter, when some of the world’s classic steakhouses hosted some of the world’s best entertainers. There is a timeless quality to a good steakhouse. That doesn’t mean they won’t try new things, but there is also an argument for sticking with what works. When you come across a fine steakhouse with expertly curated meat prepared by talented and experienced chefs, the rest should fall into place, and you should come away with a classic and satisfying steakhouse experience.

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Why the Source of Your Steak Matters

There’s been something of a revolution in the food world lately, and it’s been a very good thing for people who demand quality and freshness. We’re talking about the desire to know where the food came from – to know, in other words, the “source” of the food. If we rewind the clock twenty or thirty years, very few cafés and restaurants were focused on offering ‘local’ food. Today, the concept is everywhere. When food is ‘locally sourced,’ it supports communities and offers a higher degree of freshness and quality – at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. This is a good thing because it puts more focus on the way food is grown, and the standards of quality that go into it.

Knowing the source is especially important when you’re talking about steak. Depending on the animals and the various practices used in raising and processing them, the quality of the steak itself will vary tremendously. There are sources of steak out there that are highly reputable, and known for the superior grade of beef they produce. Other sources are owned by large corporations, or smaller unscrupulous companies who do not necessarily use the best practices for quality.

When you taste that first succulent bite of steak at a high-level steakhouse, you’re tasting the standards of quality used not only in preparing the steak, but in raising the animal. Local conditions also play a big role in how a specific cut of beef turns out on the plate. Just as with wine, seasonal vegetables and other goods, beef is a product of its environment. A nice piece of Kobe beef imported from Japan, for example, will have a different flavor and texture profile than a USDA Prime cut of beef raised on a cattle ranch in Montana. Knowing where the beef comes from actually enhances the steakhouse experience, and makes it more interactive.

There are a lot of people who prefer to simply take the chef’s word for it, and that’s fine too. When you know a great steakhouse and you trust the people in the kitchen, you can ask if there’s anything really good and fresh. The waiter should have no problem recommending specific steaks to you, and discussing the source and other details. This is a great way to get acquainted with cuts of beef from various sources that you might know have previously known about, and it gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast your steakhouse experiences with more information about the steak itself.

Where’s the beef?

When you want a seriously high quality cut of beef, straight from a highly reputable source, you could head for the butcher. This is a great way to learn more about steaks and where they come from. You might also learn about specific local suppliers, their practices, and the quality of their product. But if you just want an excellent steak served hot with your favorite sides, a celebrated local steakhouse is your best bet. If the source of the various steaks doesn’t appear on the menu, be sure to ask. You might be surprised by what you hear, and how your steakhouse experience is enhanced.

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5 Non-Steak Entrées to Try at a Steakhouse

Steak is a hugely popular main course – there’s no doubt about that. The number of steakhouses around the world has risen in recent years as people develop more and more appreciation for the art of a superior steak. Even restaurants that don’t specialize steak have added it to the menu – whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you want the real deal, however, it still appears necessary to visit an establishment known for sourcing and serving a higher level of steak.

But let’s face it – sometimes you visit a steakhouse when you just aren’t in the mood for a steak. Maybe somebody in your party doesn’t eat meat, or is a vegetarian. All kinds of situations can arise in which you’re sitting at a table in a good steakhouse, yet you or someone at your table just doesn’t want steak.

Obviously, your options will depend entirely on the menu at that particular restaurant. But if you’re lucky, the steakhouse you’re visiting will have options like the ones listed below, to make sure that everybody walks away satisfied.

1. Salmon Oscar

In case you didn’t already now, “Oscar” style seafood refers to a piece of fish that’s topped with crab cakes, asparagus, and béarnaise sauce (béarnaise is made from egg yolks, clarified butter, shallots, tarragon, chervil and vinegar. Add in some classic whipped potatoes, and don’t just use any fish: Use a super fresh piece of wild caught salmon. Provided it’s done right, this is one dish that isn’t going to leave much to be desired.

2. Sea Scallop Risotto

Sometimes, the simplest dishes are the most classic. There aren’t a lot of different ingredients in a good sea scallop risotto – just high quality essentials combined for an amazing final effect. You start with a bed of creamy risotto and fresh thyme. On top of this, you lay the freshest pan-seared jumbo dry sea scallops. It’s all in the freshness of the ingredients and the expertise that goes into the preparation.

