Next Steakout

5 Sept 2017

La Boucherie on 71


#29 Billingsley's - West LA

Rating: 2.5 cows


Established in 1946, Billingsley’s is a West Los Angeles steak house with a décor and atmosphere exactly as you’d expect from a restaurant of that era. If you’re thinking Musso & Frank’s or The Buggy Whip, you’re in the right frame of reference. At the entrance hangs a signed picture of Barbara Billingsley of “Leave it to Beaver” fame as her sons were the ones who started in the restaurant business in nearby Van Nuys before opening this location.

The setting is old but comfortable and the service friendly and prompt. The clientele: mostly older, mostly regulars. We thought a place with as rich history as Billingsley's would be busier, but the place was rather empty. There’s a bar area where you can grab a very inexpensive drink and watch the game. The drinks won’t be the most amazing but for the price, they're certainly decent.

A glance at the food menu shows that there’s plenty of cuts to choose from, all modestly priced. Most everything is about $30 and that includes a soup or salad, side dish, and garlic cheese toast. As usual we ordered a number of different steaks including the New York, Filet Mignon, and the Porterhouse. All cuts were cooked exactly to order (medium rare) but severely lacked any distinguishable flavor. For an additional $1.95 you can add a bleu cheese crumble or other sauce, but none of us took this option. If this is the only way to get a decent flavor on a steak, perhaps the server should have let us know. We tend to not recommend returning to locations where steak sauce is necessary.

The side dishes were not spectacular, about average or maybe below that depending on what you order. For the same price, North Woods gives you a colossal sized baked potato and unlimited (and much tastier) garlic cheese toast. One of the more disappointing aspects of the meal aside from the flavorless steak, was the Caesar salad. The dressing is clearly bottled and wasn’t even tossed into the salad. The croutons were easily the best part of the salad, which is saying something. Those who chose the split pea soup fared a little better.

When all is said and done and you need a steak to fill your empty stomach, Billingsley’s can do it for not too much money, but the question of flavor comes to mind and there are quite a handful of places that can provide that for the same price. Billingsley’s seems like a place that is resisting change in order to satisfy their older loyal customers, but what it’s clearly not doing is winning over the younger “foodie” generation. With so many choices out there, Billingsley’s needs to try a little harder… especially with their steak. And that Caesar salad.

Billingsley's Photos


#28 The Palm - Downtown

Rating: 4 cows


The Palm is a fairly large national (plus London) chain restaurant specializing in steak. Sitting at the higher end, The Palm competes with the likes of Morton's in the upscale steakhouse category. Los Angeles has two franchises, one in West Hollywood and the other in Downtown. For Steakout XXVIII we dined at the Downtown location.

This was the first time any of us had been to a Palm Restaurant before. The ambiance is reminiscent of early 20th Century restaurants; the kind where you'd probably wear a suit and a bowler. But of course times have changed, and it was no surprise that the bar was packed with patrons wearing LA Kings jerseys in anticipation of the Western Conference Semifinal game being played just a few hundred yards away at the nearby Staples Center.

The dining area at The Palm is large, and with 20-ft ceilings the room feels even larger. Caricatures of celebrities adorn the walls up and down and the place is bright and airy with tile floors and white tablecloths.

Service by the waiters was adequate and perfectly respectable, but it was not a highlight of the evening. But that's ok, because that's not why we were there. We ordered a mix of filet, NY, and rib eye. Both of the filets were cooked to perfection, though they were a bit drier than we'd like. The New York was certainly above average, but not as flavorful as we would have liked, and it was fattier than it needed to be. The bone-in rib eye was especially delicious, exceeding our expectations in both cut, cooking, and flavor. It was also a healthy size at 24 oz and provided some leftovers for another day.

While the steaks were certainly above average, the side dishes were certainly more modest. We ordered the spinach and the au gratin potatoes along with the "half-and-half' which was a french fry/onion rings combo. All were adequate, with the potatoes being our overall favorite while the half-and-half was too greasy for our tastes. The caesar salad was good, but far from the best we've had.

We ordered a bottle of wine to share for those who weren't drinking cocktails. The wine list at The Palm is both extensive and expensive. They have comparatively few wines under $100, and most are well above that. This is not uncommon by any means, but that doesn't make it any less noticeable.

Overall we enjoyed our steaks at The Palm, though the value wasn't quite where we hoped it would be to give it our heartiest recommendations. That said, if you dine here you are not likely to get a bad meal, and a steak almost certainly should be your entree.

Palm Photos


#27 Saddle Ranch - Universal City

Rating: 2 cows


After a few steakhouses that did their best to break our wallets, we decided to kick off the new year with a decidedly more low-key and fun-loving experience. Saddle Ranch Steaks and Chops sits on the famous Universal Citywalk, just outside the Universal Studios theme park. Entering the establishment you are greeted by multiple mechanical bulls in the outdoor seating area. The bar is big and airy, with high ceilings and light wood construction. It's absolutely something you'd expect to be right out of Texas.

We took a seat at the bar while waiting for everyone to arrive. This is not a place where you look at the wine menu, so we kicked things off with beers and a personal pitcher of margarita for a mere $15. To call it a slow night would be an understatement. It was deserted. The restaurant is quite large, with seating for over 500 in both indoor and outdoor settings. The staff were having a good time, and before we had finished our first drinks, we all received a free round of shots. It was the first time since college I had tasted the unmistakable flavor of Midori liqueur. Ah, memories.

