Well Done: The Best Steakhouse Sides You Need to Try

National Steakhouse Month isn’t just about the meats (and the subsequent meat sweats). Juicy cuts may get all the glory, but steakhouses from coast to coast have been beefing up their menus with a variety of stellar sides that may have you re-evaluating ordering the same old porterhouse. From poutine tater tots to lobster mac ‘n’ cheese with a bacon crust, here are some of the best steakhouse sides that eat like a meal and others sure to complement your Father’s Day dinner perfectly — or just make a great bar snack.

David Burke Kitchen-The Garden, New York, New York
From housemade ricotta with pickled strawberries and crostini to foie gras and duck pate with fried dates, black pepper, port jelly and grilled bread, David Burke’s sides and “Table Shares” are just as inventive as the space — a horticulturist’s haven with an outdoor bar and garden seating for 130 in the heart of the city. But there is no side more universally appealing than the candied bacon — thick-cut slabs sliced in-house and slowly baked with constant basting. The result is a layering of spicy, smoky, and sweet flavors and a melt-in-your-mouth texture, served just as whimsically as the surroundings: hanging on a clothesline with a rosemary branch below so herbal aromas enhance the dish. Make a reservation at David Burke Kitchen-The Garden.

The best steakhouse sides

Roka Akor, Scottsdale, Arizona
It’s all about seasonality and spice at Roka Akor, where chef Ce Bian is known for bringing the heat — quite literally. The Japanese steakhouse prepares proteins on a 12-foot robata grill using mesquite charcoal and almond wood at temperatures of up to 1,900 degrees and serves them up with sides of Japanese-inspired marinades and sauces. Sides change seasonally, but one of Bian’s faves is the sweet corn with butter and soy, inspired by a farm supplier’s visit to the Scottsdale location (Roka Akor has other locations in San Francisco, Chicago, and Skokie, Illinois). “As we were preparing dozens of side dishes to put on the menu, we found that this grilled side dish is just simply amazing. Corn is sweet, so we add a little acid in the form of ponzu, which lends a bit of citrus and a little richness from the butter,” he explains. “We top it off with Japanese seven spices to make a balanced side dish.” The corn is such a hit some guests even stop by to order a few cobs with a beer in the bar, he says. Make a reservation at Roka Akor.

The Best Steakhouse Sides

Prime & Provisions, Chicago, Illinois
Owner David Rekhson says quality and seasonality are the hallmarks of Prime & Provisions. “We’re the only all-natural, no hormones, no antibiotics sourcing natural, organic, and local in Chicago,” he says. But when it comes to the roasted purple cauliflower with pistachio and parmesan, it’s all about the three C’s: color, cream, and crunch. The popular side makes its way to most tables at this new Loop hotspot and is also sourced with organic produce and dairy. Like your sides extra smoky? Prime & Provisions features a secluded area mean for cigar lovers with a choice of a dozen stogies. Make a reservation at Prime & Provisions.

The Best Steakhouse Sides

The Palm, Boston, Massachusetts
It may be lobster season at The Palm, but forget the shells — their new popular side of Nova Scotia lobster mac ‘n’ cheese features ziti instead, topped with an indulgent bacon crust. The view of the sexy Seaport District from the newly renovated patio is enough to inspire an order alone, but the topping really pushes it over the edge of buzzworthiness, and it’s already one of the top sellers on The Palm’s seasonal three-course Summer Lobster Menu for 2 for You. Chef Karen Mitchell says she “encourages guests to expect the unexpected,” and the mac ‘n’ cheese “truly surprises and delights, reinventing the comfort-food staple and elevating the fresh flavors of The Palm’s signature lobster. It’s not something you’d expect on a steakhouse menu, so guests are really excited.” The limited-time addition to The Palm’s steak and Italian lineup is also part of a seasonal entertainment series, including Friday night music trivia on the patio with a chance to win gift cards to try some other signature sides, such as asparagus fritti with lemon garlic butter and goat cheese whipped potatoes. Make a reservation at The Palm.

The Best Steakhouse Sides

Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Creamed spinach may be a standard on most steakhouse menus, but that doesn’t mean his version has to be standard says Swift & Sons chef Chris Pandel. “We are not reinventing the wheel; rather, we’re trying to make the best wheel we can,” he said. “Creamed spinach is a must have for a steakhouse experience, but we wanted to make sure the spinach didn’t get lost among the rich sauce that accompanies it.” Shocking and blanching the leaves and leaving the greens intact and combining them with vin blanc and roasted mushrooms with porcini aioli and croutons makes for a multi-textured side that’s bright, firm, and still maintains the original flavor of the veg without being a watery snooze. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.

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Playing with Fire: Backstage at Smokin’ South American Steakhouse Del Campo with Chef Victor Albisu

Washington, D.C., chef Victor Albisu has accumulated many accolades since opening the doors to Del Campo in 2013, including having his eatery named a Best New Restaurant 2013 by  Esquire, besting Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, and being named Chef of the Year at the 2015 RAMMYS. Go behind the scenes with dining scribe Nevin Martell and photographer Laura Hayes for a delicious look at one of the capital’s hottest — in more ways than one — restaurants. 

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Victor Albisu has always loved fire.