3. Twin Lobster Tails

This takes simplicity to a whole new level. When you’re enjoying lobster at your favorite steakhouse, you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. In fact, you don’t need any! Start with super fresh, wild caught lobster tails. Add the right seasoning, and baste them with butter. A splash of fresh citrus is all you need to finish the job, and you’ll be riding high.

4. Ahi Tuna

Once again, the freshness of the fish is everything. But in this case, preparation can also go a long way. Add flourishes like a sesame sear, Teriyaki glaze, Julienne Vegetables, Jasmine rice and crispy wonton for a knockout dish that’s sure to please the discerning palette.

But let’s get back to the steak…

Usually, steakhouses with giant reputations aren’t kidding around when it comes to sourcing their steak. That also means they take seafood and other options seriously, and only source the finest ingredients available. When you skip the steak at a steakhouse, don’t hesitate to ask the same questions about source and ingredients for seafood and other items on the menu. Enjoy!

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When is the Best Time to Visit a Steakhouse?

The question of when is the best time to visit a steakhouse can be answered any number of ways. You could pare it down to when “during the day” is the best time to visit a steakhouse; in which case, most people would say dinnertime. The steak dinner is nothing less than an institution, and indeed, this is when the vast majority of steak lovers go for their steak during a 24 hour period. The work of the day is done, and it’s time to relax in good company and refuel. For those who enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine, it might be time to order something from the bar. When the night is done, you walk out of there with a fully satisfied feeling.

There is, however, something to be said for a steakhouse lunch. For those looking to stay a little lighter during the day, your local chop house might have small cuts and lunch specials that give you all the satisfaction of a quality steakhouse experience, but with a smaller bill at the end. A lot of high-end steakhouses do a very brisk lunch trade every day, because they’re focused on quality and providing options that people appreciate more during the day. Even if you’re having a day out and the town, and your steakhouse lunch has nothing at all to do with business, it’s still a very enjoyable experience.

Now what about breakfast? Surely we can’t forget about that. Your high-end chophouses (in the vast majority of cases) are definitely not open at this hour; but there are a lot of breakfast joints that serve up steak and eggs, steak burritos, and all manner of steak platters to start the day. Some of them are actually quite good, if you know where to look. Breakfast may not be the most popular time to have a steak, but that’s only because steak is so popular.

You could also ask when during the calendar year is the best time to visit a steakhouse, to which there is no clear answer. There is something special about the warmth of a good steakhouse on a cold winter evening, but walking out of your favorite local steakhouse into a balmy summer night is also an experience not to be missed. Or you could say that special occasions are the best time to visit a steakhouse. A lot of people reserve trips to the best chop houses for a special occasion, and there’s good reason for this: The whole experience really should feel special, unique, in a warm environment where everything is taken care of, and expectations are exceeded.

This last point is important; because this is simply not going to be the case at every single steakhouse you visit. Even if you research the area carefully, you still might have an experience that you just didn’t care for. But for the most part, good steakhouses are known for upholding great standards, night after night, and constantly exceeding the expectations of guests.

So go ahead and visit a steakhouse whenever you want, just make sure it’s a good one!

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3 Easy Ways to Ruin a Good Steak

Most people don’t go out for a steak very often – maybe once a week, if they’re lucky. What does that mean? It means that when you do go out for steak, you want to make the most of it. This is the type of meal you look forward to, anticipate, and remember after it’s over.

The same goes for buying high quality steaks at the market and cooking them at home. You want to make sure you do it right, so that you get the most out of your “home steakhouse” experience.

In either case, however, it’s very much possible to come away disappointed. Here are three easy ways to ruin a good steak – hopefully yours comes out perfect!

1. Overcooking

For steakhouse chefs (and steak aficionados, for that matter), the worst thing you can do to a really good steak is over cook it. Instead of a tender, juicy, succulent expression of the steak’s natural flavor and texture, you’re left with a tough and dry steak that isn’t nearly as enjoyable or delicious as it could have been. Obviously, everyone has their own rules and standards when it comes to eating a steak, and some people still prefer their steak well done. Most chefs would argue, however, that if you haven’t tried moving down the scale to “medium” or even “medium-rare,” you don’t know what you’re missing.

