Back in my misspent youth, I worked for two years at a fancy steak place called "Mr. Steak" (This is not the Mr. Steak I worked at, but it looks remarkably similar...get me drunk sometime and ask me to pronounce "petite cut" for you!). Please, not "Happy Steak". "Mr. Steak". While there, I actually learned a thing or two (and that's about all) about the different cuts of steak. For instance, I learned that a Filet Mignon is the most tender cut of steak because it has very little connective tissue (just learned that part...thanks Cherry!). Alas, it also has very little marbeling (aka, fat), and the fat is what gives the meat its flavor, so while a Filet can be incredibly tender (people go on and on about how you can cut them with a fork), it doesn't have a ton of flavor. If you like tender, get the filet. However, if you want flavor, try a New York Strip or a Rib Eye. A NY cut is part of a T-Bone, with the other part being the Filet. A Rib Eye is the same cut as a slice of Prime Rib, just cooked differently. I LOVE a good Rib Eye. Mmmmm. Lots of fat to cut away, yes, but SO much yummy flavor, and the meat is actually pretty tender if you cut the fat away and don't overcook it.
So, in the last few months I have had the opportunity to try Rib Eyes at three different restaurants, and I thought I might compare them for you. They are, in order of my visits, McNamera's Steak and Chop House in Dublin, Ruth's Chris Steak House in Walnut Creek, and the
Big Horn Grill in San Ramon.
McNamera's Steak and Chop House is a Chicago type steak house, with dark wood and big, cozy booths. We went pretty early in the evening (5:00), so it was pretty slow. The service was efficient and friendly. The wine list was pretty extensive, and we splurged on a bottle of Clos Pegase '01 Cabernet. Mmmm. Tasty. We started with a bowl of Lobster and Shrimp Bisque, which was good, but not my favorite soup in the world. Then we moved on to our steaks. The steaks are Mid Western, corn fed, aged 21 To 28 days, and cooked In a 1600-degree broiler, which is key, because it sears in the yummy juices. I had the Rib Eye, of course, which was the BEST steak I had ever had in my life. It was perfectly prepared, excellent quality, expertly seasoned. My friend had the Filet Mignon. To be fair, I SHOULD have tasted hers, so I could tell you whether the Filet had flavor or not. I was too busy scarfing mine down. The meat was melting in my mouth, though I DID use a knife to cut it. ;) Flavor like this doesn't come cheap, tho. We paid $27.95 for my "petite" rib eye, and $32.95 for Neva's Filet. The meal comes with veggies, potatoes, and bread. Great meal.
Ruth's Chris Steak House is fairly new to Walnut Creek, and it's located downtown, upstairs near Andronicos. The atmosphere was more to my taste than McNamera's, with sage green walls hung with pretty pictures. Ted was in a spendy mood, so he ordered a VERY nice bottle of wine. Unfortunately, I don't remember what it was, but I do remember that it was very yummy. Ted and I both ordered Rib Eyes, which came out perfectly cooked and again, THE BEST STEAK I HAD EVER TASTED. They ALSO use corn fed, aged beef, though they sear it in an 1800-degree oven, not 1600-degree like McNamera's. Was there a 200 degree in taste? Not really. My only problem with Ruth's Chris is that you have to pay extra for your veggie and your potato. I think when I'm paying this much for a steak (prices aren't on the website menu, but it was up there, maybe $37 each for the steaks?), they can throw in some veggies and a potato. Nope. The Broiled Tomatoes were simply delicious to a tomato lover like myself, but really, $7? The potato could have fed a family of 4 dinner, and was fluffy and tasty and everything that an Idaho potato SHOULD be. But $7? That's $14 between the potato and the tomato. (A song is coming to mind...can you guess which one?) Anyway, it was a LOVELY evening, with delicious food, and as I knew ahead of time that they charge extra for the sides, I wasn't blindsided or shocked. I'll go back, definately.
The third steak restaurant is the little known Big Horn Grill, which is owned by the same people who own Girasole Grill. Take a pass on Girasole, it sucks. Just accept that. Don't go. Please. Instead, get thee to Big Horn for tasty appitizers and steak. They (and Girasole, to be fair) have a yummy appitizer called Scoozzi, which is gorgonzola & green onion pocket bread, rubbed with fresh garlic, and served with fresh tomato basil fresco. People who plan on kissing each other later should imbibe together, as it is pretty garlicky. The steaks are, again, pretty darned good stuff. Midwestern beef, corn fed, aged 21 to 28 days. They don't say how hot their oven is, but the steak came out with a lovely sear, and it was delicious and juicy inside. Again, however, it is ala carte, so you pay extra for your side dishes. The side dishes aren't quite as good (or as expensive) as at Ruth's Chris, but there's really nothing wrong with them. Maybe it's just me and the tomato. We love each other, really. Mmmm. Anyway, the steak was wonderful, and the service was fine, though not as good as the other two restaurants. The steak was $28 at Big Horn, about the same as McNamara's, and less than Ruth's Chris.
So, which would I reccomend? That's hard. All three had really, really tasty steak. All three were nice, all three were friendly. I guess I would qualify it. I would bring Maya to Big Horn (we did, actually), and I wouldn't to the other two places. The atmosphere was nicest (to my taste) at Ruth's Chris. it was the most elegant, the most romantic of the three. The best deal was at McNamera's, because you didn't pay extra for sides. None of them were cheap, but GOOD steak rarely is. (Get it, RARELY? Ha.) So, go eat BEEF.