When you walk into a new steakhouse — somewhere you’ve never been before — and open up the menu, it’s a telling moment. You can learn a lot about a steakhouse by looking at the menu itself — and in some cases, you can even tell a great steakhouse from a mediocre one by what you see on the pages. Here are some things to look for:
1. Information on where the steak comes from
Steak is one of those things where the source, and the story behind it, really does translate to the plate. If you’re in a steakhouse that there’s nothing on the menu to tell you where the steak comes from, how it was raised, and why it’s a high quality piece of meat — then you’re probably not in a serious steakhouse! The professionals know how important the source of the meat is, and they want their customers to know about the care and thought they’ve put into the steaks they serve. That’s one of the most telling things about seeing information about steak on the menu — it tells you that the establishment really cares about steak. This is going to show up in the preparation as well.
2. Recommendations for sides and drinks
Pairing specific steaks with specific sides is an art form. At the very least, it shows you that you’re in a steakhouse that really takes your experience seriously, and wants you to enjoy the meal to the fullest. You might certainly be in a quality steakhouse even if there are no such recommendations on the menu itself — but when you ask the waiter for ideas, they should definitely be able to make the ordering process easier and more enjoyable for you and the people you’re dining out with.
3. A limited range of options
Steak is a specialty cuisine — that’s why so many dedicated steakhouses exist. When you go to a steakhouse and open to the menu, only to realize that you’re overwhelmed by the number of options available to you, it has a negative effect for two reasons. First, it makes it more difficult to choose. A lot of people worry about making the wrong decision, and missing out on the best experience. Second, it makes you question whether the chef is really good at preparing any specific food, or whether everything on the menu will be more or less “acceptable.”
In search of the next great steakhouse
If you’ve ever walked away from a steakhouse thinking it was a great experience — or if you’e ever walked away thinking it wasn’t all that great — you may want to look a little deeper into the steakhouses in your area, and find out which ones are seriously dedicated to quality steak and a quality overall experience. Looking at the menu is one way to tell, but steakhouse reviews are also useful. In the end, it’s your own experience that matters. The only way a steakhouse deserves to have you back is by giving you an experience that works on all levels — food, service, atmosphere and value.