What is a normal order at a fancy steakhouse?
March 16, 2023 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I have to go to a medium-large (20 people?) business dinner at a well-known upscale steakhouse chain tonight. I’m accustomed to fine dining, but I’m not a steak person (I tend more toward farm-to-table vibes) and have never eaten at a place like this. What/how should I order so as to 1.) reasonably enjoy my meal, and 2.) not be a weirdo. This will be hosted so money is no object (outside of #2.)
posted by juliapangolin to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you check the menu online ahead of time so you know what to expect? If you're not into steak at all, if it's a place like a Ruth's Chris, they usually have seafood options. For a business dinner, I try to think of what's a reasonable portion that I can enjoy without leftovers. Entree and a side, 1 or 2 glasses of wine, and that about does it for me. Maybe an appetizer to split/share?
posted by xedrik at 12:28 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]

Someone with more experience than me will probably weigh in soon but the thing I find most confusing about upscale steakhouses is that generally when you order a steak (or other main) you literally get JUST A STEAK. If you want a potato and/or a vegetable with it, you have to order that separately.
posted by mskyle at 12:30 PM on March 16 [17 favorites]

8oz filet mignon, medium rare?
posted by cmm at 12:30 PM on March 16 [11 favorites]

If you're accustomed to fine dining, I can't think of anything you'd do to be a weirdo; I assume you know not to order meat cooked past medium. But if you really want to fit in, you should listen to how much others are ordering or ask a colleague what the typical order is. It might seem strange if if everyone else orders an expensive appetizer, 20 oz steak, 2 sides, dessert, and wine, and you ordered the 6 oz filet and a side of broccoli - and vice versa.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:37 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

This is my favorite thing in the world (having companies wine and dine me at a fancy steakhouse).

Prime rib and mignon are safe bets. 6-8oz portions are generally adequate since you’ll be eating appetizers, sides, dessert. Enjoy!
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:41 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

My favorite total grandpa meal is a steak (filet or strip depending how hungry I am) cooked medium, with baked potato and veggie (maybe asparagus is seasonal?) and a cocktail.

If you are doing apps and dessert get a shrimp cocktail to start and a crème brulée for dessert. Then you don't have to eat the next day.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:42 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]

YES to what mskyle said. The first time I went to a steakhouse, I ordered a steak and they brought me a plate with just a steak on it and I was horrified. Where are the damn sides? So I ordered a plate of broccoli to come with it. This was like 8 years ago and the friends I was with still make fun of me for it, and how ridiculous it was that I orderred broccoli at a steakhouse.

I dont care. I like steak but I need some sides! In what other restaurant would you just get a naked piece of meat on a plate? Steakhouses are bizarre.
posted by silverstatue at 12:49 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

If you don't like steak or don't want steak, it is okay to order not steak. There will be plenty of other things on the menu, including some vegetarian options. You should order something that sounds appealing to you.
posted by TurkishGolds at 12:55 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]

Steakhouses are often the best places to order wedge salads. I love me a wedge salad.

The garlic bread tends to be good, too.

Me, I'd avoid the prime rib and go for the filet mignon, medium rare. It's delicious, it's not too large, and it's a classic choice.

Oh, and definitely get an old time cocktail! A Manhattan is a great choice.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:00 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]

New York Strip, medium rare. Side of baked potato and a vegetable. You can't go wrong.

As others have mentioned, steak houses are usually à la carte.

Sometimes they have different sizes. Get the one in the middle and it will be neither too much or too little.

If you're not a steak eater, don't worry about ordering something besides steak. They'll have chicken or fish, or maybe a giant pork chop. And when Chad From Accounting teases you for ordering chicken at a steak house, just tell him to cram it.
posted by bondcliff at 1:02 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]

I just recently watched a YouTube "reaction" video of some Brits visiting an upscale steakhouse in NYC. The owner of the restaurant presented them with a huge Porterhouse and then explained the different cuts that it was comprised of- a filet and a strip steak. The filet was the pricier cut, he said, but his advice was that for flavor and tenderness the best cut was the ribeye.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:04 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

The steakhouses I've been to like to go big and excessive on the appetizers - so much so that you can be pretty full by the time the massive entrée arrives in front of you. Just a small warning.

It would be fun with such a large group to split a bunch of appetizers family style and then you can try a few things. That is perfectly normal.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:14 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

So I ordered a plate of broccoli to come with it.

