Dear Mr. Gold:
I've had the steak at Jar, done the Campanile Kansas City thing, spent a paycheck at Cut and spent way too much time with Ruth and Morton, so tell me something I don't know: Where can I find a delicious $25 steak in L.A. with a low corkage fee and some killer fries? I won't sneer at a great Caesar or strawberry shortcake to round out this $50 per person (plus corkage) discovery.
--Michael Carey, via Facebook
Dear Mr. Carey:
It's the great conundrum: Steak costs. And if you have ever gone out looking for steakhouse-quality meat to cook at home, you know why. When you find high-prime, well-marbled, naturally raised, dry-aged steaks of the quality you'd find at a decent restaurant, at Huntington Meats, McCall's, Lindy & Grundy or Alexander's Prime Meats, the price nudges $30 a pound. You can tiptoe around the issue with flank steak, skirt steak or flatiron steak -- a decent-tasting cut of meat cut from what would be called the rotator cuff if the subject at hand were a major-league pitcher instead of a cow -- but if you're going to Morton's or Wolfgang's, there are no bargains.
My happiest steak dinners out tend to be at either Cut, where the best wagyu, priced at $20 per ounce, has so much flavor that a two-ounce portion of a split eight-ounce steak hardly feels like a deprivation, or at Jocko's, 200 miles north in Nipomo, where the meat may not be prime but the oak-grilled Spencer steaks are practically a religion.
I was about to mention Taylor's, where not everything is prime, but the culotte steak is: tender, meaty, with that funky-tart tang that only dry-aging can produce. It's a great steak, but at $29.95, perhaps no longer a bargain. The nine-ounce pepper-rubbed natural ribeye at Spice Table falls into your range, and is a total umami bomb. The Venice Room -- you get to grill your own! But if I were hungry for steak at the moment, I'd probably call Salt's Cure and find out what might be on tonight's menu. Almost nobody sources meat better than they do, the preparations are straightforward but superb, and if you buy a bottle of wine from their list, they tend to be pretty cool about corkage.