201 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
(212) 753-0444

Smith & Wollensky's is a steak institution. Most conversations have it compared with Peter Luger in Brooklyn. I did not go to Smith & Wollensky. It's way too expensive for yours truly, and what with money being a zero-sum-game, I'd rather go to a whole bunch of restaurants than a mere handful. Wollensky's grill was supposed to allow me to do just that. Alas, the best laid plans.

Actually, the idea was Turtle's and the truth is, I'd been here a number of times before, but for Wollensky's pretty-damn-good hamburger. The thought running through my head this time was to forego the burger and go for something more steaky. Perhaps a steak.

Wollensky's Grill is the casual brother to Smith & Wollensky. It's louder, it's more loose-tie, and the service is pretty bad. Ordering a beer took fifteen solid minutes and we didn't get water at our table until after the food was served. Even then, there were no water refills. I thought that someone in a white apron might notice if I up-ended the glass and began to smack the back of it to get at the ice cubes, but no. Sodas come in those teeny, 1950s style glass bottles and having already shelled out $9 for a bottle of Budweiser, I went thirsty.

I oddly felt right at home, at least when we got a table. It's loud, but not from thumping club music, and crowded, but not from a fleeting trendiness. There's a definite power lunch a-go-go feeling here, and the after work crowd is solid suits. It was kinda fun watching the 50 somethings hitting on the 30 somethings. This gives you an idea of the age bracket. Turtle and I were probably among the youngest people eating or drinking.

Everything at Wollensky's Grill is like it is upstairs at its big brother: a la carte. When the food arrives, it arrives lonely. If you want your food to have company, you buy those sides individually (they're big enough for two) and they come on a separate plate.

So what about the food? Turtle ordered the Wollensky Burger with cheddar cheese. I've had this plenty of times and can vouch for its goodness. As a side, he ordered the Hashed Browns. As near as I could tell, there are no French fries (but this is like a chopped up version of the same thing), and this is their signature side for the burger. Also pretty good.

My thought was a not-cheap-but-not-too-expensive steak. I would be thwarted. No steak on the menu was under $40 and I wasn't about to order chicken. So I sucked it up and chose a medium rare, prime Sirloin Steak. I can't complain. It was rare and tender, perfectly seared on the outside, perfectly marbled within. I guess I just can't get past the ten fins that floated away because of it. Let's just say I've never eaten a steak so slowly in my life. To back it up I ordered Onion Rings. These were the opposite of the steak. They were just plain not good. Tasteless and way too doughy. I won't get these again.

So what's my verdict? Go knowing that you'll spend more than you think you will and you'll be fine. Expect shoddy service and hit-or-miss sides and you'll be fine. That may not sound glowing (it isn't) but the steaks are great, the burgers are great, the atmosphere's fun (though somewhat older) and it's a genuinely relaxing place to be once you can sit down and are no longer being bumped into. Be aggressive with the water.

Between the two of us, one burger, one steak, two sides, and two beers, after tax but before tip, clocked in at just shy of $110.

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