Le Boeuf Gras–the third float in Rex parade on Mardi Gras–tells the essential Carnival story. It’s time to say farewell to beef. For the first week or so of Lent, at least. Maybe for life for some people. New Orleans takes a back seat only to New York in the quality of its steakhouses. Prime grade has always been the standard for the very top places. Here are what I think are the twelve best steakhouses in town right now.
In the spirit of the season, here is our annual list of the dozen best steakhouses. This is not the same as a list of the twelve best steak served around town. A lot of excellent steaks come from restaurants that aren’t really steakhouses. For the purposes of this list, a steakhouse is defined as a restaurant where steak is offered in many cuts and dominates the menu. Paradox: steakhouse with few entrees of note other than steaks, or with routine appetizers and sides, will not rank as highly as they would if they did.
If you don’t see your favorite steakhouse here, come back tomorrow. We have another top-dozen list of steakhouses whose prices make them attractive, while keeping high standards otherwise. Hint: #1 on that list is the Crescent City.
1. Mr. John’s Steakhouse. Uptown 1: Garden District & Environs: 2111 St Charles Ave. 504-679-7697. Everything is prime and so closely trimmed that it winds up being a better deal than most of the other restaurants in this list. The steaks are served with New Orleans-style sizzling butter. The rest of the menu includes not only the requisite few seafood dishes but also a rather extensive line of Italian entrees–a good match with the steaks. Best cut: New Orleans-cut strip (a double-thick sirloin strip cut into two pieces the size and shape of filets).
2. Gallagher’s Grill. Covington: 509 S Tyler. 985-892-9992. Pat Gallagher has operated many excellent restaurants over the decades, but something to under his skin after he spent a few years as the executive chef of Ruth’s Chris in Metairie. His current restaurant doesn’t call itself a steakhouse, but it is one, with prime beef hand-cut in house, sizzling in butter. Great chops and a full menu of contemporary Creole eats.
3. Keith Young’s Steak House. Madisonville: 165 LA 21. 985-845-9940. One of the North Shore’s handsomest and best restaurants in any category, always busy. The steaks are of indeterminate grade; the selection is made by the eye of Keith Young himself, who also presides over the steak grill. Unusually good appetizers and sides. Best cut: large filet mignon.
4. Desi Vega’s. CBD: 628 St Charles Ave. 504-523-7600. The second location of Mr. John’s has a more atmospheric dining room, a slightly different menu, and all the excitement of steak eating at the original. Now instead of one packed house, there are two, ten blocks apart.
5. Doris Metropolitan. French Quarter: 620 Chartres St. 504-267-3500. The newest game in town, just off Jackson Square, with a glass-walled walk-in cooler displaying large primal cuts of beef undergoing lengthy dry aging. What comes to the table may be intrinsically the best beef being served in New Orleans right now. Some of the cuts are literally indescribable. Work is needed on the sides and desserts.
6. Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Metairie 2: Orleans Line To Houma Blvd: 3633 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-3600. After New Orleans-born Ruth Fertel sold the world’s most successful premium steakhouse chain to corporate investors, the two local restaurants slipped in quality. Their behavior after Katrina made a lot of people angry, to boot. But those executives are gone, and for the past few years Ruth’s in our area has improved steadily. The Metairie restaurant in particular is consistent and exciting. The downtown place is handsomer but not quite as good. Best cut: porterhouse for two.
6. Ruth’s Chris Steak House. CBD: 525 Fulton St. 504-587-7099.
7. Steak Knife. Lakeview: 888 Harrison Ave. 504-488-8981. After forty years, the Steak Knife buys Prime and handles steaks well. It continues to evolve away from a strictly steakhouse character, with a menu of great dishes in every category. This has not taken anything away from the steaks, however. They still have all their chops–literally. Best cut: Ribeye.
8. Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak. French Quarter: 215 Bourbon St. 504-335-3932. A prime steakhouse was a great idea for the newly-annexed building on Galatoire’s right. The steaks and chops (the lamb in particular) are excellent by any standard, broiled deftly, and served with a wide range of sauces. The sides are almost terrible, though. And the vibe is nothing like that of the place next door.
9. R’evolution. French Quarter: 777 Bienville (in the Royal Sonesta Hotel). 504-553-2277. When this flashy new restaurant opened in the Royal Sonesta with two major chefs at the help, its menu seemed to encompass those of four or five different restaurants. Steak was a major emphasis, however, and still is. Many unusual cuts are here, but a major lack, too: no strip sirloin? Gorgeous restaurant, fabulous wine list.
10. O’Brien’s Grill. CBD: 2020 Belle Chasse Hwy. 504-566-0221. Easily the best steak place on the West Bank, this place looks like a warehouse on the outside, but inside it has the elegant atmosphere of a speakeasy. First-class steaks and chops, and a lot of substance in the starters and sides.
11. Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. French Quarter: 716 Iberville. 504-522-2467. The concept is terrific, the surroundings elegant in a masculine way, and the important cuts (but not all anymore) are prime. When it’s on, DBS is fantastic. But it can be inconsistent, especially when packed with insurance salesmen and the like. (It seems that every convention in town learns that this is the place to eat in New Orleans.) Best cut: black-iron-skillet sirloin strip.
12. Chophouse. CBD: 322 Magazine St. 504-522-7902. A branch of a regional chain from Charlotte, the Chophouse has high standards. Everything’s prime, everything is seared Pittsburgh style. (Unless you tell them not to.) A little weak in the appetizers and sides.