Next Steakout



#16 Nick & Stef's - Downtown

Rating: 4 cows


Located in the heart of downtown L.A., hidden off a patio amidst a sea of tall buildings, you may have passed by Nick & Stef's steakhouse without even knowing it's there. Indeed the location is somewhat unbecoming of an upscale steakhouse, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this place doesn't take its steak seriously.

The bar area is smallish and awkwardly shaped, stuck in a large corner by the entryway. The bartenders are capable and you even get a view of a stone patio where you can watch the workday crowd slowly trickle out.

The dining area is starkly decorated, with muted colors so as to not distract you from the reason you're here. Adjoining to the kitchen is Nick & Stef's signature aging room. Here you'll see racks and racks of beef quietly waiting to be cooked up when the time is right. If you don't see it on your way to your table, your server will be more than glad to point it out to you for an up-close inspection. And no, you cannot choose your own steak.

The menu at Nick and Stef's gets right down to business. There's the steak, the premium dry-aged steak, a few non-steak options, and the salads and sides. If you're the kind of person who likes a glass of wine or two with your steak, you'll be happy to know that they have a good selection of wines from around the world perfect for any price range. You'll be even happier to know that they don't have a corkage fee, so that Château Pétrus Bordeaux you've been waiting to open won't set you back any more than it already has.

The steaks here were very good. We felt that the price to value here was just about perfect: the prices are not cheap, but they certainly don't occupy the highest end of the steakhouse spectrum. And the steak is commensurate with that; a very good cut and finely aged piece of meat, cooked well to your liking and served at the just the right temperature. This may not be the best steak you ever eat, but it's excellent and well above average. All our steaks were cooked just right, and there was not a bottle of steak sauce in sight. The steaks were well-sized and nicely blackened, which made for a delicious and enjoyable meal.

Not to be outdone, the side dishes were surprisingly good as well. The popular made-at-your-table caesar salad was very good and ample in size, while the classic wedge was good, but not outstanding. The mushrooms and mac and cheese were also excellent, as were the au gratin potatoes.

The servers were friendly and attentive and did a fantastic job accomodating our somewhat large party of 6. When we finished our meal, we were even treated with some homemade peanut brittle, nicely wrapped for us to take home and snack on. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable meal and we wouldn't hesitate to come back and eat here again.

Nick & Stef's Photos


#15 Dal Rae - Pico Rivera

Rating: 3.5 cows


During our ongoing steak adventure, every once awhile we get to visit a venerable old steakhouse borne from the halcyon days of the mid-20th century. Our visit to Dal Rae was another such experience.

Dal Rae opened in Pico Rivera in 1958—the same year that baseball arrived in Los Angeles. And like baseball, a good steak is about as American as you can get. The bar area is completely separated from the restaurant and includes booths, short tables with low-back chairs, and the usual seats right at the barkeep. The dining room evokes the feeling of being at an elegant banquet; the lighting is ample but comfortable and not too bright.

The signature steak at the Dal Rae is their pepper steak. You might say that there's a tasty steak underneath all those onions, peppers, and bacon bits, and you'd be right for the most part. We felt the pepper was a bit overpowering to the steak. It tasted good, but it wasn't really that necessary and actually took away from the steak because, to quote Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction "they fuckin' drown 'em in that shit". Two of us had the bone-in rib eye, which was cooked as ordered and tasty.

The side dishes weren't anything particular to write home about—the breadsticks were tasty and the vegetable platter was a nice addition. The french fries were mediocre, and the surprise order of cheese bread was surprisingly good, in the style of the famous menu item over at North Woods Inn if you get it while it's still warm. The baked potato and green beans were satisfactory.

We had a party of 7 which was by no means small, but it seemed that the service was slower than was warranted for the situation. The place was well-packed for a weeknight though, which certainly added to their workload although the wait staff were very friendly and made us feel quite welcome.

The experience was definitely enjoyable, and if you're near the area it's certainly worth a visit even if you just hang out at the bar. They have their own parking lot but there's a mandatory valet. For our tastes the verdict was unanimous: 3.5 cows across the board. Perhaps they perfected the "jack of all trades" moniker, but the ambiance and history of this place make it just a little bit more special than that.

Dal Rae Photos


#14 North Woods Inn - Rosemead

Rating: 3 cows


If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, you've probably seen one of the three Clearman's North Woods Inn restaurants. They're the ones built to look like a log cabin, with snow on the roof year-round—certainly something that stands out in southern California. The interior follows the same design theme, featuring a very informal setting with unpainted wooden tables and floors, animal heads on the wall, and signs encouraging you to throw your peanut shells on the floor. You could see a patron here wearing fringed leather and a coonskin hat and it wouldn't seem at all out of place.

Our evening started off on the wrong foot, as we were seated almost 20 minutes later than our reservation. Admittedly we were a party of 12, but the reservation was made weeks in advance and the restaurant was far from full. This was compounded by the fact that it took an additional 8 minutes after being seated before any wait staff came out to talk to us.

Fortunately, things improved from that point. Our waitress was very competent, and the drink and food orders all came out in a timely manner. The menu featured several steaks, including "steak chunks on skewer" and a "lumberjack steak," but our group ordered more traditional cuts: filet mignon, ribeye, new york strip, and porterhouse. The menu also deserves a special Steakout nod for stating "we do not recommend cooking steaks past medium as they tend to lose their flavor." We couldn't agree more!

