All You Can Hold For Five Bucks
June 14, 2009 5:03 PM   Subscribe

The New York steak dinner, or beefsteak, is a form of gluttony as stylized and regional as the riverbank fish fry, the hot-rock clambake, or the Texas barbecue. Some old chefs believe it had its origin sixty or seventy years ago, when butchers from the slaughterhouses on the East River would sneak choice loin cuts into the kitchens of nearby saloons, grill them over charcoal, and feast on them during their Saturday-night sprees. - Joseph Mitchell, 1939.

The beefsteak endures - as does the writing of Joseph Mitchell.
posted by Joe Beese (39 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I love this line from the NYT article:

"Once you start going to beefsteaks, it’s an addiction,” said Al Baker, a Hasbrouck Heights policeman who had organized the evening’s festivities to benefit the Special Olympics. "You’ve got the tender beef, butter, salt, French fries, beer — all your major food groups."

posted by jayder at 5:15 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Man, I don't even eat beef, but this sounds like so much fun!
posted by infinitywaltz at 5:38 PM on June 14, 2009

When beefsteaks became bisexual, the etiquette changed

And here's wishing a very happy Gay Pride Month to all our GLBT&tc Members!
posted by mikelieman at 5:40 PM on June 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

So beefsteaks aren't sausagefests?
posted by DU at 5:48 PM on June 14, 2009

Man, I didn't notice the date of the piece at first, so I was simultaneously shocked and very, very jealous.

Now I am just very, very jealous.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:52 PM on June 14, 2009

They never served potatoes in those days. Too filling. They take up room that rightfully belongs to meat and beer.

Damn right!
posted by rkent at 5:53 PM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

See tucci plainv Mitchell in gil joe Gould
posted by Postroad at 5:59 PM on June 14, 2009

“A man isn’t inclined to eat as much if his wife or girlfriend is watching,” Rob Nightingale explained. “After their 15th or 18th slice, she kind of gives him the look and makes him stop.” (Mr. Mitchell put it more succinctly: “Women do not esteem a glutton.”)

posted by Comrade_robot at 6:00 PM on June 14, 2009

"(...) at a contemporary beefsteak it is unusual for a man to do away with more than six pounds of meat and thirty glasses of beer."

Fuckin' a.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:00 PM on June 14, 2009

I'm with Alvy; so very, very jealous. And, some simply wonderful writing.
posted by Isosceles at 6:08 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

That article was enough to turn me into a vegetarian. *urp*
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:14 PM on June 14, 2009

posted by gman at 6:16 PM on June 14, 2009

First, I thought we were talking about the sandwich.
Then I started reading the article, and thought these parties were some new trend in New York. Then I noticed the date, although all the talk about prohibition should have tipped me off.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:16 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yesterday, I was at a loss for what to plan for my friend's birthday next month. Today, my course is sure. Time to start saving those beer crates.
posted by thedaniel at 6:17 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

hurf durf beefsteak thrower
posted by not_on_display at 6:18 PM on June 14, 2009

Women do not esteem a glutton.

But a really, really big burp at the end....well, suffice it to say I have more than the average number of children.
posted by DU at 6:32 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

NYC meeatup anyone?
posted by nasreddin at 6:37 PM on June 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

I had always thought of people in the past being vastly different than us. Walking extraordinarily fast, never smiling in photographs, and dying in massive numbers from illnesses that we modern humans shrug off. But, now I see the how the distended stomach pain of gluttony and alcoholism reaches throughout history to connect us all, the people of today and old-timey proto-humans of yesteryear.
posted by stavrogin at 6:53 PM on June 14, 2009 [13 favorites]

just reading that article made me gain weight
posted by pyramid termite at 6:53 PM on June 14, 2009

So this is what American tourists are looking for when they wander into an Angus Steakhouse?Poor fools.
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on June 14, 2009

This sounds even better than Fogo de Meat.
posted by ignignokt at 7:16 PM on June 14, 2009

I was pretty excited about the Jersey ones, until I got to the MARGARINE. Unacceptable.
posted by bink at 7:21 PM on June 14, 2009

Eerie timing on this post -- I just took an 18-ounce T-bone out of the freezer to grill for dinner tomorrow. Glad to see I'm not the only decadent meat-eater around!
posted by jamstigator at 7:27 PM on June 14, 2009

It had been hung for eight weeks and was blanketed with blue mold. The mold was an inch thick. He cut off the mold.

