The Meatpacking District is surprisingly light on the commodity it’s named for: red meat. There’s the Old Homestead, which has been in the nighborhood since the streets were lined with prostitutes, and Craftsteak, which technically is in Chelsea. Frank’s, a mediocre Italian steakhouse nearboy, is also technically in Chelsea. That leaves the new STK (“ess-tee-kay”) as the only Meatpacking District steakhouse that actually feels like the neighborhood.
A look at the website will have you quickly doubting whether STK is at all serious about, you know, steak. The splash animation begins with the word “SCENE” in white letters on a fucsia background. The word “STEAK” fades in and out; then “SEAFOOD”; then “SALAD.” On the main page:
The bustling bar scene is the centerpiece, the menu is inspired, the DJ creates the sexy vibe and the atmosphere is relaxed.
Party rooms are called “Lillie St. Cyr,” “Do May,” “Tempest Storm” and “Candy Barr.” The design renderings (here, here, here) suggest a restaurant with everything but steak on its mind. All three feature lithe twenty-somethings in short skirts, in what appears to be a moody nightclub setting. From the pictures, it’s not even clear that there’s any actual dining tables. The opening invite does nothing to dispel this impression. It shows a leggy model in a red micro-dress, from behind, holding a cleaver and a steak on a meathook. The caption reads, “Not your daddy’s steakhouse.”
For all that, STK’s menu (PDF) offers much to be thankful for. Steaks come in three categories: small ($18–26), medium ($29–59) and large ($49–74). It’s a welcome change from the typical steakhouse, where your choices are limited to large and humungous. There’s also an ample selection of non-steak entrées ($24–46). By far the most expensive of these is a funky-sounding dish called Surf, Turf & Earth, which includes tuna, black truffles, and foie gras. Salads ($10–18) and appetizers ($11–20) include most of the usual suspects, but foie gras french toast ($20) and shrimp rice krispy’s ($14) sure seem worth a look.
I ordered the bone-in rib steak ($36). It had a strong flavor and was cooked perfectly to the medium rare I’d requested. If it wasn’t the best rib-eye I’ve had, it was certainly superior to the one I had at Porter House NY last week. You can choose from among six steak sauces, such as salsa verde and blue butter, but I chose the house STK Sauce, which added a commendable bit of spice to an already good steak. Although listed in the menu’s “medium” section, at 24 oz. this rib-eye is an impressive hunk of meat. You had better be hungry if you order the Cowboy Rib-Steak (36 oz., $49). The hefty steak knife, by the way, is one of the more impressive specimens I’ve seen. “Be careful,” the server said as he dropped it off.
Side dishes ($9) include many of the usual suspects, but Parmesan Truffle Fries were intriguing enough to be worth a look. They came stacked like lincoln logs, with each fry about half-an-inch square, and about four inches long. I thought perhaps they’d be better if they weren’t quite as thick, but I suspect they’ll be a hit with many diners.
The wine and liquor list is very reasonably priced, with an ample number of bottles under $50. A glass of 10-year tawny port was only $10.
I would normally end my review here, but I want to report on the drama that took place a couple of tables away. A married couple that looked about twenty years too old for the restaurant had both ordered the sirloin ($38). They asked to speak to a manager. “This is the worst steak I’ve had in my life,” the man said. His wife concurred. They practically shoved their plates in the manager’s face, declined her offer to re-do the steaks or send out something else, and asked for the check.
I assumed that was the end of it, but a few minutes later out came the chef, Todd Mark Miller. He introduced himself, explained that he was “new to the project,” and did all but get down on bended knee and beg the couple to allow him to re-do their steaks. Miller also offered to comp a foie gras appetizer, which the couple would not accept. But they did finally agree to accept new steaks, which Miller said he would cook himself.
A short while later, out came Miller with a parade of busboys, with two freshly cooked sirloins (which he again reminded them he cooked himself) and extra side dishes. Miller insisted on waiting till the couple had tasted the steaks, to ensure they were done correctly. For the first time, the man smiled and nodded his head. His satisfaction must have been sincere, because he did finish the steak, and his wife left only a little behind.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a chef do more personally to try to please two difficult customers. It impressed me even more because—well, it seems indelicate to say so, but this couple seemed so out-of-place in the neighborhood. They could tell all their friends to avoid STK, and it wouldn’t really make a difference, insofar as the management’s intended demographic is concerned. But the restaurant was determined to make it right, when they could just as easily have given the couple their check, and forgotten about them.
As the publicity photos suggest, STK does have an unusually large bar space, but there are also two dining rooms and an upper level with four private rooms and a private cocktail area. A rooftop café with a separate menu will open next summer. The rock music sound track is not unreasonably loud. The clientele is generally young. The two women at the table next to me, both about 30, each ordered a blue iceberg lettuce salad and steaks from the “small” portion of the menu. They’re the kind of diners who will love STK, but probably wouldn’t choose a conventional steakhouse.
If my dining experience wasn’t transcendent, it was perfectly solid. Much more of the menu looks to be worth exploring. The scenery is easy on the eyes, and the service is just fine.
STK (26 Little W. 12th Street between Washington & Greenwich Streets, Meatpacking District)