Second Helpings

When Diners Want Sauce With Their Steaks, Here's What Three Restaurants Do

Not all steaks need sauce. But some do: Filets, for example, often benefit from the added flavor. And even if a steak doesn't need a pick-me-up, sometimes you want one anyway -- just because. That's why Butcher's Bistro, which I just reviewed, took a step in the right direction when it started offering sauces with its cut du jour. This change, made since I ate my review meals there, puts the restaurant more in line with other meat-centric restaurants that have long tempted diners with an array of sauces and toppings. See also: Butcher's Bistro Sounds Meaty, But Where's the Beef?

Some diners will always gravitate toward A.1. or Heinz 57, and Edge Restaurant, for one, is prepared for such requests, offering its own tart, ketchup-based version of these traditional accompaniments. But Edge also offers other sauces as well for those who want to branch out, including chimichurri and brandy peppercorn. The trick, says sous-chef Kelley Schmidt, is that "you don't want to overpower the flavor of a great steak with a sauce or a rub but you want to complement it."

That's the approach at Shanahan's, too, where executive chef Alec Schrader says that more than half the guests prefer their high-quality cuts as is, just well-seasoned with salt and pepper. But the kitchen still caters to those in search of something more; the pre-set trio of bearnaise, peppercorn and house steak sauce is especially popular for the table/ When it comes to sauces, Schrader draws on his fine-dining background. "Sauce-making is an art," he says. "It goes back to classical cooking."

If sauce-making is an art, Vesta Dipping Grill is an old master, with a roster of more than 25 sauces currently on the menu. Not all go well with everything, though, which is why suggestions are listed with each dish. For beef tenderloin, "black pepper aioli and roasted corn are crowd favorites," says executive chef Brandon Foster. "They've been here longer than I've been here, and I've been here longer than ten years." The third sauce currently recommended with the tenderloin is a garlicky, spicy ghost chile barbecue that he says "plays really well with the heat and richness in that dish."

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz