BYO steakhouses certainly aren’t commonplace in South Jersey. In all of Atlantic County, the only bring-your-own-bottle steakhouses are Fitzpatrick’s Deli & Steakhouse in Somers Point and the latest addition, LP Steak Steakhouse & Seafood in Northfield.
The latest — and fourth — local eatery from Luke Palladino shows the restaurateur in a different mode from his Italian roots, and a recent visit showed that while there are still some kinks that need to be ironed out, Palladino’s newest venture is a welcome addition to the mainland.
On a frigid Thursday night, the small, 30-seat dining room that once housed his Italian restaurant that relocated to Linwood’s Central Square , was surprisingly full as a mix of middle-aged and older diners — all with wine bottles in hand — braved the cold to tear into some hearty meat.
Unfortunately, they also had to brave the cold inside as LP Steak was freezing inside. A small electric heater was on overdrive trying to warm the cold space, but every time the door opened, people shivered, most leaving their coats on for the duration of their meal. In fact, one couple next to us opened a bottle of wine, poured two glasses and decided to leave, offering us the remainder of their bottle.
The Thursday night crowd must have surprised management because there was only one server. While she was great, she had a difficult time managing all of the tables, but did her best.
She greeted us with the night’s specials — forgetting to mention prices — and a great bread basket that featured warm, house-made biscuits and scrumptious garlic butter that was a perfect beginning.
The pleasant experience continued through our appetizer course. We opted for LP Steak’s signature pierogies ($12), which are made in house and are really deserving of the buzz they have been receiving since the steakhouse opened in the fall. Different from Polish-style pierogies that I grew up eating in Northeast Pennsylvania, these beauties have a slightly lighter dough consistency and are filled with a creamy, tasty farmers cheese instead of a potato-cheese mixture, then sautéed in caramelized onions, sage and brown butter. While superb, $12 is pretty outrageous for three pierogies. Back home, I can get a dozen for about 6 bucks.
Even more impressive were the oysters “Casino” ($14), Palladino’s and Restaurant Chef Sean Holmes’ creative take on the classic dish using oysters instead of clams. Topped with smoked pancetta and panko crumbs, the espelette pepper is what really makes these shine. They are one of the best seafood appetizers in South Jersey.
The onion soup gratin, also overpriced at $10, hit the mark for its amazing broth, but instead of the traditional method of putting bread in the soup and broiling cheese on top of the bowl, LP Steak’s version features Tallegio cheese — an excellent choice — melted on a small crouton inside the bowl. While delicious, you run out of the crouton and cheese far before you will finish the broth.
The least impressive part of our meal came next as we chose the dry-aged burger deluxe ($16) and the 12-ounce black angus New York strip ($29).
The steak was hands down the better choice of the two. Tender and perfectly served medium with a side of delicious housemade Worchestershire sauce, the strip was clearly a quality cut of meat nicely done. However, at 12 ounces, it just wasn’t enough. A filet should be 12 ounces, not a New York strip. The $29 price tag looks good on paper, but it would be worth a few extra bucks to get 16 ounces. In fact, LP Steak just announced they added a 16-ounce ribeye for $29 and removed the strip from the menu.
The size of the steaks is a pretty big issue at LP Steak. The only other choices are an 8-ounce filet ($35) and an 8-ounce Masami Farms “Spinalis” American kobe Wagyu ribeye cap ($45) unless you wanted to share a 36-ounce porterhouse ($75) or the 5-pound Tuscan porterhouse ($165). With 30 seats, it might be hard to have more cuts of meat as the restaurant is trying to keep costs down, but more choices are certainly needed here.
I consider myself a burger fanatic. And I think the best burgers — with the exception of my favorite burger at the Mussel Bar inside Revel Casino Hotel — are usually found at steakhouses. That was certainly not the case at LP Steak. The burger itself had good flavor, house made from trimmings of the steaks, but the rest of the burger has to go back to the laboratory for further experimentation.
The roll just doesn’t hold up. Hand cut from brioche bread and lightly toasted, it feels like you’re eating toast with the crusts cut off. It also got soggy thanks to the LP secret sauce, which clashed with the Tallegio cheese and created a bitter taste. The saviors were the homemade thick-cut pickles. And for $16, you don’t even get fries … just the burger. So we ordered some Idaho wedge fries ($7), which were really thick, under-seasoned, super-sized Idaho wedge fries that were saved by “truffle wiz,” a clever, upscale take on a cheese sauce.
We finished with homemade, delicious apple cake ($9) with a sweet, perfectly complementary whiskey caramel sauce. The only thing that would make it better would be if it was served warm, especially during this cold winter.
The cozy dining room features an open kitchen, deer antler chandeliers and a black and white theme that offers a masculine — yet female friendly — atmosphere.
LP Steak’s modern American steakhouse menu is small but intriguing. Palladino and Holmes are offering some interesting creations that you won’t even find in casino steakhouses. By adding a hearty steak or two, tweaking their burger and slightly lowering their prices, LP Steak could be the answer to an upscale steak experience that will make people think twice about driving to Atlantic City.