Steak houses and bbq restaurants suck for this exact reason: they do one thing well, so they like don't even hire a chef to care about the rest of the meal. If you're not a steak person, order a 6 oz steak or some seafood. Don't even think about too much about the rest -it'll be extremely average.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:16 PM on March 16

Pay attention to what is being ordered elsewhere at the table, because as others have mentioned, often at steakhouses, your dinner will come without sides. But then the sides may be meant to be shared, family style, rather than ordered by each individual diner. So the possibilities are that you will order just a steak, and share in family style sides that someone else is ordering; that you will order a steak and a side but with the expectation that other people may share your sides and that you may share theirs; that you will order a steak and your own sides; or that you will order a fully plated dinner.

Which will be the case for this restaurant and this dinner we can't know in advance -- though if you post a link to the restaurant's menu, we could give you some good guesses, but some of it will depend on the expectations of other guests.

Me, I like a wedge salad to start, and then a striploin medium rare, with sides of creamed spinach and roasted asparagus, which I am happy to share. It will end up being way too much food if I am not sharing the sides, though, so then I would only order one of them and be sad to miss the other.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:21 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]

Maybe Chud from Accounting will be a jerk, but it's always okay to ask the waiter for advice. Ask what's included with the steak. I love steak and would probably get the smallest Porterhouse, but Prime Rib, which is more roast beef, is also a treat. I like steak Medium Rare, which is a warm red center, but you should check; it will be in the menu, and the waiter will be happy to explain. I'd get onion rings and a salad. Sharing appetizers is an excellent idea.

If you don't like steak, that's fine. If you are vegetarian, there may be an appetizer(s) you'd enjoy as a main course, and they'll bring it then.
posted by theora55 at 1:21 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

I'm not clear whether you're looking for steak orders or what to order that's not steak. If you want to try steak, two great bets: Filet Mignon for super tender and lean, but not a strong flavor. Or Ribeye for lots of beef-y flavor, and some marbling (fat). Both should be done either medium rare or medium.
posted by hydra77 at 1:24 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

How not to stick out at a steak house

1. Order a drink, even if you don't drink alcohol. If you don't drink and don't care for people to know, get a tonic water and lime from the bar before y'all are seated and carry it over to the table. If this is not feasible, a tonic with lime ordered at the table is fine. So is a Coke. If you do drink alcohol, a nice red wine, a classic cocktail, or a beer are all fine.

2. Order a soup, salad, or appetizer so you aren't one of few people with nothing of your own during a first course/appetizer round. I don't love wasting food either, but skipping a course does stick out. The most normal thing here would be clam chowder.

3. For the main, you are probably ordering more food than you really wanted anyways, so the smallest filet mignon cooked medium or medium rare. Completely unnoteworthy. Some places will have sides "for the table" and some on the more personal size. Asking isn't the worst, since it looks like you know that steak houses differ in this regard.

4. Get a dessert. None will stick out. If you can't even think about it, get a drink. A port? A cup of decaf you don't actually drink?
posted by advicepig at 1:29 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if this is a business dinner, there’s probably someone who will appreciate you saying “oh, I haven’t been here before, what do you like to get?” They get to feel like they’re giving you a special new experience and give you advice. Is there someone you want to butter up at this meal?
posted by momus_window at 1:33 PM on March 16 [32 favorites]

Chain steakhouses are designed to facilitate affluent white guys without much social refinement (whether inherently or because they're getting drunk) in successfully eating large meals. It's hard to go too wrong. Just don't ask for ketchup.

The portion sizes are often ludicrous, so, unless you already know what you like, I wouldn't exceed a 12-oz. offering. Filet mignon has a tender texture but considerably less flavor in itself because it has less fat, so if you do want tastiness, I recommend getting their smallest ribeye or porterhouse offering. If they do sauces, they will tend to the heavier side and your waiter may be politely baffled by the idea of getting a sauce on the side rather than otherwise. But some of them can be good, so if something sounds good and you're up for additional heaviness, why not. Offerings labeled "dry-aged" may have a slight tang and/or more complex flavor, but nothing so distinctive that you can't try it if you're feeling experimental. "Grass-fed" and "grain-fed" will be distinctions without a difference if you're not particularly interested in steak. As a side, I like mushrooms and mashed potatoes, but you will, as others have said, most likely have to order them individually (or as part of a group order to share, but the portion size should be clear from the menu).

