New York icons: Keens Steakhouse.
There’s an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain visits what he fears are long-standing stalwarts of Manhattan that could go away at any moment. Since the episode’s airing a few of these places have sadly ceased to exist (RIP Manganaro’s in Hell’s Kitchen), but it seems like more of them continue to live on than not, which is surprisingly encouraging in an age where so much feels doomed. Among those icons still with us is Keens Steakhouse, and if you are a lover of steak you must go to this place immediately and dammit why aren’t you on a plane/Amtrak to New York already?
In all seriousness, though, the ongoing presence of Keens in a city so often obsessed with the new, bright, and shiny offers the hope that the classics and the upstarts can coexist peacefully. Opened in 1885, it became well-known for feeding actors (in full stage makeup, no less!) between acts at a nearby theater, and at the turn of the century was sued by the mistress of King Edward VII, Lillie Langtry, for not allowing women in the establishment. She won her lawsuit and paraded into the dining room decked out in a feather boa and ordered herself some steak in celebration.
These days, all are welcome and suits (or at least jackets) are not required, which makes it feel more casual and, frankly, more modern without losing any of its charm. No longer will you be teased if you order a glass of wine with your steak lest you appear “feminine” (ugh) but you can still order a mutton chop that comes to your table resembling a wall of flesh. Everything is served a la carte, which works because the portion sizes all around are quite generous and you’ll barely touch the big basket of shoestring fries you think you’ll want after you’ve polished off your steak. Keens is a splurge, no doubt, but it’s one that will stick with you in your memories for years to come.
72 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018