Since 1885 where it was opened by the renowned theater patron Albert Keen who’s since been immortalized because of his connection with the restaurant, Keens steakhouse has gained a reputation in New York City as one of the best steakhouses. According to the Keens own website, the restaurant is the only survivor of the Herald Square Theatre District. Located 72 West 36th Street, Keens is known especially for in its heyday the steakhouse wasn’t unused to actors in full makeup coming in through the back to ‘fortify’ themselves between their acts. But why is this Steakhouse so well renowned and is not a stranger to the lists of the best steakhouses and grills in New York?
Going through the doors of Keens is like being transported back in time. Diners enjoy the luxurious and elegant restaurant, which is well known for its famous mutton chops, while their butterscotch sundae is a favorite in the city. However, they also serve oysters and neck clams on the half shell, and dry-aged prime steaks, and is famous for the Churchwarden pipes hanging neatly in rows along the ceiling. The churchwarden pipes are a tradition harking long back to the day where they were stored like that to prevent them from breaking during their transport. Keens is a big believer in tradition.
A Long Standing Tradition
Keens is famous for being a favorite place to dine for legends like J.P Morgan and Babe Ruth, but many other famous people have dined here; Albert Einstein ate here, as did Teddy Roosevelt, John Barrymore, David Belasco, George M. Cohan, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Grace Moore, and Billy Rose among them. However, according to The Week’s article on The 8 Best Steakhouses in New York City, one of the most charming things about Keens is it serves traditional meals, “old school Manhattan beefsteak dinners” according to the website. One of the best things about the steakhouse is that you don’t need to have a reservation to dine there - you can still get the experience while in the wood-paneled dining room, with well-priced food from the whole menu.
While the exact definition of steakhouse has changed over the years in New York, many such restaurants use the same traditional methods of serving their food, according to the Grub Street, and the article compliments Keens pedigree and the charm of the restaurant which comes straight from the past that has been preserved over the years. They even recommend the “King’s Cut” rib chop, and advise diners to order it during the winter by the fire.
Inspectors, according to the Michelin guide’s article on New York’s best steakhouses have said Keens is like an old Dickensian gentleman’s club with the feel of the dark wood paneling though the modern clientele is significantly different from the old crowd, though they are nonetheless still significant diners. While all the other sources above have complimented Keens for what they serve and their general ambience, Time Out’s own article on The best steakhouses in New York City where Keens is number one on the list say you can dine like one of the legends who have dined here in the past.
But what do people say?
According to Trip Advisor, Keens is one of the best steak houses in New York City, where the steakhouse is ranked Number 88 out of 16,310 restaurants in New York City. One reviewer calls Keens a “great steakhouse with a great atmosphere.” The reviewer in question says their steaks were cooked wonderfully with virtually no grease on them, and the mashed potatoes brought out was brilliant and he even states the potatoes were of a better quality than his own wife’s baked potato! The reviewer also comments on the service provided, noting its excellence and its efficiency.
Another reviewer who dined at Keens with his nephew without a reservation refers to the steakhouse as the planets best prime porterhouse. They had been recommended to Keens, but when they tried to book a reservation online they found the steakhouse was booked. They tried their luck nonetheless… And they received a table after a short wait. This reviewer also comments on the wonderful service and the great food
One reviewer who posted a review of Keens had gone there for a birthday dinner with loved ones who were fans of quality steaks received well-done steaks from Keens that were nicely salted, with great drinks and wonderful side dishes, and lastly, they had the creme brûlée which they said was excellent.
Another reviewer refers to Keens as the best steakhouse in New York, speaking about how they love the place, and that the food is amazing, and the staff are both professional and friendly while recommending the place completely for having dinner with friends. And this particular review was posted in January 2018.
Another reviewer commenting on Trip Advisor who went for an anniversary dinner had looked specifically for the best steakhouses in New York, and they discovered Keens. They were not disappointed by their choice either. They both loved and appreciated the vintage feel of the restaurant, with impeccable service, with a highly attentive server providing them with their perfectly cooked choices. The review also states the restaurant staff were very attentive and aware of the couples need to visit a play being performed at 8 pm which shows that diners can have a tailored experience at the steakhouse which is great for other anniversary or birthday meals, and they perfectly prepared their meal and planned for it to be delivered on time.
From these reviewers and the source material above, it can be stated that Keens is a steakhouse that is built on quality and tradition. While their restaurant looks nice, its the food and the general service which is top-notch, and they take great pride in their food and drink. They prepare their meals exceptionally well, training each of their chefs who work passionately to prepare the meals which are served by an equally highly trained set of servers who dish out the meals in a restaurant with an exquisitely preserved old world charm to it. Keens has had a long and proud history of being a classic steakhouse for 134 years and it will probably see more legends pass through it and dine in the elegant wood-paneled dining area.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker