Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in New York has been serving delicious, mouth-watering steaks for over 128 years and through its existence, there are already several monumental secrets it can impart on other newbie steakhouses in the country. While it did not originally debut in the Big Apple, it definitely upped the game for everyone in the industry as it became a historical symbol of excellence, impeccability, and grandeur especially when it comes to serving steaks, meats, and other grilled goodness.
Continuously getting fame and recognition from various award-giving bodies, such as the Zagat Survey, Michelin rating, and even younger, trendier sites like Yelp, this steakhouse is definitely the standard when it comes to high quality USDA Prime beef and freshly caught seafoods. While it may sound as if this prestigious steakhouse has already imparted all that it knows when it comes to food, there are still a few secrets that one might be surprised to learn about.
1) Peter Luger was not the brainchild of the steakhouse.
While his name is displayed on the restaurant for everyone to see, the actual founder of Peter Luger’s Steakhouse is his father, Carl Luger. He was a German immigrant who initially thought of opening a food spot where people can enjoy good food while playing sports, thus the “Carl Luger’s Cafe Billiards and Bowling Alley” was built in 1887. When Carl died, his son changed the name of the food place to bear his name and Peter Luger’s Steakhouse was born.
When Carl in the 1940s, his son Frederick took over the business but as he was not as good as his father and grandfather, he dwindled the business to the ground and was forced to have it auctioned during the 1950s. Later on, Sol Forman bought the ownership at the auction, where he was the only bidder. His reason for buying was he loved the steaks too much to let it go, even though he didn’t have any experience in handling restaurants.
Fast forward to today, the once masculine-ran steakhouse is led by a group of Forman women, of which they continue to spread their father’s love of steak by using the only way they know how and that is through what their father has taught them.
2) The menu was developed and made in the 1950s.
There was no official menu when Peter Luger’s Steakhouse was handled by the Lugers because all they offered was tomatoes, onions, steak and fries. When Sol Forman bought the business, he and his wife decided to come up with a generic steakhouse menu, starting with what they’ve known to eat then adding more like the shrimp cocktail, salad, hash browns, and desserts.
Just like its menu, the business until now resists the changes of technology, preferring to accept only reservations and hand-written cheques or their house accounts, no credit cards. The owners explain that they felt it is inappropriate to see waiters running with plastic cards, swiping in terminals when they are in a place that is as old as tradition itself. Call it nostalgia but the owners prefer to run things the same way they were ran before.
3) While fish was added to the menu, it felt like it was taboo to order it.
During the 1980s, the “fresh fish in season” was introduced to accommodate all types of customers; however, while it was already written, people still find it offing to order fish in a place that serves the best steaks. In 1993, the New York Times actually stated in their review of the restaurant that ordering the fish was like getting a tennis racket for a golf game. Similarly, a 2007 food review included an experience where the reviewer indirectly asked a waiter if he should get the fish and received a rather funny yet haughty response of, “Do you ski in Hawaii?”
In a rather same sentiment, the famous bacon appetizer started off as a “hush-hush” request. Initially, it was just for the employees to feast on during their lunch breaks but as the Wall Street employees are often dining, they would see the waiters eating the humongous slab. Requesting for the “bacon appetizer” became a trend and regulars would so often ask for it, the owners decided to make it a regular item during the 1990s.
4) The dry aging process remains to be the family’s well-kept secret.
While the art of selecting beef was left in the capable hands of Sol’s wife, Marsha, her knowledge of the evaluation process continues to be the method the family uses. Sol’s granddaughter, Jody Storch, is now in-charge of this process and timidly shares that what she looks for in a great meat are color, shape, fat marble flecking, good bones, and texture. Once it passes Storch’s keen eyes, the beef will get an F4F approval.
5) Peter Luger and his secret formula remain to be the most copied model for steakhouse all-over the country.
They say that imitation is the best form of flattery and it seems that several ex-employees have decided to pay homage to Peter Luger’s Steakhouse as the model of their own steakhouses. Restaurants like Mark Joseph, Ben & Jack’s and the famous Wolfgang’s all have followed the steps Peter Luger’s took, including the “shlag” on desserts.