Peter Luger Steakhouse, Brooklyn
Peter Luger Steakhouse, Brooklyn
Peter Luger is arguably the most revered Steakhouse in the world. The last thing you see in Brooklyn before crossing the bridge to Manhattan is the massive Peter Luger mural next to their car park. They also might be the only centrally located NY restaurant that has a car park? We discovered there's a lot of uniqueness to Peter Luger while talking with the founder's grandson and General Manager, David Berson.
Peter Luger was opened in 1887 by Carl Luger. At the time it was a much smaller restaurant, operated As “Karl Luger’s Billiards and Café”. My great grandfather had a metal factory across the street that we still work from today. Our office is on the first floor. We make some of our sauces in the back. My great grandfather used to come here everyday for lunch and order a steak and a martini. He would bring all his clients here. In 1950 Peter Luger, Karl Lugers’ son put the restaurant up for auction. My great grandfather, not knowing anything about the restaurant industry, was the only one who came to the auction, and he bought it for the price of the land. My great grandmother who was a teacher, quit her job and they hired someone for the USDA to teach them how to select the best meat possible. That is something that to this day is still practiced. I am fourth generation and it has remained the same ever since then.
I work with my grandmother and two cousins and it’s a true passion. I’ve always been enamoured by the restaurant industry and always loved coming here as a kid. My grandma worked here, her sister, my cousin, it’s always been a family affair. Given my intense appreciation for restaurants, and the kind of need for fresh blood it was a perfect fit and one that I jumped at. It’s been a great experience.
We are known for our steak, specifically the porterhouse. Quality has always been of utmost importance to us. One of the things that we do that I think really separates us, is that we hand select each piece of meat. We are only buying USDA prime. Of the prime, which makes up twenty percent of the overall meat, we select twentyfive percent of that twenty percent. Because of our relationships with our purveyors who we have been working with for sixty plus years, they allow us first choice, since we are such good clients, they let us choose what we want. It’s a quality driven process. it’s an exercise in simplicity. Our menu is extremely small. It’s really about promoting the best steak hopefully that our customers have ever had.
We have a very diverse and loyal staff. A lot of our people have been here for years, some for fiftytwo years! There is a whole range of experience amongst our staff. A lot of people who work here, make careers here. It’s not customary in the food world. Specifically in New York. In food, there tends to be a high turnaround. We are fortunate enough that we don't really have that problem. We take great care of our employees, and in turn they stay with us a long time. There is also a great opportunity to work your way up here. Many of our employees start as a sides cook then become a line cook... Our head chef started as a dishwasher and worked his way up. I think that is a really good way of doing it. We also are fortunate in that we know we will always be busy. So if the people are coming in, we know we have the best servers to serve them. We have great guys in our kitchen to give them the best steak they can have and the rest takes care of itself. I like to call “the rest”, “Peter Luger’s magic”.
I think of the people who have worked here for extended periods of time as being a part of the fabric of the restaurant. Our regulars who come week after week, year after year, month after month, they grow accustomed to seeing everyone. I think coming in and seeing the same faces and gaining a real relationship with them is something that is really invaluable. We even have our own charge card, which is like a house account. We have about ninety thousand members now. A lot of people take pride in having a low number on their card, which means they were one of the original card holders. Now that we are up to ninety thousand, we have a mix of members including celebrities, regulars, and locals.
We don't use a POS computer system, the servers still write out the order by hand.
We do two staff meals a day. One, an early lunch and the other, a dinner. There is generally a salad, a protein, some rice, some carbs, it allows the guys a quick break before the craziness that is our dinner service. We try to plan around our busy hours so they have time to get off their feet, eat, destress, and do it all over again. It’s very easy to just get lost in the machine that this place can sometimes become. We are open from 11:45am with the last seating at 10:45pm and we serve every hour on a quarter to the hour. On a busy Saturday we are serving over a thousand people.
We have a dining room designated for family meal. I think it’s important to have an area that is their own where they can get away from the restaurant atmosphere. We try to have it so that it is a mix of everyone. People go at different times with different people, It’s definitely a nice mix.
I think family meal is about efficiency as they have a ton going on. Their job is to cook, and slice steak at the most efficient rate possible, while getting it right time after time. I think it’s a nice departure for them to cook something different. But at the end of the day, when you break bread with someone and are able to enjoy the food in front of you together, it really allows people to bond. That’s what family meal here is about.
Scalloped potatoes, PLBLT (peter luger BLT) , Stuffed cabbage, chicken roulade
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