This review would be remiss if it did not mention the cheese bread, which is included as an appetizer with every dinner. Not only is it cheesy, warm, and delicious, but you can eat as much as you want. They will even bring you out a whole basket to take home with your leftovers. You're likely to have other leftovers, because in addition to the cheese bread every dinner also includes two different salads, a rice pilaf, and a baked potato, all of which come in generous portions.

The steaks themselves were merely average. The weakest point may have been the the cuts—most of the meat had a lot of fat on the edges. Including one of the filets, which is highly unusual for that cut. The quality of the meat was average; not particularly juicy, tender, or flavorful but also not dry or tough. The steaks were cooked on a grill without very much seasoning.

North Woods Inn is a restaurant that lives on its rustic theme and provides a great deal of quantity at the expense of quality. This is not to say that the food is bad—it is merely unremarkable, with the exception of the delicious cheese bread. The prices, ranging from $24 - $36 for steaks, are reasonable for the amount of food that you receive. It is certainly worth at least one visit to enjoy the frontier lodge theme, but come hungry - and be sure to take home some cheese bread.

North Woods Inn Photos


#13 Mastro's - Beverly Hills

Rating: 5 cows


Through our monthly travels to various steakhouses, there has been one location mentioned time and time again by friends of ours: Mastro's. As it were, Mastro's appeared to be the overall favorite and frankly, we were starting to feel the pressure. After twelve steakouts, it was high time we hit up this popular place and decided on the Beverly Hills location.  

The ambiance of Mastro's is dark and intimate, but with enough light to make it comfortable and welcoming. The downstairs appears to be sectioned off for larger groups or private parties while the upstairs for the remaining dining patrons. There's a bar on both floors, always a welcome sight, and live music on the top floor. We decided that the subtle recordings of Frank Sinatra during the musician's break were more pleasing to our ears while stuffing our faces with cow, but since we were far enough away, it wasn't a real bother.  

Mastro's menu is extensive and features enough appetizers and starters to please any palate. The customizable seafood tower is a definite highlight but can certainly add to the food bill quickly ($75 for two). For steak, the majority of us went for the medium rare double Porterhouse to split, which cost $88 (or $44 per person). The double sized steak was cut for us and portions of each section served on our individual plates.  But wait, you can't dig in just yet! The appetizers we ordered arrived immediately following and were also plated one at a time to each of us.  We were worried that our meat would be cold by the time the appetizers were served, but thankfully our concerns were for naught. The porterhouse was divine, cooked to perfection with just the right amount of seasoning.  

The appetizers were equally impressive (there are twelve types of potato sides on the menu), each one large enough for sharing. The winner and definite must-have was the Alaskan King Crab Black Truffle Gnocchi which was absolutely delicious. Also ordered was the Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli. All were very good, easily the best side dish selections of any place we've tried.  

Having unanimously enjoyed CUT, Mastro's had a lot to live up to and by the end of the meal we were all struggling to figure out where we stood. Where Cut succeeded in its service and cuts of meat, Mastro's succeeded in its side dishes and offerings, while serving up an equally delicious steak. The only disappointment here was the Wagyu steak which sold out just before we could order it. But because Mastro's was excellent despite that, we'd be very happy to return another time. And if the Wagyu is sold out again, well… I don't think we'd mind all that much either.   

Mastro's Photos



#12 Smoke House - Burbank

Rating: 2.5 cows


We chose The Smoke House in Burbank mainly for its historical significance. The place goes back to the 40s, and “The Tonight Show” was hosted there in 1956. That, partnered with a great name promoting meat goodness we though it might be a reasonable priced steakhouse paired with great meat.

For this steakout, we had the largest dining party thus far. The Smoke House handled multiple reservation number changes without a problem over the phone. One request was made to have a separate table for some of our guests which consisted of a newborn and family. When we got there, they didn't have a separate table and everyone was set up on one long table with more seats then requested. It seemed that only the original reservation request was honored. We had no problem making it work for our needs as the place was not crowded. On a busy night, this perhaps could've been a problem. Our hostess was cheery and had a fun attitude joking around with us. However, when we asked her questions about the menu's items she gave us very vague and sometimes incorrect answers. However, that is what waiters are for. We ordered several Ribeyes, Porterhouses, and New York Strips. A special on Thursday nights is a bacon wrapped petite filet for $15. Not a bad deal but it was much too small for any of us to choose as an entree, however some of our guests did.

Our steaks, when they arrived, were simply placed on the plate with the sides. Nothing fancy, no garnishes, etc. Once we cut into the steaks we discovered that several were overcooked. One guest's bacon wrapped filet's bacon was overcooked to being almost completely burnt. Following up to improperly cooked steaks would be the taste, which in a word was “bland”. This was quite a disappointment for all of us as we were hoping for some significant flavor. Our searching for a tasteful juicy bit of steak was ultimately left unfulfilled.

To The Smoke House's credit, their menu has a lot of non-steak options and we were told their lunch business is very good. While we can't solidly recommend The Smoke House for their steaks, it may be worth a lunchtime visit to try another (non-steak) menu item.

Smoke House Photos