Peter Luger Steak House

Brooklyn, New York | C.1887

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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Between offerings of thick slabs of bacon, steaks slathered in salt and butter, and burgers molded from USDA Prime beef, the menu at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse will widen the eyes and draw groans from the belly of any carnivore in the house. The beloved New York steakhouse has stood in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood for over a century, steadily maintaining its juicy reputation by its age-old insistence on serving top grade meatand by establishing its own rules of operation. 

Opened in 1887, the steakhouse was originally “Carl Luger’s Cafe, Billiards and Bowling Alley”. The Carl in question remains a bit of a mysterysome believe him to be Peter’s father, while others list Peter’s nephew as the namesake. The establishment enjoyed marginal success in its earliest years, but with the completion of the Williamsburg Bridge, it was exposed to a new batch of hungry patrons, resulting in a steadier clientele.

Among the regulars was Sol Forman, a seventeen-year-old high school dropout who worked across the street, at his family’s manufacturing company. Forman would visit daily, consuming twosometimes three—steaks per day. Forman would go on to play a big part in Peter Luger’s legacy (beyond his hefty bills). After the restaurant fell into disrepair following Peter’s death, Forman purchased it, and transformed it into the spectacular steakhouse it is today.

Forman formalized the menu, sticking with the variety of meats, but also adding sides like shrimp cocktail, creamed spinach, German hash browns, and an assortment of desserts. Most crucially, he put his wife Marsha in charge of picking the beefwhich she continued to do in style until she was eighty, wearing her signature white coat and fur hat into the meat district to make her selections. 

Those meats are now dry-aged within the restaurant’s 2,000 SF temperature-controlled basement, which has been described by the New York Times as being “packed from floor to ceiling…with 30,000 pounds of raw, aging meat.” It’s not a bloody sensory experience, however, as the smell of hazelnuts and sea salt seasoning blended into the slabs help create a surprisingly satisfying, earthy aroma.

Through the years, many have raided the inviting dining room and bar of the steakhouse. (Despite Peter’s best efforts to conceal his bounty, his restaurant was busted for bootlegging during Prohibition.)  Today, the steakhouse is visited by New Yorkers of all walks of life, who can enjoy that bounty legally, sipping on a delectable cocktail, made by a bow-tied bartender who will generally share a story or two about the surrounding historic atmosphere. It has also become the perfect backdrop for T.V. & movies alike, including The Wolf Of Wall Street. Just be sure to bring cash: Peter Luger’s takes great pride in its traditions, including a refusal of credit cards.

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