That said, have fun! The steakhouse vibe is not really my thing, but it's fun to go once in a while, especially since my kitchen doesn't have a range hood, so cooking steak at home is generally more trouble than it's worth, and steak, well, it does generally taste good.
posted by praemunire at 1:34 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

There are lots of steak recommendations here, but you pretty clearly said "I am not a steak person." So, I suggest that in advance, you go to the website of this joint, look at the menu, and ignore all the steaks. You will probably find: Several kinds of seafood, like salmon, branzino, or a pasta with crab, shrimp or the like; pork chops, veal, chicken, etc. Enjoy!
posted by beagle at 1:35 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

At some steakhouses, the non-steak mains are complete afterthoughts; at others, the kitchen clearly takes great pride in them. A quick look at e.g. the Yelp reviews might give you a sense of which is the case where you're going - and could save you from ordering some extremely dry chicken or sad gloopy pasta. The sides, on the other hand, will almost certainly be quite good, if simple, at any decent steakhouse.

As others have mentioned - the sides may be served family style and shared (ask). Classics include various potato preparations, creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, maybe grilled asparagus or cauliflower au gratin.

Probably the most classic appetizers would be either a salad (wedge, Caesar), or a seafood dish like shrimp cocktail or clams/oysters.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:35 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

There's often a small (6-8 oz) filet mignon, which is what I always get. Sometimes there are family style entrees, so whoever is hosting probably gets to pick those. Creamed spinach! Mashed potatoes!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:36 PM on March 16

Since you mention "farm-to-table" but don't say you're a vegetarian: ask if they've got a butcher's cut and not just the standard ribeye, strip, filet, and so on. A butcher's cut is the steakhouse equivalent of dealer's choice, and sometimes it gives the chef an opportunity not to be bored just cranking out the same thing all the time. I've had a couple lovely steaks that were just offered as butcher's cut. Note the waiter should be able to tell you what the specific cut is that day and recommend a preparation (which may be more or less done than you might order otherwise).

If there aren't specials or butcher's cuts, I like a ribeye more than a filet or strip. That said, a filet will probably come in a more reasonable size, and they may offer something like "beef medallions," in an even more reasonable portion, which may or may not be from the same cut as the filet mignon. As a general rule beef cuts marked as tender will be less flavorful; beef cuts marked as flavorful (like a strip) will be pretty chewy. If you order something like a skirt or flank (AKA bavette) it will probably be marinated for flavor and tenderizing purposes, but may still be pretty chewy. Dry aging can make an already good cut of beef taste better, but it will definitely make it more expensive. Sometimes they also do things like offer a "tomahawk" ribeye, where the meat is served with the whole bone still on, Fred Flintstone style. Note: you probably won't actually be able to eat an entire "tomahawk" ribeye, but if you need to one-up your coworkers that'll be a way to do it.

And yeah, ask about sides, if it hasn't been explained already. They may be family style or you may be expected to order your own.

I like a Martini beforehand and a Manhattan or red wine with dinner, but you should be mindful of your intake and that of the people around you. It can get out of hand fast, and I wouldn't want to be the person who drank too much.
posted by fedward at 1:54 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

My experience with these places is that they soak everything in butter. If you aren't used to rich restaurant meals, or you have plans afterwards that don't involve your bathroom, you might want to go light(er) on the fats. Caesar or vinaigrette dressing, sauces on the side, skip the sour cream and dairy desserts, etc.
posted by credulous at 2:04 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

you pretty clearly said "I am not a steak person."

Not sure whether that means "I don't eat/enjoy steak" or "steak is not something I've ever eaten a lot of/taken a lot of interest in." Advice would vary!
posted by praemunire at 2:12 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

If it's a chain steakhouse they almost certainly have a menu that you can look at online, so you're not going in unprepared. The menu should say whether any entree comes with sides or whatever else, and at the very least you can get an idea of what sort of things you'd be interested in before you go.

Nthing that you should definitely try to pay attention to or get recommendations from your coworkers while ordering; there may be unspoken norms about how much each person's order should be, for example. I wouldn't sweat too much about what you order beyond that; people like what they like, and if you decide to get a non-steak option (if available) I don't think people are going to care much.
posted by Aleyn at 2:17 PM on March 16

One of the very standard orders above would be fine - filet or strip, medium rare, side of potatoes and a starter salad. Every steak place prides itself on the quality of its defaults.

