Everything costs more in New York, but the luxury prices at the Peter Luger steakhouse are enough to make one do a double-take. $109 for a steak dinner for two? $6.95 per slice of bacon? For that price point, one would likely expect a truly fantastic experience that is talked about for years to come.
Unfortunately, says New York Times food critic Pete Wells, that is not the case. His scathing review of the institution has gone viral, meriting cheers from residents who were disappointed with the plummeting quality of a once-great eatery.
It is important to note that Wells is not a stranger to Peter Luger, as he admits to shelling out ridiculous amounts of money since the 90s. But as time stretched on, the critic (and many others) began to notice some changes – and they weren’t good.
“I don’t remember when the doubts began, but they grew over time,” Wells explains.
“Diners who walk in the door eager to hand over literal piles of money aren’t greeted; they’re processed. There is almost always a wait, with or without a reservation, and there is almost always a long line of supplicants against the wall.”
While this is what anyone could expect from a business with high demand, Wells goes on to explain that this wait highlights a disinterested staff who can’t even be bothered to smile at their customers.
“A kind word or reassuring smile from somebody on staff would help the time pass,” he writes. “The smile never comes.”
“The servers, who once were charmingly brusque, now give the strong impression that these endless demands for food and drink are all that’s standing between them and a hard-earned nap,” he added.
The food is no longer anything to write home about either, Wells notes.
“The shrimp cocktail has always tasted like cold latex dipped in ketchup and horseradish…Was the Caesar salad always so drippy, the croutons always straight out of a bag, the grated cheese always so white and rubbery?” Wells asks, going on to insult the backbone of Peter Luger – the steak.
“What gnaws at me every time I eat a Luger porterhouse is the realization that it’s just another steak, and far from the best New York has to offer,” he laments.
But Peter Luger co-owner Jody Storch wasn’t about to let Wells get away with maligning what she sees as “the best steak you can eat.”
“We know who we are and have always been. The best steak you can eat. Not the latest kale salad,” she remarked in true New York fashion.
“While the reviewers and their whims have changed, Lugers has always focused on doing one thing exceptionally well — serving the highest quality of steak — with a member of our family buying every piece of USDA Prime beef individually, just as we have done for decades,” she said, dismissing concerns of declining quality.
One of the waiters at Peter Luger also critiqued the critic’s assessment, saying that he knew Wells was going to give a terrible review.
“Nothing is good enough,” the unidentified waiter fumed. “When [Wells] was here taking pictures, we had bets in the back on how much garbage he was going to write.” The man went on to describe the food as “better than ever,” claiming that the current owners are “meticulous” about the quality of the meats they serve.
“The meat has always been our prime objective,” he added, ripping Wells for ordering the sole for his review. “We only have steak. If you go to a steakhouse to eat fish, then what are you doing?”
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