Gallagher’s Steakhouse is back from its near-death experience. Prior owner Marlene Brody had planned to close the place in late 2012, citing “economic reasons.” In swooped Dean Poll, operator of the Central Park Boathouse Cafe, who signed a 20-year lease on the space and bought the name, saying he considers himself “privileged to own it.” The restauant closed for renovations in mid-2013 and re-opened in February.
There was much rending of garments over the near-loss of Gallagher’s. Fact is: it had long ago ceased to be relevant. I don’t ever recall seeing the place on any top-10 steakhouse list. Or top-anything, for that matter. Passersby oogled the windowed meat locker facing 52nd Street—and then kept on walking.
The décor that Poll inherited (checked tablecloths and knotty pine walls) had not been fashionable since the Eisenhower administration, unless it was the Truman administration. Anyhow, Poll has revamped it smartly, while retaining the bones of the old Gallagher’s, including the street-facing dry-aging locker and photos of celebrities on almost every inch of wall space. But with white tablecloths, dark leather chairs and mahogany paneling, Gallagher’s now looks like the old-school steakhouse that it is.
The menu earns no points for originality—nor should it. Poll has restored the porterhouse steak (deleted, incredibly enough, by the prior owners in 2008), and there’s a decent selection of non-steak entrées if you visit with your pescatarian friends. Otherwise, it’s mostly the items you expect. The place is not a Luger clone, as there is no thick-cut bacon. Prices are about in line with other old-school joints, and slightly less expensive than premium modern steakhouses like Porter House New York or Minetta Tavern.
We loved the bread service, including a banana bread and another that resembled challah. A Caesar Salad ($13; above right) could have used anchovies.
The Wedge ($14; above left) may have been the best of the classic appetizers. Fluke Crudo ($17; above right) was fine, but it won’t put Esca out of business.
Gallagher’s grills its steaks over hickory logs, unlike other establishments that char the surface in a frying pan and then roast it in a 2000-degree gas oven. We liked the hearty smoked flavor, but our porterhouse ($49pp) had a bit too much fat and needed more char. The two side dishes we tried—buttered carrots ($12) and potatoes lyonnaise ($10)—were decent enough. For dessert, we shared a trio of sorbets ($10) scooped to the size of small planets.
The staff was attentive at the beginning of the meal, as servers worked efficiently, rolling serving carts around the dining room. The restaurant was about three-fourths full at 8:00pm, but as the room thinned out, so did the service. Appetizers came out within minutes, but later on our waiter disappeared for long stretches.
Dean Poll’s renovation is lovely, and Gallagher’s is no longer irrelevant. If you want a great steak dinner, there are many better options in town, but if you want a slice of nostalgia you will not do badly here.
Gallagher’s Steakhouse (228 W. 52nd St. between Eighth Avenue & Broadway)
Food: Old-school steakhouse
Service: Old-school steakhouse
Ambiance: Old-school steakhouse, but even better