7 Things You're Doing Wrong at a Steakhouse

Chef Josh Capon's all-important list of do's and don'ts


Order your steak to the temperature you want it, says the Bowery Meat Company's Josh Capon. Picture / @bowerymeatcompany

Of course, you know how to behave at a steakhouse. Not unlike the seatbelt demo on an airplane, people think that proper restaurant behavior is self-evident.

Not necessarily, says Josh Capon, the chef and co-owner of New York City’s always packed Bowery Meat Company. He’s provided an all-important list of do’s and don’ts for his restaurant.

1. Don’t walk into my steakhouse, just order a steak and then tell me it’s taking too long
In fact, don’t walk into any restaurant and not order an appetiser. A beautiful steak takes time to cook. You’ve been to a restaurant before, you know the way a kitchen works. Even if it’s a piece of fish that you ordered, give the chef time to pull it out of the refrigerator and prepare it. This is especially true if you’re at my place and ordered a 16-, a 20- or a 40-ounce piece of beef. I’m cooking that meat to order for you. Give me a little bit of time to do it right.

2. Don’t fill up on appetisers before that beautiful steak comes to your table
The flip side of Rule No.1: There’s hardly anything on Bowery Meat Company menu north of the main courses that is going to kill you. Notice, I’m not making a heavy wedge salad packed with blue cheese and bacon. No French onion soup. I serve sashimi and cauliflower steak and a farmers’ salad. Too many times I’ve been to a steak house, and by the time the steak comes, I’m ready to tap out.

Of course, there are a few starters that go big. This is a steakhouse, not a spa. The duck lasagna for two is pretty killer; sometimes I serve it as a mid-course. My joke is that most places serve lemon sorbet as a mid-course; we do duck lasagna.

READ: Where to find a great steak in Auckland

3. Treat the steak with respect
Please taste it before you grab the salt or douse it in steak sauce. At Bowery Meat Company, I’m using the top 1 per cent of beef in the country; we’re cooking it really well and seasoning it perfectly. We make our steak sauce and the Romesco sauce that goes with the Tomahawk ribeye, the salsa verde with the cote de beouf. My sauces are good, but we want you to taste the meat.

4. Cut the steak down the middle to check that it’s cooked right
Please and please and please, when you your steak arrives, cut it down the middle to check the temperature. Don’t cut a little piece from the end and tell me it’s overcooked. I will come out to your table and cut the steak down the middle and show you. I want to say the customer is always right … but not always. We’re dealing with expensive cuts of meat that come from a living animal. We do a good job of making sure your meat is cooked right.

5. Don’t be afraid to take home leftovers
Especially if you order a big-boy steak, get those leftovers packed up. I promise that, especially on the weekend, if you fry up a couple slices of the T-bone or the New York strip you’ll have a great breakfast and be the hero. Make a sandwich, make some hash, or just eat it plain. It’s prime meat, and it should not be wasted.

6. Ask to see the steak you’re ordering
At any quality steakhouse, you don’t have to think twice about checking out the meat before it’s cooked. Not everyone knows what a Tomahawk cut or a cote de boeuf is. Plus, you want to see the bright red color, the marbling, the thickness. These are expensive cuts, they cost around $150. So don’t be afraid to ask about them. I have a lot of fun carrying that Tomahawk ribeye around the dining room before it goes on the fire: People take pictures of it; it makes me a star. A ton of regular customers buy meat from me now. I charge them at cost; it’s three times as much at the store. They go home and grill them up, and they’re the superstars.

7. Order a steak to the temperature that you want it. Really
Do not be embarrassed to order a steak medium or medium-well. Don’t let a table full of people who think they’re experts tell you that you need to eat your meat rare. You can eat my steak well done; I can eat a steak well done. No judgments here. We don’t put it on the back of the burner for four hours to char the hell out of it. You might have heard stories about cooks spitting on a well-done order, or serving an inferior, end-of-loin cut. No way. We’re charging people the same price. They shouldn’t get a lesser cut of meat. We take our waygu end-of-loin scraps and grind them up to meatballs. I’m always thinking.
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