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Lunch at Peter Luger Steakhouse, 1/26/08

It must have been in the early 2000's when I first heard about Peter Luger Steakhouse. I remember watching a newly-aired television show on the young Food Network about "the most famous steakhouse in the world." At the time, I was living and going to college in Texas and found it hard to believe that "the most famous steakhouse in the world" existed in New York City. Have you ever seen that Pace Picante Sauce commercial where a bunch of cowboys are at a campfire and one asks the others if they have any salsa? The "black sheep" cowboy presents a jar of picante sauce to the inquirer, and after reading the label he exclaims, "This salsa says it was made in New York City. New York City? Get a rope!" My point is: No offense to you Yankees, but what the hell do you know about steak?
Flashback to September 2006, when I was making restaurant reservations prior to my parent's visit in October. I phoned Peter Luger
one month to the day of my desired reservation, and was able to score a four-top at 7:30 p.m. I was ecstatic that my parents and I would get to experience this meal together, as we're all steak-loving Texans with too much state pride.

I still remember our cab ride over to Luger's via the Williamsburg Bridge. It was a clear and magical October night and I recall being able to see every star dotted in the sky. We arrived about five-minutes shy of our 7:30 p.m. reservation and made a bee-line to the hostess stand to announce our presence. "Can I help you?" she asked. "Yes, my party is all here for our 7:3o for four people." I said. As she ran her finger down this long list of names and times in her reservation book, she looked up at me with a puzzled glance and said, "I don't see your name in the book." I got nervous and blurted out every name I could have possibly made the reservation under (my dad's, mom's, cousin's, my middle name, my initials, etc.). "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do but write your name down on the waiting list. You all may go to the bar while you wait for your table, if you'd like. Thanks." I asked her if she could give me an approximate wait time, but she apologized and said she wasn't able to gage. I was simply crushed, embarrassed and disappointed. My family and I had come all the way over to Brooklyn for this highly anticipated meal, and my reservations had simply vanished in to thin air. I don't know what came over me, but all I could do was burst in to tears. I remember sitting at the bar with my head in my hands crying hysterically while my mom rubbed my back. My dad was determined to stay and wait for a table, but about ten-minutes later, we hopped in a cab and headed back over to Manhattan.
Ever since that horrific night, I've completely written-off Peter Luger
. I swore to myself that I'd never ever step foot in that restaurant as long as I lived, for I was too angry that they "lost" my reservations and ruined that Saturday night for my parents and I.

Fast forward to last weekend, Saturday, January 26, 2008. My cousin and his friend were in town visiting and wanted to meet up for brunch/lunch. They suggested treating me to an early lunch at Peter Luger. Before responding, I thought long and hard and went back and forth on whether I should suggest another restaurant. Finally, I decided that since they offered to treat me, I shouldn't be selfish and demand to eat elsewhere.

Cousin Larry (Sounds a bit reminiscent of Perfect Strangers, don't it?) his friend Lizzie and I hopped on the subway around 11:30 a.m. en route to Luger's. What a joy it was to ride the J train over the Williamsburg Bridge and be able to look out of the window and enjoy the scenery. From the Marcy Avenue (props to Jay-Z!) subway stop to the front door of Luger's was just a short five-minute walk. We were standing at the hostess stand just a couple of minutes before noon. Our table wait was only about seven minutes, which gave me time to take in the restaurant's atmosphere. The bar and dining room were adorned with chandeliers, rich dark wood paneling, white copper ceilings with imprinted fleur de lys, mahogany framed mirrors and what seemed like hundreds of Zagat awards.

Once seated, we were immidiately served a bread basket and asked for our drink orders. Impressive. The bread looked lovely and tasted divine. Luger's has now ranked first place for best bread basket in NYC! There were mini baguette, round rolls and the most amazing onion and poppy seed "turnovers." I felt compulsive and almost embarrassed, as I couldn't stop eating the bread. It was THAT good! And better yet...the butter served on the side was spreadable, NOT frozen! We were off to a good start here, folks. After our tiny glass Coke bottles and cups of ice arrived, we placed our lunch order. Cousin Larry and I both opted for the cheeseburger and Lizzie went with the grilled salmon. For sides, we chose: creamed spinach, French fries an onion rings.

Roughly twenty-minutes later, our entrees and sides arrived. My cheeseburger stood about 2 1/2 inches thick, perfectly draped with not one, but two slices of melted American cheese. I grabbed a handful of onion rings and dressed my burger with the famous Peter Luger sauce and a quick dash of salt and pepper, then sliced the entire sandwich in half.

It kills me to say this, and admitting what I'm about to write is excruciatingly hard, but this was the best cheeseburger I've ever eaten in my life. Every detail of this carnivore's dream was perfect, from the crusty baguette bun to the Luger sauce that almost tasted like cocktail sauce. The patty was an ample dark maple brown with a crispy charred exterior and a perfectly moist pink interior made with the highest quality chuck. After each bite, I had to wipe my mouth, as the juices from the pristine meat couldn't be kept within. The homemade French fries and onion rings added just the right amount of salt, thus creating the most perfect flavor balance.

Cousin Larry and Lizzie enjoyed their meals just as much as I. It may be safe to say that our table was silent for the entire twenty-minutes that we ate! Yes, that's how good it was. I wanted to hate Peter Luger so much and was waiting throughout the meal for a slip-up, however, nothing negative occurred. I can't believe I'm saying this, but my lunch at Peter Luger was one of the best dining experiences I've had. From start to finish, the meal was absolutely perfect.

*I highly recommend eating here prior to noon to avoid the lunch rush.

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