2. Over-marinating

Actually, if you talk to a seasoned steakhouse chef, they might not only tell you that over-marinating can ruin a good steak – they might well say that any kind of marinating will take away from the flavor and grandeur of a high-quality cut of beef. We normally think of marinades as a way to enhance the flavor of meat and poultry, and that’s true in so many cases. In the case of a superior steak, however, most professionals prefer to pound the meat with a little rock salt and throw it directly on the heat. This way, the natural flavors of the steak are able to fully emerge, without being lost in the spices and flavorings of marinade.

3. Not choosing carefully

Sometimes, the biggest mistake is made at the moment you order your steak. Now obviously, if you’re at a really good steakhouse, there won’t be any steak on the menu that isn’t good. But not understanding your options, and not knowing what the distinctions actually are, can prevent you from making the best menu selection. That’s why waitstaff are such a valuable resource of information. You should be able to rely on them for quality feedback about the steaks you’re considering, and to help you make the best possible decision.

Where are the best steakhouses?

The American steakhouse tradition has never been stronger, and in fact, there are plenty of international steakhouses (Brazilian, Argentinian, Japanese, etc.) right here in the states. But these establishments should all have one thing in common: They’re passionate about sourcing and preparing immaculate steaks that put a smile on the face of even the most experienced steak lover.

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Can Steak Be a Healthy Part of Your Diet?

When it comes to staying healthy, there is always a new piece of information, a new diet, or a new exercise fad that people are talking about. Obviously, we all want to stay as fit and healthy as possible – but it’s hard to make sense of things when the information is always changing.

Chocolate and red wine are great examples. One minute, we hear that they’re good for the heart. The next minute, we hear that one or the other is linked to certain illnesses. For a lot of people, the experience of a good piece of dark chocolate, or a nice glass of red wine, tips the scales in favor of the “healthy” argument.

Where does steak fit into this picture? There has been plenty of discussion on whether red meat is healthy, and if so, in what measure? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess at these questions – there is plenty of useful dialogue and information available.

One of the potential health benefits of lean beef (much like chocolate and red wine) is that it seems to have heart benefits. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people with diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains experienced lower levels of LDL cholesterol when they added around 5 ounces of lean beef to their diet every day. Some of the fats in beef (namely stearic acid and oleic acid) have been show to improve cholesterol levels.

Another potential health benefit of steak involves the mood-lifting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. These chemicals appear to protect against depression and anxiety disorders, according to an Australian study. When participates in the study consumed 1-2 ounces of beef per day, their odds of developing depression or anxiety were much lower. It’s worth noting that grass-fed animals produce more of these helpful omega-3 fatty acids.

Let’s not forget that red meat (including beef, lamb and bison) is a great source of protein. There are also many other useful nutrients in a quality cut of beef, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12.

Now obviously – all good things should be enjoyed in moderation. Eating an over-abundance of steak can lead to certain health issues, but this is true for virtually any food. Red meat is a regular part of the diet for a large proportion Americans (and people the world over) who lead healthy and active lifestyles.

The trick may be – as your parents told you – to eat your vegetables. People are much more likely to reap the benefits of high quality red meat when they maintain a diet that’s high in veggies, fruits, and whole grains. If you keep up that side of things, and get plenty of exercise, your doctor is probably going to have a lot more positive things to say about your red meat intake.

Everybody is different, and various dietary choices can affect people in different ways – but one thing is for sure: it’s difficult to argue with the taste, flavor, and satisfaction of an expertly prepared cut from a reputable steakhouse!

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4 Wines that Pair Well with Steak

Pairing wine with food is a very old and complex practice. You’ve probably been to an upscale restaurant where a sommelier, or wine steward, makes recommendations on food and wine pairings. There are professional associations all over the world for maintaining standards in this area, and it takes years of dedication and hard work to gain recognition as a professional sommelier.

At the same time, pairing wine with food is not something reserved only for trained professionals and dedicated foodies. It’s a common practice shared by everyone who appreciates a good glass of wine with a fine meal – and you don’t have to be an expert to know a good pairing when you taste it!

