While you may think of a steakhouse as a distinctly American invention, they were first popularized in London during the late 17th century. Known as "chophouses," they were typically open only to well-to-do men. The steakhouse in America began as an outcropping from taverns and inns in the late 19th century. While dining styles and cooking methods have come and gone in the ensuing years, steakhouse offerings remain largely unchanged. Here are the top three accompaniments frequently served alongside that meaty cut of expertly prepared beef.
The perfect beginning to a classic steakhouse meal is the ubiquitous shrimp cocktail. With cold poached shrimp hanging on the edge of a martini glass filled with crushed ice, lemon wedges, and cocktail sauce, this appetizer could almost be viewed as passé. It remains endearing for the simple reason that people love it.
Another iconic steakhouse seafood appetizer is Oysters Rockefeller, which was invented in a New Orleans restaurant in 1899. Topped with chopped greens, scallions, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and lots of butter, the oysters are then broiled in their half-shell. They are so named for John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest American at the time. Crab cakes with remoulade, a French mayonnaise similar to tartar sauce, is another steakhouse favorite.
While mesclun - assorted mixed baby greens - has become popular in recent years, the definitive iceberg wedge salad remains popular in American steakhouses. A crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce is topped with copious amounts of crumbled bacon, tomatoes, onions, blue cheese, and a buttermilk dressing mixed with even more blue cheese. It is common to also add a bit of tangy red French dressing to help balance the flavors.
The Caesar salad is another popular mainstay at steakhouse restaurants. Romaine lettuce is topped with crunchy garlic croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a dressing that consists of olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, coarsely ground black pepper, lemon, and anchovies.
Potatoes are the most common steak accompaniment. Whether it is a jacketed baked potato with butter and sour cream, hash browns, French fries, or the popular twice-baked potato stuffed with bacon, cheddar, and green onions or any number of combinations, a potato is an absolute must.
Another popular vegetable side dish is creamed spinach. Cooked spinach is tossed in a flour-thickened heavy cream sauce and seasoned with a dash of nutmeg, garlic, and pepper. Beer-battered, thick cut onion rings or sautéed button mushrooms are other familiar choices. Steamed broccoli is a good calorie-conscious option if you are watching what you eat.
Restaurants come and go, but the steakhouse continues to remain popular because Americans like their meat and the comfort that comes from things staying essentially the same.