We last rated the best steakhouses in 2001. Al Biernat’s had been open only for three years. Nick & Sam’s, just two. A decade ago, the average price of a filet in Dallas hovered around $25. This time out, the average was about $43. In all, I spent $5,808.70 eating at the 20 steakhouses we ranked.
As the price of a filet has climbed, so has the number of steakhouses in North Texas. There are now four locations of Bob’s Steak & Chop House in the area, each with a different owner. At the same time, upscale steakhouses from around the country—Ocean Prime (Columbus, Ohio), Eddie V’s (Austin), Perry’s (Houston)—have invaded our beef-crazed city. In 2001, it was a stretch to come up with 16 high-end steakhouses. This time around, the hard part was winnowing the field down to 20. I ranked only the best of the best. Save for one (Sullivan’s), they all serve Prime meat.
Over the course of six weeks, my dining companions and I ate two steaks at each restaurant, a filet and the server’s top recommendation (almost always a bone-in rib-eye). At each restaurant, I also ordered a vegetable, potato dish, salad, dessert, and shrimp cocktail. The steaks, those five additional items, plus ambiance, service, and the wine sell made up the nine criteria on which each restaurant was evaluated.
Here’s how the wine sell went: when the list arrived, I gave each server the same spiel. “I am looking for something other than a bold California Cabernet,” I would say. “I would like something full-bodied and not overly oaky. I’m willing to try something funky or off the beaten path. My budget is $75.” I’m sorry to report that most restaurants couldn’t handle this request.
We have also included the size of shrimp in each listing. Shrimp are sold by count. Common classifications are categorized by the letter “U” (under that many shrimp per pound), followed by the number of shrimp in a pound for any given category. A U-8 is larger than a U-16-20, which would include up to 20 shrimp per pound.
I assigned a score to each of the nine criteria, grading on a 100-point scale as I would with a student’s English paper. A perfect filet got 100 (A+); an average steak got 85 (B). Then, on the belief that a steak is more important than a shrimp cocktail, the scores were weighted. Each steak was given a weight of 2 (the two steaks together accounting for 28 percent of a restaurant’s final score), service 3 (21 percent), ambiance 2 (14 percent), and wine sell 1.5 (10 percent). Shrimp, salad, vegetable, potato, and dessert each were weighted at .75 (together accounting for 26 percent). If you add up the percentages, you’ll see they total only 99 percent. That remaining 1 percent is what distillers call the angel’s share. We just call it a rounding error.
How We Did It