The art of restaurant reviewing has become democratized thanks to websites like Yelp, where anyone with internet access can pretend to be America’s next great food critic. But every so often, a professional review comes along that truly deserves some time in the spotlight.
A newly published, scathing, zero-star critique of the storied New York steakhouse Peter Luger has done just that.
The Brooklyn institution — which earned one Michelin star in 2012 and is consistently ranked as the best steakhouse in the Big Apple — has been around since 1887. It specializes in dry-aged porterhouse steaks, sized for two to four people, with classic sides served à la carte. Despite the fact that meals cost upwards of $300 a person (and, until recently, only cash was accepted) it's a very popular spot among locals, tourists and even celebrities.
In addition to boasting a 4.4-star rating on Google from 6,700 reviews, the restaurant has received glowing assessments from respected food publications, as well. Zagat ranked Peter Luger food as a 4.8, and Time Out, which gave it three stars, called it “a singular New York experience that’s worth having.”
But all that was turned upside down with Pete Wells' most recent review published Tuesday.
The New York Times critic’s takedown, aptly titled “Peter Luger Used to Sizzle. Now It Sputters,” spares no feelings with its brutality.
“What gnaws at me every time I eat a Luger porterhouse is the realization that it’s just another steak, and far from the best New York has to offer,” Wells wrote, adding that “the Department of Motor Vehicles is a block party compared with the line at Peter Luger,” and argued that “management seems to go out of its way to make things inconvenient.”
Wells also slammed nearly every item on the menu, including the sauces, which the restaurant not only serves in its restaurant but also sells online.
“The shrimp cocktail has always tasted like cold latex dipped in ketchup and horseradish. The steak sauce has always tasted like the same ketchup and horseradish fortified by corn syrup,” he said.
“And after I’ve paid, there is the unshakable sense that I’ve been scammed,” he concluded of his experience.
The review went viral shortly after it was published. It received so many comments that the Times quickly published a follow-up piece featuring a selection of the best reactions. The review was also trending on social media Tuesday, with hundreds of commenters thanking Wells for stating what many seemed to be suspecting for years.
Model-turned-Twitter personality Chrissy Teigen felt validated by the review.
And countless others, both New Yorkers and visitors, vehemently agreed.
Many were just amused by Wells' poignant prose.
Wells, who has been a restaurant critic for the New York Times since November 2011, is likely most famous for his 2012 takedown of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square.
He wrote the entire zero-star review as a series of questions posed to Fieri, ranging from comical commentary on the food itself (“Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?”) to cutting comments targeted directly at the celebrity chef and his body of work ("When you cruise around the country for your show 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,' rasping out slangy odes to the unfancy places where Americans like to get down and greasy, do you really mean it? Or is it all an act?")
But despite the many accolades Wells' latest piece has received, the management at Peter Luger isn’t going down without a fight.
The restaurant responded to the review early Tuesday evening: “While the reviewers and their whims have changed, Lugers has always focused on doing one thing exceptionally well — serving the highest quality of steak — with a member of our family buying every piece of USDA Prime beef individually, just as we have done for decades,” Peter Luger co-owner Jody Storch told the New York Post.
“We know who we are and have always been," Storch continued. "The best steak you can eat. Not the latest kale salad."
Only time will tell if a single review actually has the power to affect business at the legendary institution.