Every once and awhile you have to treat yourself to what I like to call "bro-ing out". And what better place to "bro-out" than a steakhouse. When I think of steakhouse, I think of a male clubhouse. You might see woman there, but its definitely a very masculine atmosphere from the decor and noise level to the menu. My friend Ed took me on a "business meeting" to Sparks Steakhouse on 46th Street between Second and Third Ave. Ed loves Sparks and visits it quite frequent so I guess its safe to say he's a regular. Developing regulars is a huge part of owning a successful restaurant, so I was very curious to why he was such a loyal guest. I was also excited because Sparks was started in 1966 by the Cetta brothers--Pat Cetta being a huge mentor to Danny Meyer (one of the most successful restauranteurs in the country). Maybe I watch the Sopranos too much but it was also cool to see the spot where Paul Castellano was gunned down allowing John Gotti to take his spot as head of the Gambino crime family.
Our reservations were at 6, but we didn't arrive till 6:30ish because we were chatting it up at the Beer Bar at Cafe Centro right outside of grand central. This is a cool spot if you're waiting for the train, but not somewhere I'd come just for a beer. They offered every table chips and salsa which was pretty cool. The restaurant was a lot bigger than I had imagined. We walked into the dimly lit space and encountered a bunch of men in tuxedos. Ed chatted up one of the guys in a remember me kind of moment then gave him a "handshake". We were offered a table right away, but Ed wanted to grab some drinks in the bar before we sat. There were two bartenders behind the bar--both of them wearing chef whites. It was a little disappointing when I learned that they didn't know how to mix a Manhattan. The old bartender just poured in the whiskey (I asked for Rye) and poured sweet vermouth on top of it. No bitters, no measurements. I also received it on the rocks after asking for a Rye Manhattan up. You would think a steakhouse bartender would know how to mix a Manhattan. I guess next time i'll just order some scotch on the rocks--don't think they could fuck that up!
We then moved to our table. The maitre d' who Ed chatted up remained close by all night and took very good care of us. He brought a cheese plate (not on the menu) to enjoy while we were looking at the menu. The cheese plate of Fontina was delicious and got me excited for what was about to come.
I picked out a nice Burgundy from Chassagne-Montrachet to go with our dinner. Known for their white wines, we went with red. Not only do I love Pinot Noir, but I didn't want anything to heavy and tannic so we skipped on the Cabs/Bordeaux blends. Our next course of lump crab meat hit the table only minutes after we ordered it. The kitchen split the appetizer onto separate plates which I love. Not that I mind picking off one plate--it just makes you feel special as stupid as that sounds. The crab meat was fresh and delicious--a nice light appetizer. Next we got a caesar salad in attempts to get our greens! By the final course, I was starting to get full; but my hunger crept back as soon as my sirloin steak hit the table. Charred on the outside and cooked beautiful Medium-Rare--my mouth started to water. Cream spinach and mushrooms played their roles; but my attention was so focused on the steak. After the sirloin, I couldn't fit anything else so we skipped on dessert.The maitre d' did bring us a 25 year-old port after we had paid our check.
Not only is it an accomplishment to stay in business for along as Sparks has, but they are constantly recognized with awards from Wine Spectator and always on people's list of NYC's great steakhouses. Its very old school, but it works. People might not rush back for their Manhattans, but they will rush back for the steaks...and the attention you will get if deemed a regular.