Anyone, even a tourist to New York, would know instantly that Peter Luger is a steakhouse, for the writing is on the wall, literally—bold and large, for all to see. Visible from a few blocks away, painted on the concrete wall of a building is a stadium-size billboard that yells out the restaurant’s name, its year of establishment, and blurbs of flattering reviews.
But I didn’t pay Peter Luger a visit because of its reputation for steaks. I went for its in-house burger, recently voted the best in the city by Burger of the Month Club (or B.O.T.M.), a tight coterie of burger aficionados.
Amid a gray urban sprawl of mom-and-pop stores selling tacky tchotchkes, lampshades, clothes, newspapers, and grocery, it’s a little colonial oasis. Nothing like the dimly-lit, upscale, wood-paneled Manhattan dining establishments or the trendy eateries with neon furniture, décor-wise, Peter Luger is a throwback to the late 19th century.
With a bar of yore, (“don’t expect any micro brews or trendy drinks … this is a true classical gentleman’s bar”), a candelabra-lit dining room, and gent servers, the place looks as though it’s slept through the last hundred years of modernization.
And that’s not just because of its ambiance. With an all-male and all-white waitstaff, in suspendered trousers, it’s a rare exception to the rule in immigrant-heavy New York, where restaurant hostesses are typically, woman in pencil skirts and stilettos.
M. and I ordered the “Luger Burger,” a voluptuous patty of half a pound of beef, served on a toasted sesame bun, topped with a crispy bacon strip, with no lettuce, tomato, or pickle. It must be the chestiest hamburger I’ve had to date. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, and the proof of its quality, in the meat. It’s worth a try even if you aren’t a fan of the burger.