As it happens so many times, Spoon and Fork could not decide what to eat, what borough to travel to, what cuisine we wanted. All Fork knew was, get out of Manhattan! The sidewalks were jammed. The streets were jammed. This was making for some very unhappy cutlery. Let’s try Queens. Now we have a borough, but we can’t quite get to a cuisine. Okay, so when all else fails – STEAK! We had been reading about a number of steak places in Astoria, but couldn’t remember the names of any. Thank goodness for Blackberries and Google!
What we came across was Lucas Steakhouse. And all I can say from the outset – without being too silly – is HOLY COW.
This wonderful steakhouse is off the beaten path in Astoria. As a matter of fact, as you drive around looking for a parking space you wonder if the address on the internet was wrong. But there it was, right on the corner, hard to miss. Warm and inviting. Great glass fronts (more on that at the end).
When you walk in and you are istantly trasported to a dining room on a cattle ranch somewhere in the midwest – perhaps a 21st Century Bonanza set. There are only 6 tables (3 sets of 4, and 3 sets of 2), but I am sure that the configuration can be moved around a bit to accomodate more people. The tables are wood. The chairs are tufted leather with leather buttons. Some are wing, some are straight backed. Against the windows in the front are small square, cowhide covered pillows for those sitting on the leather tufted bunch by the window. The tables are simply, but elegantly set. A cow hide hanging on one wall, great chandelier in the center of the room. The room is just warm and inviting, from the tin ceiling down to the hardwood floors, all browns and chocolates.
Our server approached with menus, the wine list, and a big smile. We asked for iced tea. Now, out of the corner of my eye I watched one of the bus boys run out……then run back in with a bag from the local market. I then watched our waiter putting ice into a small pitcher. Moments later our iced tea arrived. Fresh as can be, large glasses, and these large glasses were refilled over and over again before the last sip was taken. Bottomless, fresh iced tea – gotta love it!
The menu is a meat eaters paradise. There is a token fish dish (and the special this night was a fish dish as well). There is a token poultry dish. Surprisingly most of the appetisers are some form of seafood, as were the appetizer specials.
Fortunately for us, there was the standard Legendary Wedge Salad. Knowing we were sharing everything, the chef was kind enough to split the wedge for us. It’s wonderful when a restaurant takes the extra step to make their customers happy and comfortable – and without asking. Bacon and a three peppercorn gorgonzola dressing make this simple dish fantastic. The candied pecans knock it out of the park. The one downside, the iceberg was not as fresh as it good have – or should have – been. There were leaves on the bottom starting to brown, and it didn’t taste all that fresh, and that made it a little unappetizing. None the less, we forced (ha ha) ourselves to eat the bacon, dressing and pecans! This was a great salad even with the wilty lettuce.
Our other appetizer was the Beefsteak and Buffalo Mozzarella. The tomatoes were so flavorful, noting better than end of summer tomatoes! The slices of buffalo mozzarella on top of each tomato slice were room temperature and perfectly buttery and soft. Coupled with with basil leaves and aged balsamic, life is beautiful. This is one of my favorite appetizers always and this one did not disappoint. There could have been a bit more balsamic on the plate, but it was really good. I don’t remember any Himalayan sea salt on this, I do remember it needing salt. WARNING – the salt grinder shoots a ridiculous amount of salt onto your food – and all in one spot! Grind it onto the side of your plate and sprinkle it on yourself.
Just before the steak was brought from the kitchen for service, three trivets appeared at our table. One for Spoon, one for Fork, and one in the middle of the table. The waiter brought our dinner plates to the table, with the warning, these are VERY hot. Being the mature cutlery we are, we naturally had to touch the plates, and indeed, they were VERY hot! How fantastic!
Now for the STEAK – the reason we came to this hidden gem! The steak was amazing. Prime cut, 28 day dry aged, 24 oz., bone-in rib eye. Perfectly grilled. Perfectly seasoned. Tender. Flavorful. Rare in the center for Spoon and more done on the edges for Fork. Just enough fat for flavor. Salt and pepper and rosemary was all this needed. Butter added on top at the end for a perfect finish. The steak was sliced in the kitchen and brought to the table for serving.
Along with the steak was the chef’s homemade steak sauce. Very good steak sauce, just the right amount of sweet and heat. If steak sauce isn’t your thing, they also have red wine, au poivre, and bernaise sauces.
In what seems to be the trend in restaurants these days, no sides are served with the entrees, BUT at Lucas there are plenty to choose from! You can have potatoes five different ways, the usual steakhouse-type creamed spinach, asparagus or sauteed wild mushrooms. Spoon and Fork could not resist the Sweet Potato Fries. The chef’s special seasoning is really good. Spicy. Perfectly matched for the carmelized sweet potato fries.
After that very heavy meal, can there really be room for dessert? Knowing Spoon and Fork, does anyone even have to wonder? Profiterol with Caramel Whipped Cream? Cheesecake? Let’s ask our waiter, his suggestions so far have been spot on. Cheesecake, says he, Lucas’ cheesecake is outstanding. I think every restaurant thinks their cheesecake is outstanding, but in this instance he was right. This cheesecake IS outstanding. It’s worth ordering it for the crust alone. The crust is very thick and buttery, slighty salty and sweet – imagine all that at the same time. The filling was delicate and creamy, not overpowering as some cheesecakes can be. This was served with a berry coulis and a dollop of the caramel whipped cream. Folks, it don’t get much better than that!
The staff is great. The waiters, bus boys, even the manager very attentive, checking to see how we liked everything. The manager asked how we liked the cheesecake and then described all the new desserts Chef Carlos Simoes had planned for the winter menu. (Just remember to update your website when you change the menu – not doing so is a pet peeve of the Cutlery!)
There are only a couple of downsides to this restaurant – but we think they’re just growing pains – as of this writing Lucas has been open for 5 months. There is a LOT of staff for a 6 table restaurant. Two waiters, two bus boys, manager, bartender, and another either bartender or manager teaching the bartender the ropes. Fortunately they don’t hover, but they do seem to not have alot to do, and in a small restaurant you occasionally feel as if you are under a microscope.
The other problem – the windows! The front of Lucas has large windows. I believe they open. I felt behind me and there was a latch. Great in the summer – BUT the benches against the window have no back. Just a pillow to lean against. If the windows were to open, then you can’t lean back and sitting up straight like that through a meal may have been the way it was done in parochial school, but people like to be comfy when they eat.
Even just to lean against, the pillows are too small and too squishy. When you lean back against them you are too far from the table. Two pillows are uncomfortable. The pillows are beautiful, perhaps they need to be slightly larger or more firmly stuffed. Or maybe a half back of a banquet behind you.
AND IT’S COLD! The night we were there Fork sat against the windows on the very comfortable banquet, but as the sun went down and the night air turned cooler, Fork was very cold. My back where the pillow was placed was okay, but my shoulders and neck were freezing! Lucas is located on a corner and I can only imagine how chilly those 4 seats against the window are going to be during the winter, especially on a windy night. A large curtain rod hung about a foot from the top of the windows with a heavy velvet drape would fit the room and keep those seats warm. If they were to come from either side of the windows they could be slid open during the day or on a mild night.
I cannot WAIT to go back and try this wonderful restaurant again! Right now they are only open for dinner, but they are open 7 days a week, beginning at 5:oo p.m.
Lucas Steakhouse ~ 34-55 32nd Street ~ Astoria, New York ~ 718.786.5200