Cowboy Star Restaurant & Butcher Shop (640 10th Avenue, Gaslamp District) is 2019’s Best of Steakhouses winner. The ambiance at Cowboy Star is half cowboy-chic and half homage to classic Hollywood westerns. Movie star cowboy photos cohabit the decor with saddle-shaped patio chairs and cow skulls. And it all works in a decidedly upscale sort of way.
But the star at Cowboy Star is, unambiguously, the incredible quality of the meat itself. The restaurant, in fact, owns and runs its own butcher shop. Highlights on the menu include a 35-day dry aged ribeye, a 23-day aged Hokkaido Wagyu New York steak and American Kobe-style Snake River Farms skirt steak.
The prices at Cowboy Star aren’t necessarily budget friendly. But it is, after all, a steakhouse and if steakhouse prices are bargain basement you probably shouldn’t be going there.
Born & Raised (1909 India Street, Little Italy)—also a finalist in the prime rib category—appealed to CityBeat readers as well. Paul Basile’s design is nothing short of spectacular, evoking “Great Gatsby” and “Mad Men” without slavish copying or Disneyland cartoonery and with through-lines to contemporary rap culture. Born & Raised’s ambitious dry aging program gives the steaks—which the menu correctly identifies as “why you’re here”—a tenderness and depth of flavor beyond the ordinary.
Given its location across from the Convention Center Lou & Mickey’s (224 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp District) would figure to appeal mostly to conventioneers. But CityBeat readers voted it another Best Steakhouse finalist. Sporting a post-War Supper Club vibe, highlights include a natural grass-fed New York strip steak and a daily series of dry-aged options ranging from 30 to 60 days.
Two national chains were Best of Steakhouse finalists: Ruth’s Chris Steak House (1355 North Harbor Drive) and Donovan’s Steak & Chop House (570 K Street). Ruth’s Chris is a chain of over 100 restaurants in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It’s known for serving prime steaks seared at 1800° Fahrenheit and is served on ceramic plates heated to 500 degrees with a tablespoon of butter added just before the plates leave the kitchen. Donovan’s offers its steaks—billed as being selected from “only the top 1% of all USDA Prime cuts”—lightly seasoned and perfectly seared or dressed up with béarnaise, peppercorn sauce, crumbled bleu cheese or Cajun seasoning for $3 more (a pittance on top of prices ranging well into the $70s).