Caesars Palace has a Roman Empire theme, but somehow the resort seems to be in a perpetual New York state of mind. The 58-year-old stalwart welcomed Peter Luger Steak House as one of the biggest Las Vegas restaurant openings of 2023, replacing Rao’s, an outpost of another iconic New York spot. The restaurant is now one of two steak joints in the casino along with Stanton Social Prime, an offshoot of Manhattan’s now-closed Stanton Social, taking over red-meat responsibilities from (you guessed it) another Big Apple favorite, Old Homestead, which closed last year to clear way for a French brasserie by New York native Bobby Flay. Even the Forum Food Hall has the only DiFara Pizza outside the Empire State.
While there’s a certain irony in not having a full-service Italian restaurant on hotel grounds, the reshuffling is working to the advantage of Caesars Palace. Appetites are greater than ever in 2024 and Peter Luger Steak House is living up to the hype, overcoming a rocky history, and carrying some serious momentum into the new year.
Keep in mind that the steakhouse is 137 years old and doesn’t open new locations lightly. Peter Luger himself, a German immigrant in a German neighborhood, opened the Brooklyn original in 1886 as Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards & Bowling Alley in a nod to the nephew who ran the kitchen. Over the years, the name, owners, and neighborhood changed with the Peter Luger Steak House suddenly finding itself in a convenient location near the Williamsburg Bridge, which connects to the Lower East Side.
With a rugged brick exterior and corner lot, the restaurant developed a loyal following and helped define the classic American steakhouse while setting itself apart with a no-frills image rooted in the spirit of a Bavarian beer hall. A meal isn’t complicated. Customers are encouraged to keep the order simple, order beer, and bring cash. The place has long refused to accept credit cards, making a lone exception for its own in-house Peter Luger card, which is a badge of honor as much as a form of payment. According to management, more than 100,000 have been issued-and occasionally passed down through generations when the holder passes away.
In recent years, Peter Luger has become a popular punching bag among New Yorkers, who will fiercely debate on whether the steakhouse is as good as competitors like Keens, Gallagher’s, Smith & Wollensky, and yes, Old Homestead. The restaurant was infamously given a “zero star” review by the New York Times in 2019 and lost its Michelin star in 2022. Few complained about the steaks, but questions kept creeping up about the prices, a growing reputation as a tourist trap, and a notoriously indifferent waitstaff that’s either part of the charm or no longer worth being tolerated during an expensive meal.
A steakhouse fit for Caesar
With that being said, there’s a lot on the line with the arrival of Peter Luger in Las Vegas. It’s only the fourth location for the steakhouse, following openings in Long Island in 1968 and Tokyo in 2021. Fortunately, the newest Peter Luger manages to get the formula right; keeping what kept the original great while making subtle adjustments for a discerning Las Vegas audience that’s seen more than a few outsiders come and go in the tourist corridor.
The Peter Luger team was given its own dry-aging room in the basement of Caesars Palace–a 40,000-square-foot space that can hold more than a million dollars worth of beef at any given time. That alone doesn’t mean that they can replicate the taste of Peter Luger’s signature steaks, though. The dry-aging room in Brooklyn has been around for decades, and over the years it’s developed a unique New York-bred mold and funk that gives the meat its iconic terroir.
So the team actually shipped in aged beef from Brooklyn to break in and “seed” the new facility at Caesars Palace. “That dry-aged funk from Brooklyn–all that mold, all that fungus, and all that bacteria-we were literally rubbing it on the wall,” says Daniel Turtel, Managing Member at Peter Luger International. “So when you get your first shipment of fresh meat, it starts to colonize with the right bacteria.”
The beef is dry-aged between 26 and 35 days, depending on the size and shape of the cut. When it’s ready, it’s ready, and the steaks are cooked the same day they’re butchered.
Just like Peter Luger in Brooklyn, customers don’t really order from a list of cuts. They order by party size. A steak for one is a striploin, a steak for two is a Porterhouse, and a steak for three or four tends to be some sort of T-bone combination. A rib steak (bone-in ribeye) is a relatively recent addition to the Peter Luger universe, served in portions for one or two people.
“The waiters are very well-trained, let them walk you through the menu,” Turtel says. “It’s not that complicated. In Brooklyn, it’s very rare for them to actually give you a menu.”
The prime steaks, sourced from Midwest and Western ranches, require little seasoning. Each cut is given a light dusting of salt (no pepper) and broiled for just 4-5 minutes, prompting a sear on the top that creates a crust-like char while protecting the meat inside and producing a tender pink center.
Every steak comes to the table with a smell and sizzle that others in the dining room can’t help but notice. The plate sits at an angle, allowing the server to easily dip the individual pre-cut pieces in the butter and natural juices. The plate is scorching hot, which affords diners an opportunity to cook a slice of meat a moment longer by dragging it around the rim.
In an abrupt change of pace from the Brooklyn original, the Vegas version of Peter Luger doesn’t shy away from seafood entrees, including salmon, dover sole, and lobster. It’s also the first Peter Luger location to carry shellfish towers. The jumbo lump crab cake is worth your attention, broiled like the steaks with zero breading and minimal filler.
Peter Luger regulars will be happy to see familiar signature dishes like the German-style potatoes, creamed spinach, and thick-cut bacon, which was originally served as a staff meal and became a requested item before word spread and it was added to the menu proper.
There’s also the famous Luger Sauce, a tart combination of tomato, horseradish, and a few unnamed ingredients to keep things mysterious. Don’t add sauce to your steak-those are perfect as-is-but run it across almost anything else. Strangely enough, it’s surprisingly effective on the off-menu salad of sliced beefsteak tomatoes, onions, bacon, and shrimp.
The Luger Sauce appears in the Bloody Mary, too, for a hit of savory-tart that ties in to your food. There’s a nice selection of German beer, of course, but the cocktails feel like a better fit for Vegas, with a few Old Fashioned and Manhattan variations on the menu.
Power lunching in legendary fashion
If you want to dip your toes into the Peter Luger experience, doors open for lunch at 11 am Wednesday–Friday. Skip the main dining room, which is overwhelmingly bright and somewhat empty during the day, and enjoy the coziness of the bar and lounge that anchors the front half of the restaurant. The menu is nearly identical to dinner with two notable specials available until 4 pm.
The Luger Burger is legendary in New York and quickly building a reputation of its own in Las Vegas with a $24.95 price tag. The 10 oz patty-a 2:1 ratio of prime ground chuck and dry-aged steak trimmings-is grilled, finished in the broiler, and served with an onion on a sesame seed bun. No sauce. In New York, it’s American cheese only. Here in Vegas, guests can also request cheddar or blue cheese with thick-cut bacon on the side.
The Steak Sandwich is $35.95-pricey for a sandwich, but a deal for a steak this good. A smaller five to six-ounce version of the prime dry-aged Strip is sliced and served inside an onion bun with grilled onions. Eat the first half as it comes. Pull out the meat in the second half and finish it off with a knife and fork. Whether getting the burger or the sandwich, splurge for the fries on the side, cooked in beef tallow like the German-style potatoes.
Rob Kachelriess is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He’s based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he’s happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
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