The year was 2011. Williamsburg was cool, its residents were called “hipsters,” other people liked to talk about their mustaches and fixed-gears, and a neighborhood steakhouse called St. Anselm opened with a signature steak that cost $15.
Fast forward to now. That steak is $23, Williamsburg is objectively not cool, and mustaches are just mustaches. But St. Anselm is still one of the greatest places to eat a steak in New York City.
That is, if you can get in. It’s a narrow room with maybe eight tables and a long row of seats overlooking the open kitchen, where you can watch your two-pound ax handle being showered with salt and cooked on an open grill. The room is covered in brick and wood, and makes you feel a little bit like a medieval knight in a cabin upstate. There are no reservations, and if you don’t show up before 7pm - especially on weekends - you will likely end up needing a new dinner plan.
But St. Anselm is worth the effort of arriving early, explaining to your visitors why you’re waiting two hours for steak and mashed potatoes, and getting drunk while you wait for your table (in the backyard of Spuyten Duyvil next door if it’s summer, or at the wine bar Have & Meyer in the winter).
If there are only two of you, or if you want a Hall of Fame solo meal, you should request counter seats. St. Anselm feels different from every other steakhouse in large part because the cooking is all out in the open. You don’t have to be someone who uses your kitchen to want to figure out how these people make your steak taste this good.
We suspect it has a lot to do with butter and salt. We’re not totally sure what they do it, but we are sure that you should be ordering the butchers steak, every time. Have they raised the price every year? Yes. Is it still the best steak at St. Anselm? Yes. Even over the more expensive ones? 100%. Feel free to add on other meats, and the mashed potatoes and the creamed spinach and pretty much any other side that appeals, and the chocolate pot de creme for dessert. But the butchers steak is the thing we come back for.
But really, we come back to St. Anselm because there’s no other restaurant like it. In a city where you can find a duplicate, or at least a really good substitute, for just about every spot, there isn’t one for St. Anselm. This place hasn’t just aged better than “Party Rock Anthem,” “The Hangover II,” and most other things that came around in 2011 - it’s a real classic.
Memorize this photo, implant it in your brain, and leave it there for the next time you want to eat something incredible. This is the hanger steak we compare all other hanger steaks to. Although 99% of the time, there is no comparison.
If you want some lettuce, by all means. This is a classic wedge salad, with bacon dressing instead of blue cheese. “Salad” is a generous term. And that’s a good thing.
The lighter of the two salads at St. Anselm, this is tossed pretty simply with shallot vinaigrette. You don’t need it.
This is a side, although if you’re looking to set the tone for your evening, feel free to order it for the table as an appetizer. This is how you tell your body what kind of night this is going to be.
Grilled eggplant with a mound of fried goat cheese. You want this.
Only at a place like St. Anselm does a plate of cheese end up being one of the lightest things here. It’s also very good.
We’ve ordered the strip steak on several occasions at St. Anselm, just to put it head-to-head with the Butchers Steak. It might be almost double the price, but it’s about half as good as the Butchers. Still great, just not All-Time Great.
A signature St. Anselm side, and one that should absolutely be on your table. It’s a blob of mashed potatoes smashed into a crispy pancake, and it’s exactly what you want to eat with a bite of steak.
There are three things you absolutely need on your table at St. Anselm. The butcher’s steak, the mashed potatoes, and this spinach and cheese side that will make all other spinach look like torture food.
You didn’t come to St. Anselm to eat something you’d try to make for yourself at home on a “healthy” night. So why would you use stomach space on such a thing? Don’t do it.
If you’re not getting steak, you should be ordering this. It’s some of the best lamb we’ve ever eaten.
If you’re coming to St. Anselm to throw down, this is the first place you look. It’s $2.95 per ounce, and they start at 45 ounces. We ate this once, a long time ago. It was...good. Can we tell you more about it? Not really. We were here to throw down. And that involved alcohol.
The only dessert worth saving room for is this one. It’s a little jar of chocolate and whipped cream and despite the fact that you thought you couldn’t eat anything else, you will finish all of it and want another one.