By Chef Charlie Palmer


As a young chef working at The River Café in Brooklyn, I had a few seats to the most exciting show of New American cuisine. But that didn’t stop me from gravitating to old school steakhouses when I felt the need to celebrate. One of my favorites was Peter Luger, decorated with oversized beer steins and worn wooden tables, originally opened as Carl Luger’s Café Billiards and Bowling Alley in 1887 in Williamsburg Brooklyn, what was then a predominately German neighborhood. Almost as old as the Brooklyn Bridge, Peter Luger’s past is just as storied: In 1922, the restaurant was raided by enforcement agents who seized a treasure trove of imported wines and liquors, one of the reasons Brooklyn became known as the “wettest” borough in the city.

When Carl died, his business passed to his son Peter, who renamed it and presided over its success until the early 1940’s, when he passed it on to his son Fredrick, who inherited the restaurant, but not the knack of running it. On June 20, 1950, Peter Luger was sold to the only bidder: Sol Forman, a loyal customer who owned the metal-stamping factory across the street. Until then, Peter Luger’s had never even had a menu: The famous sliced tomatoes and onions, Porterhouse steak and French fries, just showed up when you sat down. It was Forman who added the shrimp cocktail, creamed spinach, salad, hash browns, and desserts—still the foundation of every single steakhouse menu. Today Peter Luger Steakhouse is run by women: Forman’s daughters and granddaughter. Although the meat is dry-aged in a proprietary manner within the restaurant’s temperature-controlled 2,000-square-foot industrial walk-in cooler, they keep many of the old-fashioned touches, including an actual reservation book with handwritten entries and a manual cash register, because they don’t take any plastic, except their open house card. There’s something nostalgic about getting a handwritten check – a reminder I’m in a steakhouse that can trace its history back for more than a century.

Another of my favorite classic New York steakhouses is Keens Chop House, the recipient of the 2013 James Beard America’s Classic Award, with cozy interconnected dark wood rooms spread over two floors of three connected townhouses, and a standout antique bar with one of the city’s best selection of whiskies, and a sign reading “No Service Will Be Provided to Anyone On a Horse. What’s really fascinating about the history of Keens is its legacy as a “pipe smoking club” with over 90,000 members, and today they have the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world, which line the ceilings, (a link to the 17th-century tradition of when travelers kept their clay pipes at their favorite inn). For more than a century, Keens has been famous for its huge roasted mutton chop. But I usually go for the dry-aged Porterhouse or Prime Rib with all the traditional sides, including the best hash brown patties I’ve ever had. Originally a clubhouse for the Lambs Club, a private theater and literary club, Keens opened to the public in 1885, and in 1905, Lillie Langtry, the reigning actress of her day, won women the right to dine at Keens.

Lillie Langtry’s victory, and the fact that Peter Luger is now run by women, inspired me when I opened Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas. Although I was certainly relating to my own love of celebrating in steakhouses, I decided to forego the customary dark wood and masculine décor and opt for an airy modernist space—something intimate and universally elegant that would be welcoming to the many women who consider Vegas to be a perfect “girlfriends weekend” destination, as well as the astounding number of visitors from around the globe. I also tapped into the American quality beef movement, featuring Natural, raised with humane livestock management practices and environmental sustainability in a traditional manner, grass-fed, born, raised and finished on open green pastures, and grain-finished (meaning the cattle are fed on grain before being harvested to develop more marbling).

At its heart, the menu at Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas is made for sharing, reflecting a wide range of flavor, so everyone can make a contribution to the communal meal. Start with the Iced Shellfish Platter, a towering display of lobster, oysters, clams, shrimp and more, and then move on to the Porterhouse for Two, a true steakhouse masterpiece served with Truffled Potato Gratin. And, don’t forget the side of creamed spinach—it gives Luger’s a real run for their money. It’s the basics done big: The Charlie Palmer way. —Charlie

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel. • 702.632.5120 •

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