There are a lot of rumors out there about Delmonico’s, most of them started by Delmonico’s. Elizabeth Taylor, Marylin Monroe, and even Abraham Lincoln ate there. An early Delmonico’s chef invented eggs Benedict and baked Alaska. They were the first to bring avocados to New York. Allegedly.
Some of these claims are verifiable; others, more dubious. If you go into this Fidi institution—which reopened in 2023 after a three-year hiatus—completely unaware of its past, you’ll still have a solid steakhouse meal. (Even as you wonder why someone is serving you baked Alaska in the 21st century.) But you’ll appreciate Delmonico’s a lot more if you buy into the lore.
Delmonico’s is, in fact, the oldest steakhouse in New York. (Old Homestead slips into that spot sometimes, on a technicality. Homestead is the oldest continuously operating steakhouse in New York.) It has changed ownership, remodeled a couple times, and even burnt down once before reopening in 1837, at its current building on Beaver Street. But for decades, each new iteration still drew in the city’s glitterati.
A huge painting depicting the haute monde overlooks a refurbished dining room. It’s a scene from sometime vaguely in the past, when people could still smoke inside. Another, newer, portrait on the opposite wall mirrors the Delmonico’s of today. It’s notably more diverse, and there’s even a smartphone on the table, but no cigarettes—or vapes—in sight. These days, you’re unlikely to find Taylor Swift sitting under the high ceilings and brand new bubble chandeliers, spooning Lobster Newburg into her mouth. Instead, the dining room is a tableau of Fidi bankers, tourists, and, if you eat here after 9pm, a few May-December arrangements.
Whether or not Delmonico’s is really responsible for America’s love affair with the avocado, their kitchen does enthusiastically embrace change. You’ll see things like yuzu honey vinaigrette, gochujang cocktail sauce, and Sichuan peppercorn incorporated into their menu: adjustments made to match evolving cosmopolitan tastes. These blend seamlessly into salad dressings and steak sauces, but an ideal meal here should still include the classics: crab cakes, lobster Newburg, the signature Delmonico's steak. That last one is non-negotiable.
The rumors are true—Delmonico’s is back and better than ever. It’s been through brotherly feuds, avocado import taxes, and Wall Street crashes, but those Corinthian columns still beckon us in. We’re still here to trade dry jokes with their buttoned-down servers, eat our potatoes just the way Lincoln liked them, and maybe meet Mark Twain’s ghost in the pub room downstairs.
Delmonico's Signature Steak
Delmonico’s signature steak has a legacy of its own. Though Delmonico refers specifically to a thick, boneless chunk of meat sourced from somewhere between the rib and short loin, it’s become a universal term for any steak that’s at least two-inches thick. This one, the original, is a juicy, 18 oz cut of ribeye, with char marks that look like a street map of Manhattan. Both this steak, and the 12 oz Eye of Delmonico are consistently the restaurant’s best work. Get some crispy fries and creamed spinach on the side, and you’ve got your Delmonico’s starter pack. You don’t even need steak sauce.
Maine Crab Cake
If you weren’t already looking at a picture of it, this crab cake would surprise you. Lump Maine crab meat is wrapped up inside a mound of crispy potato strings woven together like a basket. It’s a strong contender for best crab cake in the city.
Oscar's Wedge Salad
The wedge salad, too, has a festive presentation. Thin, crispy “prosciutto chips” are arranged around the chunk of lettuce, as if shielding it from view during a costume change. It sits on a bed of extra tangy bleu cheese from New Zealand, and comes with yuzu honey vinaigrette.
Delmonico’s claims to have invented this legendary lobster dish, but there are apparently a few ships and one salty sea captain who’d say otherwise. So we’ll focus on Delmonico’s particular take. The seafood dish is thickened with egg yolks and cream, then spiked with cognac, and gets its bright red color from lobster coral. Order it.
These lamb chops are dusted with pistachios and decorated with small dollops of yogurt, but all you really need to know about them is that they taste good, and are tender enough to not have to gnaw on the meat for more than a couple of milliseconds.
Delmonico’s Original Baked Alaska
This is another dish Delmonico’s put on the map. If they’re to be believed, patrons have been eating this strange, layered mound of banana gelato, walnut cake, and apricot jam since 1867. It has a charming retro quality, but we can’t say we love it outside of the novelty. If you’re into any of these flavors though, it is a nicely executed dish worth trying once.