Major events and steaks just seem to go together and there’s seemingly no more of a classic American meal than steak and potatoes. This means that steakhouses have become American, and particularly Midwestern, staples. It of course was not and has not always been this way. So, how did these oh-so delicious establishments come to be popular? How are they being reinterpreted for the modern palette? Let’s explore.
In the 1800s, the popularity of red meat was on the rise, and those seeking the best cuts were located in New York City, the home of the first steakhouse. Because of the demand in the city for quality products, restaurants opened in order to cater to that need. Thus, the steakhouse was born.
They started, though, as food establishments that served meat along with beer and other pub and bar style drinks. They also played on many of the European food concepts. Take the porterhouse steak, for example. The name of the porterhouse steak was derived from a cut of meat often served in pubs with porter ale. As time went on, and these establishments became known for having alcohol and meat, steakhouses became masculinized, and with that, became exclusive. Prohibition made the growth of steakhouses a bit difficult, but people continued to want delicious meals and premium steaks. And nothing makes people want a product more than exclusivity. As exclusivity continued to rise and steaks and masculinity became synonymous with one another, prohibition was ending and popularity rose astronomically.
People flocked to steakhouses in New York City, and word spread until the meals served there became American staples. This trumped the foods many had previously considered elements of an all-American meal, namely hot dogs and hamburgers. And while a hot dot at a baseball game and apple pie for dessert are ingrained in our hearts as edible representations of America, this is a hearty meat and potatoes country. Steakhouses continued to spread to other parts of the country, and arguably made their most welcome stay in the Midwest.
But it wasn’t just about the food. Yes, steaks have clearly been the defining factor of the steakhouse concept, but people could easily buy and make steaks at home. There was a very specific ambiance that these restaurants created. Going out to dinner became a special occasion, and with that so did steaks. Steakhouses became an excellent place for couples to enjoy a meal together, and they also were a welcome environment for families who wanted to treat themselves to a lovely dinner out. But this was not always how families celebrated; it was a progression over time. So, if you love your local steakhouse and you equally love dining out, you can thank 1960s America.
Since then, several steakhouses can be found in each city, and choosing the right one can seem daunting. Premium cuts of meat, interesting takes on classic dishes as well as expertly cooked favorites are all signs of a wonderful steakhouse. Some might have a more formal ambiance while others are casual, and of course, that makes for exciting restaurant options. And options, paired with quality cooking, are beautiful things.
Once you’ve found a favorite steakhouse (or two—they’re wonderful establishments) you’ve also found the perfect hosting spot for a large dinner event or even a banquet. What better way to showcase appreciation, happiness, love, celebration or excitement than with a delicious, filling meal? What better way to talk something out or ease a bad time than with a cooked to perfection medium rare steak?
Though steak options are primary on the menu because, let’s face it, they are steakhouses, there are a variety of options to choose from at your favorite local steakhouse. From chicken dishes to varieties of potatoes to salads and soups and excellent starters, the options for a delicious meal and an entertaining banquet are plentiful.
Really, once you’ve found a steakhouse and location you love, any occasion is the perfect occasion to get together and have a meal or host an event. Celebrate anything from a birthday to a holiday to a family get together to girls or guys nights with a delectable and always memorable meal at your favorite steakhouse.
So grab your date, your friends, or your family and get ready for a classic, delicious, and hearty meal. And, of course, don’t forget to thank the wonderful people of New York for creating a genre of restaurants that plays off of European tradition, but is American to its core.