You can tell a lot about a man by how he carries himself.
By the way he dresses, how he treats strangers and relatives alike. All of these are true. But I think there’s another way to learn a lot about who someone is, a way that’s both primal and sophisticated, a method that penetrates the deepest corner of your soul.
I’m not talking about the cut of your jib. I’m talking about the cut of your steak.
A few weeks ago, our friends down at Sullivan’s Steakhouse set us up with a phenomenal meal to show off some new elements of their fall/winter menu. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to try one of their perfectly, professionally prepared steaks, so I dove right in.
My choice, an extra-rare tomahawk rib eye, was met with a grin and definitive nod of approval from our waiter, who then remarked, “Fine order. Great cut. You can tell a lot about someone from how they order their steak.”
That got me thinking about the nature of a steakhouse order. Is there a behavioral science behind this? Is there something psychological? Who knows. But this study, based on absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever was super enlightening all the same.
We broke down the order into three dimensions.
CUT: Your selection of beef and the basis of your meal.
COOK: How you want your steak prepared with fire.
COCKTAIL: What liquid libation you want to accompany your meal.
These dimensions help paint a perfect picture of someone from the plate up. So dig in, and enjoy.
The granddaddy of all cuts is not messing around. It’s bigger, it’s better, and it’s still got the bone in it. You’re not the type to mess around with sides or fillers (mashed potatoes are for peasants) so you just go straight for the throat, or in this case, the short loin. In life, you choose to go big or go home, enjoying bigger, bolder and more brazen tastes in everything you do. Life’s too short to be tame.
SIRLOIN/NEW YORK STRIP
Sometimes simpler is better, and going classic means you know exactly what you’re getting. You don’t always need the priciest cut to appreciate a good meal—especially if it’s done right. To you, steak is steak as long as it’s made the way you prefer, and you live life the same way. You’re the kind who’s just as happy with a backyard barbecue as you are with an evening out.
Just because it’s a cut of cow, doesn’t mean it has to be crude. You take a lesson from the French and go for quality over quantity with the smaller, juicier tenderloin cut. You appreciate premium and know that no large amount of anything mediocre can make up for the finer things done right.
You value flavor overall. When you come to a steakhouse, you’re going all in. No counting carbs, no dodging cholesterol, no ‘lean cuts’ (whatever the hell those are). No, you want those ribbons of fat running through your steak to bring the biggest flavor to the table, which means you’re the kind of man who knows what he wants and goes for it. To hell with the consequences—that’s what being driven is about. To quote Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” You sir, are a whole ass kind of guy.
Let’s not beat around the bush, steak is about as anti-vegetarian as you can get, with the exception of veal or lamb. Ordering a steak rare means you want to keep all the natural flavor.
Straight-forward middle ground. Not too cooked, not too rare. Just right. You move in moderation and like to play it close to the hip, with little risk. And while many would say the middle-ground is the safe route, you prefer to say it’s the modest one. You don’t need any flash to know your choice is good enough for you.
You’re no nonsense with your steak. No pink, no blood. Cook it all the way through to completion. Some say it loses flavor, but you say it gains a grittier taste. That’s how you roll. You see things through, don’t flake, and stick to your guns in everything you do, making sure you’re reliable and trustworthy—if a little predictable.
You are a savage, and I respect that. I once ordered a steak “blue” and the waiter asked me if I knew what that meant. I laughed and told him to put it on the grill, look at it, and put it back on the plate. Then he laughed. Then we all laughed. Anyways, this cook is really the most primal way to enjoy your steak; and means you’re in it for the sheer enjoyment of a great cut of meat. You’re a carnivore to the core, so get back to your cro-magnon roots, go outside, and club yourself some dinner.
Red meat and bourbon are about as American as apple pie and baseball and go together better than peanut butter and jelly. Seriously, they do. It’s well-known they compliment each other perfectly, more so than fruit and peanut mush. Bourbon for your steak is a classic choice, meaning you stick to traditions and rituals that so many have enjoyed before you—and for good reasons. You’re a no-nonsense kind of guy who knows there’s something important in keeping to your staples.
If you’re going with a cocktail, you’re going with a classic from the Mad Men era. The bourbon (or Rye) in both of these is already perfect for a steak. Ordering one of these says you’re going for a little flair with your fare and show you hold an evening at a steakhouse in high regard. If you’re going out, you might as well go all out—moderation is overrated. One of these cocktails with a fine steak meal shows you know the true meaning of treating yourself and doing so in style.
Complexity isn’t always better—sometimes it’s the simplest things that really shine through. Whether you’re a domestic pilsner or a double imperial stout kind of hophead, ordering a beer with your steak means you’re of the simple, no-frills kind of disposition. You don’t need fancy décor, cocktails, or presentation to enjoy a good steakhouse meal. Just focus on what’s important and get a the little things right. Down to earth is your demeanor to the core.
A nice Cabernet Sauvignon shows a fine palate and sense that you know what you’re doing. Maybe try a Malbec if you’re looking for something spicier to go with your Argentinian skirt steak. Either way, red wine is a sophisticated counterpart to steak that no man should shy away from.
If you get white wine with a steak you don’t deserve the steak. I will find you and take it from you.
Not just for grandpas anymore. The quintessential steak companion comes in many forms, but I find it best to pair with a Speyside like The Macallan, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, an Islay like Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Regardless of your personal preference, a selection of scotch to go with your steak says you’ve figured it all out. The sophistication of champagne, the complexity of wine, and the soul of whiskey means a well-balanced gentleman who knows his tastes to be refined, reserved, and uniquely his.
For those of you Chicago locals, check out Sullivan’s Steakhouse at your earliest convenience for a hearty winter meal you won’t forget. Oh, and don’t skip the King Crab Mac & Cheese; it doesn’t say anything about you as a person if you order it, but it does say something about you if you finish it.
It says you’re a champion.