When you think about your next steakhouse visit, wine might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe you prefer a cold beer with your steak, or a craft cocktail, or maybe you’re rather stick with water or soda. But if you haven’t ever tried pairing a glass of wine with a fine steak, it’s definitely worth a try.

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

This red wine is often the “go to” when it comes to steak. Due to its full-bodied and fruity taste, it pairs nicely with the succulent and full-bodied flavor of a high quality steak. A sommelier could explain much better than we can, but Cabernet Sauvignon has a high alcohol content and plenty of tannins from the skin of the grapes. This gives Cabernet a smooth finish that really brings out the flavor of a good cut.

2. Malbec

This Argentinian red wine has been growing very popular lately, and we’re seeing it more and more in restaurants of all types. Best of all, Malbec pairs very well with steak. They love red meat in Argentina, and this is the most popular wine to pair with it. It has a very rich and flavorful profile that accentuates the flavor of a good steak, and it’s often among the more affordable wines on the list.

3. California Zinfandel

Another red wine that makes an excellent pairing with steak is a dark, flavorful California Zinfandel. This is a more acidic wine with fewer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, which means that Zinfandel goes very well with fatty steaks. If you’ve got a steak with really good marbling, consider pairing it with this wine. Interesting fact: Zinfandel is also sometimes used as a steak marinade.

4. Rosé

People often gravitate towards red wines when it comes to pairing with steak, and there is good reason for this – but don’t rule out a chilled, refreshing, crisp Rosé. This is always a popular pairing with steak or other grilled meats. A warm summer evening on the patio could be a perfect opportunity to try this combination for yourself.

Ask your local steakhouse for recommendations!

Now that you’ve got a grasp of wines that tend to be paired with steak, ask your waiter for recommendations from the wine list. Wine might not have been your first choice for steak, but once you experience a good pairing, you very well may want to repeat the experience!

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5 Signs of a Shady Steakhouse

There are a lot of steakhouses out there, and let’s face it – not all of them are great. You probably only visit a steakhouse once or twice a month (unless you’re an aficionado, in which case once or twice a week might be more like it) – so when you do go out for a steak, it’s in your interests to pick a good one.

Sometimes you don’t know you’re in a shady steakhouse until you taste the food – other times, there are warning signs that can prevent you from going there in the first place. Here are 5 signs of a shady steakhouse.

1. Nobody’s there

This might not actually mean the steakhouse is ‘shady’; it could simply mean they’re brand new, or else they’ve had consistently negative reviews and people are avoiding the place. A consistently empty house obviously isn’t a good sign for a steakhouse. The old saying “go where the crowds are” is often a good rule of thumb – but not always!

2. The waiter doesn’t know much

Normally, a good quality steakhouse will make sure that every waiter is properly schooled in the various menu items, the sources of the different steaks, the best combinations, side dishes, and so forth. Once in a while, you see a steakhouse waiter that doesn’t seem to know much about any of these things. They might have just started, in which case, it’s always good to cut the waiter some slack. But if it seems like the waiter doesn’t really care, or doesn’t know much about the food, you have to wonder what’s going on in the kitchen.

3. The menu doesn’t give detailed information

A good steakhouse menu will give you information about where the various steaks come from, and how they are graded – this is important stuff when you’re hoping for an excellent steak. If the menu doesn’t say anything about the steaks other than “filet mignon, T-bone, porterhouse,” and so forth – then the steakhouse you’re chosen probably does not take their steak very seriously!

4. The reviews aren’t great

Before you even go to a steakhouse, you might see a pattern of negative reviews on important sites like Google or Facebook. This is definitely not a good sign, especially if the reviews contain detailed information about why the experience wasn’t great.

5. The interior is shabby

There are examples of good steakhouses out there that make a point of not doing much with the interior of the place. If the quality of the steak is really good, this might work for people. Usually, however, a good steakhouse will put a lot of thought and care into the décor, furniture, lighting, and of course the cleanliness of the dining areas and restrooms. If any of these elements are lacking or not up to par, there’s a great chance that the food will also be disappointing.

Steer clear of shabby steakhouses!

With all the amazing variety out there, there’s no reason to settle for a subpar steakhouse. Recommendations from friends, online reviews, and of course your own experiences are the best way to create a personalized map of which steakhouses in your area are worth visiting.