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food new york

Beefsteak!

Even though I'm gen­er­al­ly a West Coast kind of guy, I devour books about New York — its chaot­ic begin­nings as a law­less, crazy quilt of neigh­bor­hoods and gangs; its trans­for­ma­tion into a mas­sive mod­ern city; the pecu­liar dynam­ics of its organ­ic growth. If New York didn't destroy me every­time I vis­it, I think I'd prob­a­bly live there.A few weeks ago, the New Yorker's Twit­ter stream point­ed me to an excel­lent Joseph Mitchell essay about a (most­ly) van­ished New York tra­di­tion, the beef­steak. Mitchell laid out the basics in his clas­sic 1939 essay, "All You Can Hold For Five Bucks:"

The foun­da­tion of a good beef­steak is an over­flow­ing amount of meat and beer. The tick­ets usu­al­ly cost five bucks, and the rule is "All you can hold for five bucks." If you're able to hold a lit­tle more when you start home, you haven't been to a beef­steak, you've been to a ban­quet that they called a beef­steak. From Up in the Old Hotel, an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of Mitchell's New York­er essays

We've missed out on the beefsteak's prime, so to speak, but the Bea­con Restau­rant start­ed a new tra­di­tion 10 years ago. The New York Sun's account of the 2004 edi­tion includes cours­es very much like those Mitchell describes — tiny ham­burg­ers, bacon-wrapped lamb kid­neys, dou­ble-thick lamb chops, and of course steak — "huge roast­ed Cer­ti­fied Angus shell loins that had been cut into thick slabs and doused with melt­ed but­ter."This year's beef­steak is in Feb­ru­ary. I'm intrigued, though I'm sure it will destroy me.

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