I wonder if the bisexual beef was as well-hung?
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 7:48 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Want. Give me a time and place and im there!
posted by rosswald at 7:57 PM on June 14, 2009

Seconding the idea of returning this to NYC. 3 lbs and a gallon sounds about right for me - I'm a lightweight.

(Although I'm living in Bergen County now, so maybe I should keep my eyes open for one of these around my place.)
posted by bashos_frog at 8:33 PM on June 14, 2009

> Little strips of lean ran through the discarded fat, and he deftly carved them out and made a mound of them on the block. "These trimmings, along with the tails of the steaks, will be ground up and served as appetizers," he said. "We'll use four hundred tonight. People call them hamburgers, and that's an insult. Sometimes they're laid on top of a slice of Bermuda onion and served on bread."

Times change, oh my.
posted by ardgedee at 8:39 PM on June 14, 2009

Why heck, this sounds like a typical Satiddy night around Drhydro's house....
posted by drhydro at 9:30 PM on June 14, 2009

This sounds even better than Fogo de Meat.

Living just down the street from a location, our nickname for the place is simply "Meat".

"Feel like Meat tonight?"
"Nah, too full of high school kids after prom/graduation/etc. Next weekend."
posted by mrbill at 9:53 PM on June 14, 2009

What a great article. "Grease on his ears" indeed!
posted by ninazer0 at 10:09 PM on June 14, 2009

Magnificent; one of Mitchell's best.
Any carnivores still hungry may enjoy this as a companion piece, Argentina On Two Steaks A Day.
posted by spasm at 10:46 PM on June 14, 2009 [6 favorites]

Great find, Joe. Best of the Web.
posted by RussHy at 11:26 PM on June 14, 2009

It didn't take women long to corrupt the beefsteak. They forced the addition of such things as Manhattan cocktails, fruit cups, and fancy salads

Women! With their fancy life-saving dietary modifications!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:48 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

The essay appears also in Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink , which has as well his take on clams and other good stuff
posted by IndigoJones at 6:13 AM on June 15, 2009

Holy cats, this is like reading about Shangri-la.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:31 AM on June 15, 2009

Time travelers have a new destination!
posted by now i'm piste at 7:06 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

What a terrific writer, and how I'd love to travel back in time:
"In the old days they didn't even use tables and chairs. They sat on beer crates and ate off the tops of beer barrels. You'd be surprised how much fun that was. Somehow it made old men feel young again. And they'd drink beer out of cans, or growlers. Those beefsteaks were run in halls or the cellars or back rooms of big saloons. There was always sawdust on the floor. Sometimes they had one in a bowling alley. They would cover the alleys with tarpaulin and set the boxes and barrels in the aisles. The men ate with their fingers. They never served potatoes in those days. Too filling. They take up room that rightfully belongs to meat and beer."
posted by languagehat at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2009

Those unfamiliar with the Fogo de Meat references and who are looking for a modern-day equivalent should look to see if there are any Brazilian steak houses nearby. It's pretty much the same thing, but with a salad bar. (I can't get through the NYTimes paywall, so maybe there's a reference there?)
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2009

Joe Mitchell's Secret.

(You need to be registered, and truthfully, I am not sure how much of a hassle that is, but this Mark Singer New Yorker profile is what got me to read most of Mitchell's writings.
posted by Danf at 2:46 PM on June 15, 2009

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