I should have handled steakhouses the same way I do whorehouses, crackhouses, and the White House: try to keep my three-year-old, Iris, from learning about them for as long as possible. Oh, it's not that I have any moral issue with steakhouses, but they're an expensive habit, and Iris has enough expensive habits already (toys, fancy apple juice, preschool).
But somehow the topic came up. "We should go to a steakhouse sometime," said Iris. She will eat steak with A1 sauce or in Thai beef salad, but prefers it kid-style: plain, cut into bites, and eaten without the benefit of silverware.
"Okay, I'll take you to a steakhouse for lunch," I replied, figuring lunch at a steakhouse would be cheap. I examined menus for Ruth's Chris, Morton's, and Seattle locals like Metropolitan Grill and Daniel's Broiler. Lunch at a steakhouse is not cheap. It's the equivalent of five trips to the Children's Museum. I decided not to bring up the topic again. That worked for about a week, until…
"What is that place?" Iris asked one morning, pointing to the Indian restaurant we pass on the walk to preschool.
"That's, um…" I looked up. Half of Chutney's had been remodeled and now featured black tablecloths, a bar, and an awning sporting a new name: Grillside. We peeked at the menu. "That's a steakhouse," I admitted.
It wasn't just a steakhouse—it was an Indian steakhouse, which sounded to me a lot like a kosher baconhouse. The prices weren't cheap, exactly (steaks run $23 and up), but they were a lot less than the ones at the non-Indian steakhouses. So one night while my wife was out, I took Iris to Grillside. "I'm going to wear a fancy outfit," she said, climbing into her velvet dress and new shoes.
The waiter gave Iris a booster seat, and I gave her a choice: filet mignon, rib eye, or New York strip. She chose the strip. "I didn't know the steak would come with rice!" she said, wide-eyed, as the waiter set down a bowl of classic saffron-scented Indian restaurant rice with our dinner.
The steak was about what you would expect for a discount price—thinly cut and poorly trimmed—but it was dry-aged and cooked precisely medium-rare, with a garam masala-based spice rub and sweet korma sauce on the side. Iris, to her tremendous credit, likes her meat rare. If she outgrows this, I will cry. She ate half the steak and got rice all over the floor. Try and get away with that at Peter Luger, if they even serve rice.
"Come back soon! Bring more people!" called our waiter as we left. (We were the only diners at Grillside.)
"That sure was a good steakhouse," said Iris on the way home. I'm not going to tell her any different. We're already planning our next steak-out: steak frites at Cafe Campagne a very good French place downtown. French fries with the steak? She's going to freak.
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