Don Draper would feel at home hereEat This! Thursday, March 19th, 2015
A perfectly blended Manhattan served straight up reflects the dim light of the low-ceilinged dining room. A jazz combo grooves softly in the corner. The burgundy Naugahyde booth is thickly upholstered and tucked with brass buttons. A scene from the AMC hit series Mad Men? No, just a typical night at the Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar – a place where Don Draper would feel right at home.
Kevin, the long-time bartender, greeted me one recent weeknight and wondered where I’d been. He was eager to share photos and videos of his 18-month old son – they were “expecting” the last time I saw him.
The Red Fox is an old school steakhouse in every detail. All entrées are served with a relish tray; ripe olives, green onions, carrot and celery sticks; chilled tossed salad with your choice of homemade dressing; baked potato, French fries or rice pilaf; and thick slices of grilled garlic cheese toast.
The dinner menu offers a variety of seafood and poultry selections, but I was in the mood for a steak. I ordered the petite filet charred rare with Béarnaise sauce on the side, double fixings on the foil-wrapped baked spud, and Thousand Island dressing on the salad.
I took time to admire the woodwork and remarkable details of the room while waiting for my dinner to arrive. The bar, back bar and paneling, darkened by the patina of age, are from an English inn and date to about 1560, while the intricately carved Tudor mantelpiece over the fireplace is dated 1642. The original room was dismantled and shipped from Surrey, England to the United States in the ‘20s where they were re-assembled in Marion Davies’ beach home (Davies was a popular silent film star romantically involved with the publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst). Decades later, the room was again dismantled and placed in storage until being resurrected and restored in the Lafayette Hotel.
In addition to a timeless ambience, what makes a great steakhouse great is a great steak. The Red Fox takes pride in serving only the finest aged beef, because nothing else compares for tastiness and tenderness. That’s why I ordered the filet charred rare. Also known as “black and blue”, the meat is seared on the outside and rare on the inside, usually with a cool red middle. The only way to enjoy a rarer steak is to eat it raw or in tartare. The scorch from the hot grill seals in the flavorful juices, and provides a crispy contrast to the soft succulent center. Every savory bite seemed to melt in my mouth, and the buttery Béarnaise with a whisper of sweet tarragon, was the perfect complement.
The orgy of culinary hedonism continued unabated with a slice of Irish Cream Cheesecake. The delicate chocolate chip infused blend of cream cheese and eggs is baked in a crust of crushed Oreo cookies, then topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. The final forkful was my limit and I asked for the check. There were no leftovers; only the need for a long leisurely stroll home.
The Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar
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