You would be totally fine asking a neighbor "I haven't been here, what's good?" and consider their recommendation (perhaps they know what the best salad is).

If anyone gives you any kind of guff about not getting a steak, a completely bulletproof response is "it's just not the same when you don't grill it yourself, you know?" They will nod sagely and affirm this. Be aware this may prompt further discussion of marinades, meat provenance, and grilling techniques, but here you may be on firmer ground than before!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:20 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]

If you’re not a steak person but still a red meat person, get the lamb chops or pork chop. Steak houses almost always do those very well.

Lamb gets mint jelly, prime rib gets an au jus, and regular steaks go great with bleu cheese or bearnaise (a tangy hollandaise) sauces.

I’ve also had some of the best-prepared pieces of salmon at steakhouses before.
posted by hwyengr at 3:35 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

These places generally make it impossible to be weird with the food. If they have it, get something that's a little more of a hassle to make on your own, and isn't made in the traditional way in most places: Steak Frites. Also dishes like Lobster Newburg, Filet Oscar, etc.
posted by rhizome at 4:04 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Coming from a different angle, the things that I would avoid ordering at a steakhouse (unless I was convinced they were good and/or I really didn’t give a shit), would be chicken or pasta.

And while I’d probably order a sandwich or burger with friends or family I wouldn’t at a work dinner. Probably the same with most seafood and with conspicuously cheaper cuts (which I enjoy!), like flank or skirt steak or a pork chop or braised short ribs.

So to blend in, I’d probably have a strip steak or prime rib because I think filet mignon is dead boring and fancier cuts start to be giant and eye catching. (Filet will, however, be modest in size and easy to eat.) Possibly lamb chop but I also think it might seem conspicuously different. I’d order medium rare because they should do medium rare correctly. (I often do rare elsewhere.) For sides I concur with the above: a wedge salad is nice, potatoes are normal, other simple veg can be a relief. I’d avoid super rich sides, sometimes they really gild the lily.
posted by vunder at 4:13 PM on March 16

Oh, one more thing: a real difference between a steakhouse and a fine-dining place is that the steaks may also be offered with your choice of several different sauces (perhaps au poivre sauce, Béarnaise, blue cheese, or chimichurri). These are completely optional, and indeed the majority of people probably don't order one.
posted by kickingtheground at 4:52 PM on March 16

May be too late for tonight ... but for future reference anyway ... You've gotten good advice above. I am a steak person, but am a small woman and don't have a big appetite. I order a small filet mignon (6 oz. if they have it preferably), and since that can be a bit bland, I usually get Bearnaise sauce on the side or get it prepared au poivre (I happen to like cracked black pepper a lot). I usually get a small green salad to start, and get a baked potato or mashed potatoes as a side. A lot of steak places make their medium rare a bit too close to rare for me, so I usually order it as medium. If I'm extra hungry I might get a hanger steak.

Mr. gudrun on the other hand, who is a big guy with a big appetite, would get something like a wedge salad or soup to start, a big ribeye medium rare (and probably snag some of my Bearnaise sauce), mashed potatoes and creamed spinach or broccoli. Both of us, if we get full, do not hesitate to take the leftover steak home in a doggy bag.

If I had a wedge salad to start, I would have trouble doing justice to the rest of the meal.

Everyone is right that you should do a bit of exploring of the menu and yelp reviews ahead of time, because in some places the sides are family style, in some you get at least a potato included with your steak, and in some everything is a la carte.
posted by gudrun at 5:38 PM on March 16

Also probably too late but for future awareness or anyone else reading this it might be useful to, I go to steakhouse dinners a few times a year as part of work. What almost always happens, in my experience, is that a bunch of sides and appetizers are ordered for the table and shared family style.

So really the only thing you're ordering is the type of steak and sauce that you want (but requesting specific sides is generally welcomed).
posted by Candleman at 7:03 PM on March 16

Response by poster: Thank you for all the great answers! It turned out that the organizers had it set up as a banquet where we just had to choose a protein from a very short list and the sides were all family style, so there was no stress at all in the end. I'm certain this will not be my last involuntary steakhouse experience though, so I will definitely be revisiting this thread in the future!
posted by juliapangolin at 4:52 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]

so.......................the steaks weren't as high as you expected

sorry not sorry
posted by lalochezia at 4:18 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

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