We were led around and through the restaurant until we came to the back corner which was the designated seating area for all patrons that night. The prices at Saddle Ranch are about what you'd expect; roughly $30 will get you a good-sized steak and a couple of hearty side dishes. While we waited for our food, our hostess came around with another free round of shots, this time they were red and strawberry-flavored (supposedly her favorite). Did I mention it was a slow night? It made me wonder if the staff was trying to spice things up by seeing how drunk they could get the patrons.

The food at Saddle Ranch was not great, to be quite blunt about it. Still having been spoiled by the surprisingly adequate meal we had at Outback for the same price, our expectations weren't outrageous, but nevertheless ended up being too damn high. The steaks were tough, and while they had some flavor, it was not enough. The portions were large, but that hardly matters when your raison d'être is to serve "steaks and chops". The sides were barely adequate and certainly not remarkable, and by mentioning them here we've already given them more attention than they deserve.

At the end of the meal, we were treated to another freebie: a 3' tower of cotton candy. We ate some of it, and spent the rest of our time trying to see how much could be dissolved into a glass of water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the unscientific answer is A LOT.

We left Saddle Ranch with full bellies, though we were really far from satisfied. It seems unlikely that we will be returning any time in the foreseeable future.

Saddle Ranch Photos


#26 Larsen's - Encino

Rating: 4.25 cows


What better way to say goodbye to 2012 and ring in the new year than with a big juicy steak? Our thoughts exactly. For New Year's Eve 2012 we headed out to Larsen's Steakhouse in Encino for our last meal of the year.

Like most finer establishments, Larsen's featured some special entertainment for the evening, serenading diners with live music that complemented the ambiance quite nicely. Like any good New Year's Eve party however, there was still some kitsch to be had with plastic party hats and favors.

We sat down and were handed menus, bound in faux-leather with everything on a single sheet of paper. As with most steakhouses, the lights are dim and while it's certainly more difficult to read a menu than in, say, a Danny's, it's still quite feasible. That didn't seem to stop Larsen's from creating lighted menus to further enhance the mood. The menus are backlit in a soft bluish light with EL panels, (remember those Timex IndiGLO watches?) All this was alright with us, so long as they didn't skimp on the steak to pay for the lighted menus.

The wait staff was courteous and attentive, and handled our larger party of eight quite well. The prices at Larsen's are on the higher end of the scale, but not quite the tip of the top. Steaks range from about $40-60, with a $15-per-oz NY Wagyu also available. We ordered a variety of cuts, including the filet, porterhouse, NY, and Ribeye along with an assortment of sides.

The steaks were excellent, with superior flavor, texture, and cooked to perfection. At this level it becomes hard to distinguish between various experiences, but we agreeed that Larsen's is indeed a force when it comes to a high-end steakhouse. Everyone was satisfied, and we would all return here in an instant.

We ended our meal with a selection of desserts that were also expertly prepared and equally as delectible. One of us ordered a hot fudge sundae, and while not on the menu, the waiter told us he'd make it happen, and he delivered on that promise. Because of the added entertainment fee for New Year's Eve ($30/person), this was our most expensive Steakout so far.

Larsen's was a fantastic meal to close out the year, and we can't wait to see what 2013 has in store for us…

Larsen's Photos


#25 Cut - Beverly Hills

Rating: 4.5 cows


Wolfgang Puck's CUT had for 14 Steakouts been our favorite restaurant so far in just about every way possible. The ambiance, service and delicious steak combined into a nearly perfect dining experience. So when we were thinking about revisiting a previous location for Steakout XXV, it made for a very likely choice, though not an entirely unanimous one.

Our other top-notch steakhouse has been Mastro's, a restaurant that although it lacks the elusive Michelin Star, is every bit as capable s CUT in delivering an incredible dining experience. For us, while the standard steaks were about as good as CUT, the difference maker was the Wagyu—though it was certainly cheaper than CUT, the Mastro's variety just wasn't quite as good.

But back to CUT. There were two challenges facing Mr. Puck this time around. The first was our expectations, which were understandably high—not only was CUT our favorite overall steakhouse, but it was clearly the most expensive as well. This time around our tolerance would be tested, and our anticipation was high. The second challenge was that our group had swelled from 5 to 9 people, a formiddable task for any restaurant.

The decor had changed significantly since our last visit, and we learned that every 18 months or so they go through a minor remodel to freshen the look. The service was just as good as we remember, courteous and highly professional. Apart from the decor, one thing we noticed right away was that prices had been modestly increased for their standard steaks. We decided to pass on the Wagyu this time around.

When the steaks arrived, they were plated just as before and looked every bit as tasty as we had remembered. Mr. Puck knows how to cook a steak, there's no doubt about that. But we all couldn't help coming away with the feeling that this time just wasn't quite as good as the last. In fairlness to CUT, these steaks were still fantastic and wonderfully delicious, and easily in the highest calibre of all the steaks we've tried on this ongoing adventure.

And whether it was our largeer party or our impossibly high expectations, the end result was a less-than-satisfied feeling. Perhaps it was quite literally impossible for CUT to live up to our expectations, and while that may in fact be true, it doesn't change the way we all felt, and the fact remains that we paid more money for steaks that were (if only quite modestly) inferior to the last time we were there. So our ratings, while still excellent, do reflect this.

Perhaps this phenomenon will befall other steakhouses that we return to, only time will tell.

Cut Photos