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A steak sandwich on a baguette.
The steak sandwich at Peter Luger.

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Peter Luger Just Dropped Its First New Menu Item in 20 Years. Is It Any Good?

Eater rates the $38 steak sandwich at Brooklyn’s oldest steakhouse

One of the most appealing aspects of Peter Luger — the more than 130-year-old German steakhouse in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge — is the sparsity of its menu. It offers only one steak, a bone-in porterhouse, graded prime by the USDA, that’s dry-aged, thick cut, and served on a platter in its sizzling juices. In the 1990s, a burger was added to the lunch menu, and a wedge salad followed some time after.

For most of its century-plus history, the steakhouse has stubbornly defied change, but things started to move during the pandemic. Brooklyn’s oldest steakhouse started accepting credit card payments after 133 years of business, and New Yorkers can now order a $135 dry-aged steak for two on DoorDash. In 2021, Peter Luger opened its first location outside of New York in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan.

The latest development came earlier this month, when Peter Luger added a steak sandwich to its menu — the first addition in over two decades, its operator David Berson told Time Out. It’s only available Monday through Thursday, from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., and subject to limited availability.

A pair of Eater staffers jumped on the subway yesterday to check out this new offering. Heralded only by a scrap of paper stapled to the corner of the menu, it was priced at a whopping $38, almost twice the cost of the now-legendary $20 burger, but is it worth it?

An overhead photograph of a burger, an open-faced steak sandwich, and sauce.
The sandwich costs $38 before tax and tip.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

‘The sandwich is difficult to enjoy’

As befits a proprietary offering, the fixings were all somewhat unique. The new sandwich came on an onion hero — a baguette with a few singed onions on top, presumably a corollary of the onion rolls handed out free as your meal commences. But while the rolls were soft and puffy, the baguette was firm and dense, perhaps too firm.

The signature steak of Luger is a porterhouse, the menu describes the steak used in the sandwich as a New York strip. But when I asked a passing waiter, he told me it was a sirloin. Indeed, these cuts are quite similar, though we often associate the latter with a cheaper, less-marbled cut of meat. When the sandwich came, it had been cut in half with gilded swizzle sticks poking out the top of the bun. The meat came in a couple of slabs, done to a medium rare.

That meat was perhaps too chewy, albeit flavorful. It was heaped with caramelized onions that were a little too juicy for my taste — they could have used some crispness. So far, the sandwich was fine, though perhaps not up to the standards of the porterhouse. But it has one fatal error that may prevent me from ordering it again.

That flaw is the use of sauce, a cousin of Luger's bottled steak sauce: This sickly sweet goop is an unappetizing reddish brown, and has a repulsive texture that may be due to its corn syrup component. The reason I don’t complain about it is that I would never let it near my porterhouse or hamburger. Yet, there it was on my sandwich. Can you ask that it be omitted? That remains to be seen, but the sandwich is difficult to enjoy because of it, even though the horseradish flavor that it adds is not a bad idea.

So, until Luger’s steak sandwich is improved by removing the sauce, making the roll a bit softer, and perhaps slicing the meat thinner, I will regard the new offering as a fail. — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A hand pulls open a steak sandwich revealing medium-rare meat.
The steak was cooked medium rare.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

‘The dominant taste is sweetened horseradish’

I first visited Peter Luger last fall, after the steakhouse had started to sputter: It had already lost its stars, first in the New York Times, and then in Michelin, and the dining room felt more like a trough for tourists than a place New Yorkers actually eat.

The steak that I had heard so much about was fine, but not for $68, and the creamed spinach had me grabbing for the salt shaker, and then my wallet. It could have been worse: I could have been the group to my left who picked at a plate of raw onions and out-of-season tomatoes with confused looks on their faces. Or the kid who cried after being handed a bowl of whipped cream with a candle in it for their birthday.

This seems to be the state of the modern Peter Luger, and if that’s the case, its new sandwich is right at home. Slices of thick steak are laid out on a roll with caramelized onions and horseradish. Ours was prepared medium rare, although it occurred to me later: We were never asked how we wanted it cooked.

The sandwich isn’t bad, but it makes you wonder if any other restaurant in town could get away with selling a few pieces of lukewarm meat for $38 before tax and tip, or $43 with fries. By comparison, the bavette steak sandwich at Keens is $25.

The steak sandwich is difficult to get right, especially when the meat is sliced as thick as it is at Peter Luger. Long pieces of steak are inevitably pulled out of the sandwich with each bite, leaving you with a choice: Chew them on their own, or lift the top off of the sandwich and arrange them back inside.

As with other items on the menu, it feels like easy fixes were overlooked: If the steak was sliced thinner, for one, or if the restaurant didn’t leave it to customers to season their own meats with the shakers on the table. Because the steak is underseasoned, the dominant taste is sweetened horseradish, not necessarily a bad thing.

For now, I would save the $20 and order the burger, a safe bet and still a relatively new addition itself, given the restaurant’s age. — Luke Fortney, reporter

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