On Valentine’s Day, I began my four-course dinner at Dressler’s in Huntersville, NC by placing my fork into a delicate smoked shrimp and lobster cake, discovering whole shrimp and lumps of succulent lobster to dip into a delightfully spicy remoulade. The seafood starter was followed by a simple and sublime salad of baby arugula dotted with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, slivered almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. These were the opening acts for the star the show – the 16 oz spice grilled ribeye – which was followed by a sweet and creamy cheesecake. (I’m sorry I don’t have pics, but I didn’t think it’d be very romantic to break out my camera at dinner) When I took the first bite of my steak, closed my eyes and allowed the flavors to slowly take over my mouth, I realized that my husband somehow has managed to treat me to my absolute favorite thing to eat on almost every special occasion during our two years together, and he has made it new and different every time.
I know it is somewhat popular these days to cut back on red meat, but I am who I am and few things bring me as much pleasure as a good steak. And not all steaks are created equal! It is the thick cut, well-marbled, juicy ribeye cooked to medium perfection that is my absolute favorite cut of meat to dine with. Yes, I actually would invite a ribeye to dinner because I enjoy its company that much, but it would be rude of me since I know I’d just end up eating it ;-) I’d pick my ribeye (bone-in or out) over filet mignon any day of the week and, although I consider switching it up every now and then with a New York Strip, I usually find my way quickly back to the ribeye to avoid the pain of regret from a disappointing meal.
Oh, how I love steak! Let me count the ways. How can I never tire of ribeye? You’d only ask that question if you haven’t tasted one that makes you want to say “Mmmmm!!!” out loud. A quick tour through my last two years of special steak occasions may help explain. And we will ultimately end the tour in my own kitchen for tips on a reasonably priced homemade ribeye dinner when there isn’t a special occasion to use as an excuse to indulge!
Here’s where we’ve been together:
- 1st Date – Outback Steakhouse: In my opinion, the best tasting, moderately-priced ribeye dinner available at a chain restaurant. Always order the 14 oz instead of the 10 oz, take some of it to go if necessary. I prefer the classic seasoning and preparation over the wood fire grilled preparation, but both are really good.
- 1st New Year’s Eve – Aquavina Seafood & Steakhouse: Incredible 16 oz bone-in ribeye and scallop dinner offered in a unique and sophisticated atmosphere.
- 1st Valentine’s Day – Chima Brazilian Steakhouse: There is something about the never ending stream of meat and fighting the urge to surrender that makes this enjoyable. We are bigger fans of a traditional steakhouse experience though.
- 1st Birthday –The Capital Grille: One of my all time favorite steaks – the porcini rubbed Delmonico w/ 12 year aged balsamic. Absolutely, to live for! (If you die for it, you won’t be able to enjoy it again!) Capital Grill says “Be wined, dined, & dazzled.” My experience was, hands down, the best birthday service I have ever received – flowers, complimentary crème brûlée, decorations at the table, and complimentary champagne for two.
- 2nd Valentine’s Day – Mickey & Mooch: It is “Charlotte’s Own Steakhouse” and delicious! It was the 20oz bone-in ribeye for me.
- 2nd Birthday & 1st Wedding Anniversary – Morton’s The Steakhouse: I had the traditional center-cut ribeye, but my husband fell in love with the Cajun ribeye and amazing mac n’ cheese (bacon, onion, cheesy goodness). The Cajun ribeye is so good, we had to go back! So on our anniversary, we did order different appetizers and salads to switch it up a bit. The steak was almost just as good warmed over the next day!
- 3rd Valentine’s Day –Dressler’s Restaurant: The Valentine’s Day menu was superb! I loved the 16 oz spice grilled ribeye served w/ housemade steak sauce. The sauce was good, but I always prefer to taste my meat instead of sauce. So, I left most of the sauce on the plate and ate most of the 16 oz steak! I will have to go back to try their traditional menu ribeye selections…any excuse will do :-)
- Next stop – Sullivan’s Steakhouse: We will probably try Sullivan’s in Raleigh or Charlotte next. The Sullivan’s in Raleigh offers, I believe, the best overall experience of all the steakhouses I have visited. The food is superb, the old time steakhouse atmosphere has been updated with a modern vibe that makes you feel like you had a complete night on the town instead of just dinner. And the customer service is outstanding – my brother received a complimentary lobster tail on his birthday! I will let you know if my rating changes as I travel the country and the world!
DIY Ribeye. I know we can’t always go out for the $60+ per person, a la carte steak dinner. But, that doesn’t have to stop us from enjoying this marbled juicy slice of heaven. There is the Outback Steakhouse option at a more moderate price. And even still, I often grab a couple of ribeyes from the grocery store – Harris Teeter has great meat and, believe it or not, my local Target Superstore has good quality meat as far as steaks at home go. I enjoy steak year round, even when it isn’t grilling season.
Here are a couple of tips from my kitchen:
- Buy fresh, thick cut ribeye steaks (at least 1” thick) that are bright red in color and well marbled with fat.
- Cook them without freezing if possible. If you must thaw them, do not use the microwave. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or in the package in running cold water.
- Simply season the steaks a bit in advance (30 mins – 1 hr) with salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Be generous with the salt & pepper.
- NOTE: I do not like marinades or steak sauce on my ribeye because they hide the flavor of the meat. If the meat is fresh, you shouldn’t have to hide it under sauce and marinades.
- Cook the steaks completely on the stove top or by pan roasting, if you are looking for a more perfect finish:
- Pre-heat oven to 400F if you are going to finish by pan roasting.
- Heat an oven-proof skillet on the stove over med-high heat and then coat the bottom of with a small amount vegetable oil – about 2 Tbsp – heating the oil until it shimmers.
- Place steaks in the hot skillet. You should hear the steak sizzle, otherwise your pan isn’t hot enough and the meat will stick.
- Let the steak cook for 3-4 minutes to get a good sear and browning, then turn and cook until the second side browns similarly for 3 or 4 minutes. A higher heat will give you a browning on the meat similar to that of an open flamed grill. You’ll never miss the grill!
- Once the meat is browned on both sides, you can turn the stovetop heat down to continue cooking to the desired doneness (125F for medium). Be careful to turn the steak periodically so it does not burn. OR You can finish the steak in the oven to help ensure more even cooking and prevent the meat from becoming too charred. Place the steak in the skillet into the oven and roast until it registers 125F for medium.
- Let the steaks rest for several minutes (5-10) to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
- Enjoy with your favorite sides!
Try the spots on my tour and let me know what you think!
Do you have any great steakhouse recommendations? Doesn’t matter where – will travel for steak!