The Green Flag Chefs Look For When Dining At A Steakhouse

Going out for a steak dinner is the ultimate treat — but pick the wrong place, and it can be an expensive mistake. So if you're looking beyond one of the best steakhouse chains and have decided to try somewhere new, how can you tell if it's going to be good? To get the inside scoop, Food Republic asked a chef for some expert tips.

Sean Thompson, executive chef of Porter House Bar and Grill in New York City, admits that he always thinks "like a chef" when he dines out, focusing on every detail. That includes paying particular attention to the menu, in terms of both food and drink. "I think an obvious sign is serving all prime meat with an excellent dry-aged program accompanied by an exquisite wine list," says Thompson.

To find out if a restaurant dry-ages its meat, check the menu and look for visual signs, such as an aging chamber. The dry-aging process adds depth of flavor, so the beef tastes extra-rich but also makes steak more tender and succulent thanks to the way it draws out and redistributes moisture. While aging periods vary, around 30 to 45 days is ideal — so ask your server for more details if they're not on the menu.

When it comes to the wine list, the options should be high caliber. See if there's a suggested pairing, or ask a sommelier or server for a recommendation since some wines go better with different cuts.

Look beyond the steak list for seasonal ingredients

When you're perusing a steakhouse menu, expert Sean Thompson recommends looking further than just the main list of beef cuts, even if that's probably where you initially focus your attention. "When the menu is updated seasonally, you know you're in a steakhouse that looks beyond meat and potatoes," the chef told Food Republic. This means checking out the ingredients used for appetizers and side dishes, as well as noticing if there are any specials.

The use of seasonal produce such as asparagus, green beans, peas, or summer squash shows that the ingredients are more likely to be fresh than frozen. While some vegetables, for example, kale or mushrooms, are available year-round, sides such as perfectly grilled corn will taste all the sweeter and more delicious when the vegetable is in peak season in the summer or fall months. And don't forget the dessert menu, keeping an eye out for seasonal specials that showcase fruits like cherries, apricots, or rhubarb.

For a final top tip, have a look around to see if you can spot the chef, suggests Thompson. "When you see a chef's presence in the dining room, it's a clear sign that there's passion involved," he says. Follow all this insider advice, and you're guaranteed a winner of a steak dinner. After all, even when a steakhouse is dimly lit, the experience itself should always be bright and enjoyable.