Long before Salt Bae sprinkled seasoning on a slab of meat on YouTube, some majorly influential steakhouses were already dominating the scene. From influencing the industry at large to introducing diners to tableside entertainment, steakhouses have long been a part of the fabric of U.S. food culture. Want to learn more about the most historic steakhouses in the country? Read ahead for some of the oldest meat-serving eateries you need to know about.
If you’re a carnivore with a discerning palate, you’ll want to head to Peter Luger. The restaurant was originally established in 1887, with Sol Forman taking the reins in 1950. Now, Forman’s family continues to run operations at the lauded eatery (which has earned a Michelin star), and still personally select the cuts served in the restaurant. The restaurant then does on-site dry aging of its meat, ensuring only the best is served up to its customers.
Keens, which began operating in 1885, is best known for two things: its pipes and its mutton chops. First, the pipes: in the early 20th century, patrons were able to store their long pipes at the eatery for a fee. The membership roster of the Pipe Club contained over 90,000 (yes, really!) names, including some you may recognize, like Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Albert Einstein. Though the days of smoking indoors are in the past for New York, you can still dine on Keens signature dish: the restaurant’s massive, drool-worthy mutton chop.
Delmonico’s just celebrated its 180th anniversary and is still going strong. The steakhouse has served as the blueprint for the fine dining restaurant industry, as the first locale that used printed menus and tablecloths, admitted female diners without a male companion, and furnished a separate wine list. Now, nearly two centuries after establishment, Delmonico’s goes through an eye-popping 45,000 to 50,000 pounds of its signature ribeye each year. Head over to its original New York location and order one of its trademark dishes, like its Delmonico steak, Baked Alaska, or eggs benedict.
Viva Las Vegas! Step into Golden Steer and you’ll feel like you’re stepping into the golden era of Vegas, when the Rat Pack and Elvis frequented the restaurant. Today, Golden Steer says it boasts “The Best Steaks on Earth,” while keeping the same ambiance of the era of the 1950s, when it first began serving customers. At Golden Steer, everyone who orders gets lucky.
Like so many eateries before it, Jess & Jim owes a big chunk of its success to media attention. After being written up in the pages of Playboy in 1972 for being the best steakhouse in Kansas City, Mo., business boomed at Jess & Jim’s. The restaurant first opened for business in 1938 and landed in its current location in 1957. Now, in addition to serving up steaks, twice-baked potatoes, and buttered mushrooms, Jess & Jim fans can also order raw steaks—including the “Playboy steak”—to your home.
There aren’t very many restaurants that can boast more than a century of business, but John’s Grill—which has been operating since 1908–is one of them. John’s dark paneled walls and live jazz music, played seven days a week, make it the perfect restaurant to eat at when you want to be transported back in time. Visit and ask for “chops, baked potatoes, sliced tomatoes”—the order Sam Spade, the main character in “The Maltese Falcon,” places in the book. That line helped get John’s Grill named a national literary landmark in addition to its accolades for its cuisine.
Old steakhouses are known for often having celebrity clientele, and Chicago’s Gene & Georgetti is no exception. Legends like Bob Hope and Lucille Ball have dined at the eatery, and some of today’s movie stars like Russell Crowe and Will Ferrell have also broken bread there. And though Gene & Georgetti caters to celebs, it’s best known for serving up dishes that its regulars like to come back to again and again. The restaurant was founded in 1941 by Gene Michelotti and his partner Alfredo Federighi, nicknamed “Georgetti.” The family-owned establishment is best known for its massive portions of prime steaks, chops, and classic Italian fare, like pasta and mussels.
Charlie’s Steak House
At Charlie’s, you don’t have to bother with a menu. Chat with your waitstaff (or let them steer you) to your order. The restaurant, which first opened its doors in 1932, is no frills: It’s all about great steaks and sides like its famed potatoes au gratin. Charlie’s is the “home of the original sizzling steak platter,” thanks to its namesake Charlie Petrossi, who came up with the serving idea. After remaining shuttered for three years following Hurricane Katrina, Charlie’s reopened its doors under the ownership of neighbor and de facto bartender Matthew Dwyer, who keeps the eatery’s tradition alive today.
Tropical Acres Steakhouse traces its roots back to the late 1940s when New York restauranteur Gene Harvey brought the concept to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The steakhouse grew in popularity thanks to its char-broiled steaks cooked in an open pit and knowledgeable and loyal staff. Though the ownership has since changed hands to other members of the same family, Tropical Acres has survived many decades and no less than two fires to continue dishing up the finest cuts of beef with top-notch service.
Header image courtesy of Tropical Acres.