The American steakhouse has been a tradition since the mid-19th century. What I like about such a site is simple: you know what the menu will be, there will be a seafood dish or two, side dishes are extra and the cocktails are usually first-rate.
Several months ago, SoWe, located at 22nd and Carpenter streets, morphed into a steakhouse. But unlike others in the city, The Strip Joint, as it was re-christened, is moderately priced. Actually, I think it is more like a neighborhood tavern/restaurant that features beef, a pork dish and some seafood.
The dining room is painted bright red and features a long bar, a knowledgeable bartender and, huzzah, a menu that you can actually read! The print lacks the fancy fonts and small type so many restaurants have adopted. The brunch menu is on the flip side.
Dinner includes a house salad and french fries; this is nice. Our server showed us to a table by the window, and we settled in.
The tables are covered with brown paper and set with linen napkins. Cocktails such as a Maker’s Mark Manhattan ($10) and Blue Coat martini ($11) were expertly prepared and icy cold.
The house salad consisted of immaculately fresh baby spinach, red leaf lettuce and a julienne of peeled cucumbers and carrots. They were dressed in a light vinaigrette that imparted a slightly sweet flavor possibly by the inclusion of some honey. Our server brought over the pepper mill, and a few grinds, plus a little salt, enhanced the taste of the dressing.
Mussels ($8) steamed in beer with bacon and garlic was a fine way to begin dinner. These mollusks were a bit scrawny but nicely cooked. The sauce had a vibrant flavor, but the bacon made it a little salty. A slice of toasted French bread came with the appetizer.
Sometimes Edward likes to begin dinner with a vegetable side dish, especially in Italian restaurants. The Strip Joint lists a number of options, including roasted Brussels sprouts ($6). I think these little cabbages have jumped the culinary shark, but if they are properly prepared, they are so good. An order large enough for two arrived in a deep soup bowl. They retained a bit of bite but could have been hotter.
I was surprised to see that The Strip Joint does not offer prime rib or a rib steak. I do not care for a New York strip, which is on the menu, so selected the petite filet mignon ($19). I like my beef rare with a good crusty sear on the outside. This is the pleasure people feel when they eat a good piece of beef. Filet is a lean tender cut that requires a good amount of seasoning. For $19, I do not expect prime quality beef, but the steak was seared, tender and rare inside. A small gravy boat of Béarnaise, which is traditional with beef, was made in-house. Unfortunately, my french fries were too salty and could have been hotter.
Edward’s rib cut pork chop ($16) spent the right amount of time on the grill. Overcooking pork is a crime. Grilling pork on the bone adds a juicy flavor. This cut is a favorite in our house, and it did not disappoint. His fries were hot and not as salty as mine.
Whoever invented creamed spinach should be hailed a culinary hero. It is a steakhouse staple. The Strip Joint’s version ($6) was heated and served in a gratin dish, was piping hot, well-seasoned and, goodness yes, hipsters, it included shredded kale.
All wines by the bottle are $30, with all wines by the glass being $9. The bartender recommended a Malbec for Edward and a Shiraz for me. Both were good choices.
Our meal was properly paced, so we did not feel rushed at any time.
I guess I should comment on the name of this restaurant. I am not sure The Strip Joint emits good vibrations for families who live in the neighborhood; however, a mom and dad and their two small daughters were dining at the table behind us. Although it is a grown-up menu, the girls were as happy as clams.
Three tips of the toque to The Strip Joint.
918 S. 22nd St.