On February 26, I was perfectly content to stay home and work in my pajamas as a snowstorm semi-raged outside, transforming my view of an unkempt backyard-turned-weed graveyard into a winter wonderland.
And then around lunchtime, Kathy asked me if I wanted to eat lunch at Peter Luger. And I said, "Yes." How did Kathy get me to willingly transform from "groggy, sleep-wear 'boppy" to "mildly more functional, real world 'boppy" in the midst of a snowstorm on such short notice? Because, as a fellow Serious Eats contributor, she proposed that we go on a work-related mission. (Also, I like eating with her.)
The mission: to get a hot fudge sundae and a burger. It's called "research." Man, the things we do for you. Not that I expended much effort to get to Peter Luger; it's about 20 minutes from my apartment in Bed-Stuy on the B44 bus. It's the agony of an overstuffed belly that I had to endure. Lipid-based agony.
First, there was the complimentary bread basket with enough bread to feed waaay more than two people.
Then, there was the complimentary pitcher of steak sauce (I wanted to say "gravy boat," but I guess that name doesn't work if it's not full of gravy, and the lack of gravy doesn't make it a mere "boat"). For our nonexistent steak. But they didn't know that yet.
And then, there was burger. It's $8.95 for a half-pound burger, made from their meat trimmings, I would assume, since they've got loads of it. Add two gooey slices of cheese for $1.50, and fries for $1.95. The burger came with a thick slice of onion, which I left off. All I wanted was meat, cheese, and bun.
And thar she is. You may notice that the bun is especially top heavy. Too heavy for my tastes—it threw off the bun-to-meat ratio. I also wish it had been toasted to give a little crunch, as the crust of the patty wasn't especially...crusty. Other than that, the meat was great: coarsely ground, juicy, flavorful, and cooked medium rare as ordered. If only it had been on a different bun. I'm picky with buns—like any sandwich, a poor bun can bring down high quality fillings. In a good burger, the bun should melt with the patty, not detract from it.
Although I wouldn't put it on my list of favorite burgers in New York City, I think $12.40 for a cheeseburger and fries from Peter Luger is worth it. Just keep in mind that it's only available at lunch (until 3:30 p.m.).
Kathy and I supplemented our burger halves with creamed spinach ($9.50; the menu notes that it's for two people), which seems to be most people's favorite side dish at Peter Luger. Rarely having eaten creamed spinach before (if ever, which isn't surprising seeing as my steakhouse-eating experiences total to almost nil), I don't have anything to compare Peter Luger's version to, but I liked it. I don't think I could eat much of it though—this stuff is super rich. Because spinach cooked in butter and cream/milk will be like that.
We were stuffed after sharing the burger and creamed spinach, but there was one last item to attend to: hot fudge sundae ($9.95) topped with an obscene amount of whipped cream (which in Peter Luger world is endearingly called "schlag"), a surprisingly cute cow-shaped piece of chocolate, and a maraschino cherry that, although a requirement for a sundae, I never ever want to eat.
Ain't it nice how the stomach magically expands for dessert? That'd be great, if magic existed. Not that that stopped us: We shoveled spoonfuls of creamy vanilla ice cream mixed with thick hot chocolate fudge mixed with "this is one step away from butter" whipped cream at the risk of popping a stomach gasket. And we did (eat, not pop), because it was a goddamn glorious combination. The parts seem so simple, but I don't often come across sundaes where each component is just the way I like it. The ice cream should be smooth and creamy; the fudge, thick, gooey, and a smidge chewy; the whipped cream, fluffy and substantial, not the sort that floops over and melts in 10 seconds. And then they need to be in the right ratio. Yup.
I'm surprised I don't eat hot fudge sundaes more often, considering that they're one of my favorite desserts. Methinks it's a good "once in a while" treat, only to be indulged in when I'm "researching" with Kathy. (Related-ish sidenote: I went to the dentist a few days ago and I have two or three cavities that I need to get filled. Oops. I'm not surprised though. They're all interdental cavities, and yes, I do floss every day, although apparently not well enough. Hopefully the prescription toothpaste my dentist gave me will prevent more from popping up for a while. And I should probably work on eating less. Yeeeeeaah.) (Another related sidenote: I welcome any hot fudge sundae recommendations. That sort of goes against my attempt to not eat too many hot fudge sundaes, but whatever.)
The bill came to $20 per person. Not bad for a restaurant known for high priced steaks—the sort that I may someday indulge in. Unsurprisingly, Peter Luger was sparsely populated on that snowy afternoon, which may have made the experience more pleasant than usual. "Let me know if you need anything; it's not like I have much else to do," our friendly waiter joked. At the end of the meal he gave each of us a chocolate coin, then tossed us the ones that the neighboring table had left behind (leaving chocolate coins behind—what's up with that?). Maybe I'll make lunch at Peter Luger a snow day tradition.