Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Peter Luger Steakhouse, perhaps the most popular and revered of all New York steakhouses, and certainly the restaurant that at one time served the best porterhouse steak in the universe. Before we go any further, if we might: Peter Luger has been in a state of decline for at least three years, if not five. This is a fact, by the way, not the premise for a debate. It is a shell of its former self, now running on Zagat fumes and legend. Once it was an epic steakhouse, richly coated in history and home of the most satisfying steakhouse meal anywhere period. Now, it is just a steakhouse, and quite often a mediocre one, at that, with gruff service and unbearably indifferent management. This is all to say that if there was a way we could pay the Bruni to drive a steam roller through the place and give it one star, we'd set up the electronic transfer before you could say creamed spinach. Anyway, today, the Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows:
Zero Stars: 10-1The review currently on the books has Luger at three stars, awarded by Ruth Reichl in 1998. The Bruni has himself weighed-in, in a 2005 Journal entry, mostly about the lunchtime burger, but there's was plenty on the rest as well. His verdict was that the meat is excellent, but the rest is a real crime scene. This is to say that he's willing to hate on it, if that's what the day calls for. In the end, however, this review will be less of a take-down than a stern warning to the restaurant: get your shop back in order pronto. He can't downgrade two stars based on the meat, because the decline in meat is partially due to the general difficulty of obtaining excellent beef today. He also can't reaffirm three, because it ain't that good anymore. He'll take issue with the service, but not harp endlessly, as it's still Luger and they've grandfathered their service into the playbook of acceptable restaurant behavior. So, it's going to be a deuce, and hopefully the jolt needed to get the restaurant back on track.
One Star: 4-1
Two Stars: 2-1 ??
Three Stars: 12-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1
· Peter Luger [NYT; after 8:00 PM]
?? denotes the Eater bet.