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The 20 Best Steaks In America

The 20 Best Steaks In America

by John Mariani

Esquire200809CoverThis may be the last article worth reading about American steak. Great beef will soon be so expensive and so difficult to obtain that the dishes on this list will be available to even fewer people than they already are. American prime beef at its best is the finest in the world. It has more flavor than Argentine beef from cows free-ranging around the pampas; French Charolais. bred for tenderness since A.D. 878; or Italian beef from the Val di Chiana region which goes into the famous bistecca alia fiorentina. These cows feed on grass, and the meat isn’t aged after slaughter. Most American cattle feed on corn. which might not please your doctor. but it bulks up the cows and gives them a sweet flavor with a rich marbling of fat and a minerality enhanced through long, careful aging.

The problem is that what distinguishes American beef is what’s leading to its demise. Increasing world demand for corn and the continuing misguided adventure into ethanol have combined to drive up the price. Ten years ago, com sold for an average of about two dollars a bushel; right now it’s above seven dollars-a huge jump when you consider farm subsidies- and seven pounds are required to produce a pound of beef. So if you’re paying forty·five dollars for a prime strip at your favorite steakhouse now, next year it might cost you sixty. And that’s assuming the ever-multiplying deluxe steakhouse chains can even get enough prime. Don’t bank on it.

Which is why this article may be your last best chance to seek out and eat the best beef in the world, Cut by cut, dish by dish. But I hope not.

In naming America’s best steaks, which are presented below by cut. I considered two main criteria:

• Diversity of preparation. I probably could have filled half the list with ribeyes from California, but that’s no fun. I wanted porterhouse, strip, Italian, Cajun, Japanese-style, chicken-fried, churrascos-steak in alt its forms (even cheesesteak). Once I settled on a dish that fell into one of these essential categories, I pretty much moved on.

• Quality of meat. You will notice that the city of New York appears on the list far more than any other. This is due to the simple fact that most prime beef in this country-and prime only accounts for about 2percent of beef overall-goes to New York steakhouses and restaurants, I can’t help it.

playboysmallJess & Jim’s
Kansas City, Missouri

On the side: Twice· baked one-and-a half- pound Idaho potato

For about the first five seconds after you click 0n Jess &. Jlm’s Web site, you hear the Pavlovian sound of a steak sizzling on a griddle. Close your eyes and imagine you’re hearing the KC Playboy Strip-a 25-oz sirloin-cooking. Next imagine eating it. If you are not within a one-hour drive of Jess &. Jim’s when you perform this exercise…well that’ll be unfortunate. 517East 135th Street;             816-941-9499      . ;