So in this world of hyperventilating food magazines, shows, and their ilk, I'm happy to say that I think Keen's Steakhouse deserves all the accolades it collects.
Keen's has been open since 1885. Before Keen's opened, Herald Square was the most popular location for theaters in the city. The Lambs Club was a London-based theater and literary society whose manager was Albert Keen. At the height of Herald Square's nightlife Keen turned the eating, smoking, and drinking club into a public restaurant and the current Keen's was born. For its first decade or so, Herald Square was the city's hotspot and Keen's was one of the see-and-be-seen locations of Tin Pan Alley nightlife. At the turn of the century, the theaters would begin migrating to Longacre Square, which would later be called Times Square. But the good news was the new R.H. Macy's store opened a block away in 1902.
Like most older establishments, there was a period of hard times and slow business. The 60s and 70s were a time of economic and population decline in New York and restaurant trends certainly weren't doing old places like Keen's any favors. So in 1978 the nearly defunct restaurant was bought by restaurateur/radiologist George Schwarz. The renovation was at least $1 million and created an amazing restaurant. There are some old places that seem old-fashioned and unchanged, and some that seem to be museums of themselves. But Keen's, under Schwarz's stewardship, has become a rare hybrid: A place that feels historic, authentic, modern, and well-loved all at the same time. The floorboards creak and the stairs sag. The brick hearth still smolders on cold nights. Framed memorabilia from the past 120 years lines the walls. But going beyond the history, Keen's has a modern way about it. The service is competent, consistent, and friendly. The whiskey list is so extensive it is broken into multiple menus. The space feels elegant in its age, not shabby.
And then there is the food. Our party got a variety of porterhouse, filet mignon, and the famous mutton chop. Plus we got creamed spinach, potatoes, and some veggies. While the sides were nice, the meat really was stellar. In it's original days, the mutton really was mature sheep meat. Now it is something closer to lamb. But it is still an epic cut of meat, with some marrow in the bone for the intrepid diner. The porterhouse had a delicious char and was wonderfully cooked. The experience doesn't come cheap. The meats alone run close to $50. But the experience is such a unique one and the food and service so exquisite that it merits the prices. There is a final advantage in Keen's favor. Midtown is often a dead zone of food with most of the best food finding its way downtown and across the East River. So Keen's stands head and shoulders above the other options in the area of Herald Square and Penn Station. If you are looking for an amazing experience, go to Keen's.
What a Mutton!