Choosing a place for a business dinner is never an easy task. There are always so many factors to consider – dietary restrictions, cuisine preference, menu options, convenience of location, general clientele, atmosphere, etc. The decision is always complicated and there will always be more than one person who wants to give their two cents on the matter. The funny thing is, however, that no matter how long you think about such things and how many restaurants you consider you will probably come up with the same list of 10-20 restaurants that most other NYC professionals do. … Does not leave much room for creativity, but I will leave my “innovative thoughts on business dining” for another blog post. What you will also typically run into in this watered down list of options is that a business dining establishment and steakhouse are nearly synonymous. I do not think I have ever walked into a major steakhouse in New York City where there wasn’t an abundance of business men and women at large tables entertaining clients and colleagues over bottles of red wine, seafood towers and plates full of red meat and hearty side dishes. It can get a bit bland if you do a lot of these dinners, but there are a few places that do not feel stale in terms of atmosphere and serve food that is consistently solid. I put the original Strip House on East 12th Street in this category. In five or so dinners I have been to there in the past year I have yet to be let down.
Now, do not be alarmed by the restaurant’s name. I promise you will be served steak and not a burlesque show on the side. That being said, there are some remnants of the old gentleman’s club feel. Rather than the old mahogany look that many classic steakhouses in New York flaunt, Strip House takes a different approach and the entire restaurant is red. Red fluorescent signage outside, red walls, red leather banquets, red bar and the walls are lined with old black-and-whites of legendary actors, musicians, etc. Rumor has it the men’s restroom walls include some risque photographs, but there’s no such entertainment in the women’s room. The lighting is dimmed to set the mood, but sometimes they over do it to the point where it’s hard to see what you are eating. I went this past week, however, and they seemed to adjust the lights perfectly. The atmosphere is not stuffy and the experience far more relaxed than larger steak houses. The service is solid and in my experience the waitstaff always tries to engage the clientele in a jovial way.
If you have paid any attention to this blog over the past couple of months you may be asking yourself, “Why is she writing about a steakhouse. … She doesn’t even eat beef!” And to that I would say you make a valid point. But even without enjoying one of Strip House’s (or any other restaurants’) signature cut I think I can probably do a fine job evaluating the restaurant on its merits and demerits, particularly given the number of times I have landed at Strip House. One of the most tell-tale signs for me about the quality of a steak joint is the selection of side dishes. Everyone wants the meat, but it needs some other good stuff to go with it. A steakhouse without adequate, tasty sides has failed in my opinion. Strip House has some great ones and here are the highlights: Garlic Herb French Fries, Black Truffle Creamed Spinach, Mac & Cheese and Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic. What are they missing? ONION RINGS! Some thick-cut, beer-battered onion rings would be a positive adjustment to the menu. Every good steakhouse needs some of those.
The second thing to examine is the appetizer selection. There must be double-cut bacon. One of the things I look forward to most when going to a steakhouse for a business dinner is the bacon. It may sound silly, but try it and you will be hooked. I am torn between Strip House’s version and that of Wolfgang’s, but each are really tasty. The seafood tower at Strip House is also a must if you are in a large group (or if you just want to splurge). It may seem pricey, but the restaurant is generous with it’s portions and when I dined recently as part of a table of six (and I was the only petite female among some hungry men) it was a struggle to finish a tower prepared for four. It is a great selection of oysters, clams, jumbo shrimp, crab legs, lobster, scallops, tuna tartare, calamari and whatever else they are offering that evening. I always enjoy it and think it’s the right way to start a meal off at Strip House. In terms of the main course, choose your cut and it’s yours. If you are like me and looking for other options, they make a darn good Colorado Lamb Rack crusted in Dijon and served with a white bean stew. I am consistent at a steakhouse – it’s either the lamb or pork chops so I feel pretty confident in my feelings about the lamb. You can also choose from lobster, veal and other fish options as well.
After being fully stuffed from all the aforementioned food you may feel more ready to fall asleep at the table from food coma than think about dessert. But when your server comes to the table and asks if you are interested in the dessert selections, just say yes. If you like sugar, even just a little bit, you cannot leave without trying the signature Strip House 24 Layer Chocolate Cake. Remember when I said there were six of us there last week? This was the only dessert on the table and it took all of our participation to finish that one piece of cake. It’s really too bad I did not have my camera to take a photo, but the cake is massive, decadent, a chocolate lover’s dream and all around delicious.
So let’s review the highlights. The Strip House ambiance sets itself apart from other “classic” NYC steakhouses, it passes the side dish test, the bacon appetizer and seafood towers are a must, you can the meat you want and how you want it and the way to end it all is with the chocolate cake. And what can the restaurant work on? Making sure every piece of meat is cooked to the customer’s liking. The last time I was there two of the steaks were a little too rare when those in party cut into the center. For the most part Strip House is pretty good about this, but a steakhouse should always make it a priority to cut the meat right. During the week the clientele will be predominately those there for business. The suits can feel a little homogeneous at times, but on the weekends I am sure the vibe is difference. And on a sillier note, I would really like to see those onion rings! Overall, if you are a steak lover and have not checked out Strip House I think it’s time to give it a whirl. I have not yet been to the new Midtown location or the Strip House Grill, but my best advice would be to start at the original location to get the full experience.
Strip House, 13 East 12th Street, NY, NY, 10003. Phone: (212) 328-000
When To Book: Strip House accepts reservations on OpenTable. If you plan on dining with a large group during the weekend I suggest booking at least one week in advance. During the week there is usually more availability.