Steakhouses are an American institution. They have remained true and predictable, boasting a boys-only appeal with dark mahogany walls, oversized chairs and heavily draped windows. But as our palates have evolved, we’re drawing the heavy curtains to reveal a different type of steakhouse.
Offering more than the aged cowboy ribeyes and petit filets, these “modern meateries” are a celebration of carnivorous eating–snout-to-tail feasting–with the whole animal being fair game. With that said, beef isn’t the only thing on the menu either. It’s a cornucopia that also includes game, pork, veal, lamb, fowl and seafood.
One of my favorite spots in Williamsburg, Virginia, is Blue Talon Bistro where Chef David Everett serves up pieds de cochon, which are pig’s feet, offered sans hoof to make matters more approachable. Their Sunday special of sweetbreads, which is calf thymus, is an absolute must-try. These dishes that cause you to take a second glance at while scrolling through the menu, along with the charcuterie boards, like their Butcher’s Tasting Board and daily steak offerings, provide the snout-to-tail cuisine that are the foundation of modern meateries. I love the vibe here, I really do. It’s like a slice of Europe with a side of Manhattan. It’s close seating and vintage décor–which includes Julia Child’s cooking show on repeat–pay an homage to times past while your palate travels full circle as you nosh on forgotten cuts of meat that celebrate the entire animal– the norm in most cultures.
My culinary wanderlust led me to the Chevy Chase corridor of Washington, D.C., to eat at Range. It is the brainchild of Chef Brian Voltaggio. Its first impression is sleek. As you continue through the restaurant to encounter its open kitchen–the major wow factor–the menu is what modern-day foodies flock to: pigs cheeks, ears, roasted marrow, an impeccable selection of cured meats, shellfish over ice and wood-fired traditional cuts of steak. Chef Voltaggio offers up a curated menu that boasts a steakhouse without all the fuss. It’s straight up. Well, what more needs to be said with a cocktail on the menu called the Vegan Sacrifice that’s made with beef bouillon ice cubes? This is the stuff foodies today pine over, freak us out, then turn us on. This is “sexy food” if we’re talking à la mode.
What’s most exiting about this generation of steakhouses is the incredible amount of thought and ambition in the overall dining experience. Diners are being treated intelligently and honestly–ask your server where the beef came from, you should get a name. In light of this food revolution, the question is how long it will last. At this pace I’m excited to see steakhouses 3.0, which, one day, may serve up the entire animal table-side.