The Kindest Cuts
From the roster of deliciously varied steak cuts, find out what sells best.
Among the many cuts of steak, from hangers and flat irons, Porterhouse, rib-eyes, caps and New York strips, one stands out in customer preference, always and forever, as the brightest in a constellation of stars.
“Filets are always our No. 1 seller,” says Michael Sternberg, partner of the three Rare Steakhouse restaurants in the Midwest and East Coast. “They define for many diners what steak should be. They’re tender. People love to say they could cut it with a fork. And they have very little fat. Like it or not, fat still scares some people. Size is a big part of it, too. They’re smaller than a lot of other cuts.”
Rare’s locations—in Washington D.C. as well as Madison and Milwaukee, Wis.—aren’t alone in seeing filet mignon, cut from the end of primal beef tenderloin, as indomitable. According to tracking at Beef Market Central, it tops the list in restaurants across the country as well.
Such is filet mignon’s popularity that Wildfire has an entire menu section devoted to it with seven preparations of the coveted steak, including horseradish crusted; matched with a lobster tail for an indulgent take on surf and turf; and a bison filet. An eighth shows up on Saturdays when it’s on the rotating list of daily specials as filet Wellington.
New York strips, known in some markets as “club” steak, are no slouches; they’re identified as the second biggest seller on restaurant menus. Well marbled, the cut offers a chewier, meatier texture and, to some minds, a richer taste. Rib-eyes follow as the third most popular with guests.
The Pine Club in Dayton, Ohio, knows a lot about its popularity. Several years ago, the Food Network named its 20-ounce, bone-in rib-eye as the second best in the country. (Only Peter Luger’s massive Porterhouse for two came out ahead.) Says Karen Watson, general manager of The Pine Club, “All of our steaks do very well, but the rib-eye really stands out for some.” Off the broiler, the 28-day aged steak is glossed with butter and sent to the table with crisp, fried onions.
Stick to the Ribs
In a sense, rib-eyes are the biggest draw at Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Only front-end prep and cooking method separate prime rib baked whole to pre-portioned rib-eye steaks, notes Carlos Alferez, general manager of the Chicago location.
For much of the brand’s history, prime rib was the only beef item menued; that has changed and filet mignon appears, along with several seafood selections as well as a meatless option. But make no mistake about what sells here.
“Prime rib is king,” asserts Alferez. Carved tableside, it is served with Lawry’s signature “spinning salad,” mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce.
At Rare, rib roasts are deconstructed, resulting in three different cuts on the menu: rib cap, Delmonico and bottleneck steak, which Sternberg describes as kind of like a filet mignon, but with more flavor and chew. They all are strong sellers, but not to the level of filets. “It’s an ingrained thought process. Tenderness is how people judge steaks and nothing touches filet,” he says.