Growing up outside the nation’s capitol in Falls Church, Virginia, he and his Cuban grandfather, Paco, would grill in the dead of winter on a small Weber in the family’s backyard. They kept a cutting board and a knife next to their modest setup so they could slice off pieces of meat as it sizzled over the flames. If they were feeling particularly inspired during warmer months when the ground thawed, they would dig a pit to cook whole pigs or the deer his grandfather hunted.

Albisu got his first taste of kitchen life as a teenager by working at his Peruvian mother’s Latin market and butcher shop. “That’s when I started to fall for char,” he says.

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His passion for cooking kindled, he attended Le Cordon Bleu Paris, followed by a stint at the acclaimed L’Arpege. Returning stateside, he began ascending through the Washington, D.C. dining scene with increasingly statured positions at the Tabard Inn, DC Coast, Ceiba, Marcel’s, Ardeo + Bardeo, before he was appointed the executive chef of BLT Steak. There he began to earn attention, awards, and acclaim. Not only did the First Couple dine at the restaurant, but Michelle Obama became a regular.

During his tenure at the steakhouse, Albisu found himself being continually drawn back to his family’s food and its wider roots. “It’s like I didn’t have a choice,” he says. “The dishes just started coming out of me.”

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His specials began showcasing Latin elements, even as he explored Spanish culinary traditions during his travels. A meal at Asador Etxebarri in Basque country opened his palate to the possibilities presented by cooking with fire in its many forms – grilling, charbroiling, smoking, charring, and torching. He combined those techniques with the idea of a South American grill to create the concept for Del Campo, which he opened in D.C.’s Penn Quarter in the spring of 2013.

In the kitchen, Albisu is a calculated pyro, adding just the right amount of burning, blackening, smoking, and searing to his creations. On a recent March afternoon, he fired up five favorites showcasing his red-hot culinary style. Mackerel ceviche begins with halved lemons face down on the stovetop so they’re seared black. “When you squeeze them, the juice falls through this charred ‘membrane,’” explains Albisu. “It sweetens it, smokes it, and adds this over-caramelized flavor.”

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He smokes oysters by igniting a bed of thyme, rosemary, and oregano, and then combines their juices with lemon juice and crème frâiche to create the dressing that is spooned over slender cut slices of fish. Grilled avocado slices, gold-skinned bits of dry sautéed mackerel, and flash seared pickled Calabrian chilies finish the dish.

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Chef Charlie Palmer on Bringing His Take on Steak to New York City, Longevity, Luger’s + More

CP-BlogThis fall, chef-restaurateur Charlie Palmer opened Charlie Palmer Steak in the Big Apple, a much-welcomed addition to Manhattan’s midtown east neighborhood. Joining sibling Charlie Palmer Steak restaurants located in Las Vegas, Reno, and Washington, D.C., Palmer and his team are ready to wow savvy steak-loving New Yorkers with carefully sourced and deliciously prepared meats (and more). Renowned for his restaurants, hotels, and food-forward wine shops around the nation, he discusses the Charlie Palmer Steak menu, how his restaurant differs from the fabled Peter Luger, what’s in chef Matthew Zappoli’s signature cocktail sauce (sort of!), and diners’ longstanding love affair with the steakhouse in this exclusive Q+A.

You’re a native New Yorker and you opened your very first restaurant, Aureole, there. You have other locations of Charlie Palmer Steak around the nation — what made you decide to bring Charlie Palmer Steak to Manhattan at this point?

I’m actually from upstate New York, a small town called Smyrna, surrounded by farming communities. I opened Aureole in 1988 here in New York City, followed by Astra (which we just closed this year and are reopening as Upper Story in the next month), Kitchen 22, Kitchen 82, Metrazur, and more. So, I’ve long had a footprint and a place in New York City. We’ve been searching for the right location for a Charlie Palmer Steak in Manhattan for quite some time, and this one landed in my lap earlier this year.

Dating back to Peter Luger, the steakhouse feels like a very New York convention. What are the challenges of this market? What do diners expect from a New York steakhouse — and how do you deliver that?

It’s true. The steakhouse, or actually the ‘beefsteak’, has been a New York tradition since the 1800s. I think the challenges are numerous, but so are the successes. There are a ton of steakhouses in this town, so it’s about standing out, serving top quality beef, and providing the best service. My philosophy on steakhouses has always been different from the Luger format. I don’t want it to be a men’s club – I want it to be a place where men and women are both equally comfortable and the food goes beyond the beef — to really thoughtful, composed seafood dishes and hearty salads.

Why do you think we, as a nation of diners, have such a longstanding love affair with steakhouses? What is the ongoing allure? Continue Reading

Dining Poll: What’s Dad’s Favorite Cuisine When Dining Out?

Sunday is Father’s Day! Dining out for dad’s special day has always been a popular tradition in our family, possibly because my father is not the greatest griller (Ed. note: My dad readily admits this.). Also, he loves a great steak, and it’s really tough for even the best home griller to source and cook one as as well as the pros. So, we’ll be tucking into some quality meat with all the fixings at one of his favorite steakhouses this Sunday. What type of restaurant is your dad’s favorite? Weigh in on today’s dining poll!