You might think that an old-timey steakhouse smack in the middle of Times Square couldn’t possibly be good, but Gallaghers is our favorite place to eat a slab of beef with a side of creamed spinach in New York City.
Steakhouses should be an experience, and here the showmanship starts before you even walk through the door. Through the front window, you can see a neat row of porterhouses, their handwritten tags fluttering in the eternally cool breeze of the meat locker. You’d be right to stop and stare. It’s a beautiful sight.
We’re pretty sure the threshold of Gallaghers is actually a time machine. Once you step across, you’ll find yourself firmly rooted in Old New York. Originally opened by a former Ziegfeld girl in 1927 (when Ziegfeld girls were the absolute it girls of NYC), this was one of the city’s very first Prohibition-era speakeasies.
Even though the space has been remodeled, it still feels like you could stumble across a cloud of cigar smoke shrouding a table of old guys playing poker. The walls are covered in portraits of baseball players and famous thoroughbreds. The Rat Pack’s greatest hits play softly in the background as very stiff drinks are delivered to your table. The servers are like affable grandparents, cracking jokes and making the sensible recommendation that you enjoy yourself as much as possible.
Before you even look at the menu, you’re probably having a great time at Gallaghers. But don’t mistake the atmosphere for a gimmick, because the food here is the Real McCoy. Order the classics, all of them, starting with a wedge salad and a plate of clams casino and ending with a cheesecake that every other New York-style cheesecake wishes it could be.
Sandwiched in between the starters and desserts should be a porterhouse for two, plus a few of your favorite steakhouse sides. We’ve eaten a lot of porterhouses in New York, and the one at Gallaghers is top of the heap. The meat itself is deeply flavorful, and that’s before you consider the well-seasoned bark on the outside and the very good housemade steak sauce (you don’t need it, but you will want it).
We come to steakhouses looking for the classics, so it makes sense that our favorite is the one that leans into its history in a way that feels most genuine. If you grew up in the kind of family where the background noise was a mix of Sinatra and baseball commentary on AM radio, a copy of the Daily Racing Form on the coffee table at all times, you’ll feel right at home. If you have a thing for the golden age of MGM, dinner at Gallaghers will be like stepping into one of your favorite movies. In the sea of cheesy theme restaurants and high-tech billboards hawking fast fashion and reality TV shows, Gallaghers reminds us that there are good things in every part of New York City. Yes, even Times Square.
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If you’re planning to drink at Gallagher’s, we highly recommend starting with the Hemingway Daiquiri. Named for the writer who preferred his cocktails with extra rum, it’s a dangerously delicious and appropriately extravagant way to set yourself up for the next few hours of eating.
A good wedge salad is the mark of a truly great steakhouse, and Gallagher’s delivers. It’s not so overloaded with dressing that it feels like a cheese plate served on lettuce, they use high-quality tomatoes, and the bacon is crisp and chewy all at once.
Even if you’re not a seafood person, you should try the clams casino here. The deeply savory white wine and butter sauce uses the same bacon from the wedge salad to great effect, and the clams have just the right texture. But really, you’re here for this butter situation. Keep your bread handy, because you will not want to let any of this liquid gold go back to the kitchen.
As long as you’re here with at least one other person, the porterhouse is going to be the best move in terms of steak. Some kind of witchcraft happens in that meat locker, because no other steak tastes quite like this one. The server will probably remind you that the meat closest to the bone is very good, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
Velvety and definitely full of things like butter, cream, and salt, these are very good mashed potatoes, and the serving size is enormous. They’re great plain, but even better with a drizzle of steak sauce.
We like to see both cream and spinach in our creamed spinach, and that’s the case here. It pairs very well with steak and potatoes, but also makes an incredible next-day breakfast smeared on toast and topped with a fried egg.
Lots of places say they make the best NY-style cheesecake. Gallagher’s doesn’t come out with that claim, but they should. How can something be so light and airy and so rich at the same time? We have no idea, so we should probably just go back and eat this again. And again. The crust, which can so often be a soggy, flavorless afterthought, is crisp and has hints of spice that accent the sweet and savory flavors in the cheesecake.