Peter Luger doesn’t seem to be taking the New York Times’ criticism too hard.
On Tuesday, the Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells published a zero-star review of the famous Brooklyn steakhouse, titled “Pete Luger Used to Sizzle. Now It Sputters.”
In the review, Wells pointed out that although he now feels “scammed” when visiting the establishment, that wasn’t always the case, as he recalled happily emptying out his wallet to eat one of their sizzling porterhouse or rib steaks in the 1990s. “Because a Peter Luger steak made me feel alive in a way that few other things did, I considered this a fair trade.”
But a visit back in October 2019 did not elicit similar feelings.
“I know there was a time the German fried potatoes were brown and crunchy, because I eagerly ate them each time I went. Now they are mushy, dingy, gray and sometimes cold,” he wrote, adding that the servers, once “charmingly brusque, now give the strong impression that these endless demands for food and drink are all that’s standing between them and a hard-earned nap.”
“You start to wonder who really needs to go to Peter Luger, and start to think the answer is nobody,” he wrote as the blistering critique came to an end.
In response, David Berson, the general manager of the steakhouse — and also the grandson of founders Sol and Marsha Forman — issued a statement saying that despite the “changing whims” of reviewers, they’re still making “the beast steak you can eat.”
“The NY Times has reviewed Peter Luger numerous times over the years. At times we’ve gotten four stars, other times less,” Berson said in a statement to Eater. “While the reviewers and their whims have changed, Lugers has always focused on doing one thing exceptionally well — serving the highest quality of steak — with a member of our family buying every piece of USDA Prime beef individually, just as we have done for decades.”
“We know who we are and have always been. The best steak you can eat. Not the latest kale salad,” he added. “We’re grateful to our customers who continue to pack our house every single day, and especially to our regulars whose emails of encouragement continue to flood our inbox.”
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One person to speak out on behalf of the restaurant was Eddie Huang, a chef and author, best known for his memoir Fresh Off the Boat, which inspired an ABC series of the same name.
“Peter Luger’s is the greatest steakhouse in the world bar none,” he wrote in a blog post, adding that “if anything we need MORE Peter Luger’s” and less restaurants “that feel like algorithms trying to draw the greatest number of followers.”
“My Dad used to say, ‘People eat with their eyes. They look at a plate and decide whether it tastes good or not.’ Now a days with sea levels rising, the water’s edge for judgment has reached the front door. People are eating font type. They’ve already decided by looking at the font type and Pantone colors of your restaurant whether it’s good or not,” he continued.
The Times also went on to issue a follow-up story to the review, filled with some of the many responses they received from readers who “largely” agreed with the negative review.