Just like drinking mimosas before noon at a brunch, there are a couple of places where excess is, seemingly, socially acceptable. Places where rich and buttery side dishes are expected to accompany charred meat without apology nor compromise. Places where ice is a mixer and over indulgence is expected. A spot where self loathing may, or may not, follow a series of blissful choices based on sheer impulse and delight. Of course, we are talking about steakhouses. More specifically, steakhouse drinking.
The pomp and circumstance of eating at a steakhouse is unmatched. You feel fancy and arrived all at the same time. Just as in the old times, you start the event with a cocktail as you wait for your table. Even if waiting for your table is not required. If someone is perpetually tardy, a reservation at a steakhouse is a sure way to coerce them into being timely. I’m willing to bet it has everything to do with the expectation of drinking at a steakhouse.
Local places such as Thoroughbreds Chophouse & Seafood Grille (9706 North Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach) specialize in classic steakhouse service that is, not only flawless, but, stretches the bounds of our own expectations. Keeping the tradition of table-side food preparation brings the expectation for a restaurant to have an award-winning wine list and some notable bottles of brown liquor. Thoroughbreds delivers on all accounts.
If you want to talk classic pairings, Thoroughbreds offers an ample selection of red wine, bourbon, whiskey and scotch. These, most often, bring forth the deep flavors that compliment a steakhouse menu very well. A peaty scotch paired against charred meat is nothing shy of sublime. As is the oak flavor of a well-made Kentucky bourbon.
As tradition has it, red wine and grilled beef go hand in hand. Why is that? The tannins in red wine, the tart sensation that is created by the skin of the grapes during wine production, cuts through the fatty texture of steak very well. The more fat the piece of beef has, the better a tannic wine will enhance the meal. A ribeye, a fatty cut from the rib portion of the cow, would beg for a cabernet sauvignon, a Bordeaux or a Meritage style wine. These, typically, have more tannin because of the grapes and production method to act as a “palate cleanser,” so-to-speak. The lean filet mignon could benefit with a nice pinot noir. You are not left with as much fat on your tongue and the lighter, fruitier pinot would work very well. So, wine acts as a counterbalance to the grilled meat. Thoroughbreds has a notable wine list in this regard and hits the major points that a steakhouse wine list should. Having been recognized by Wine Spectator Magazine since 2002 in the Award of Excellence category does not hurt either.
New comer, at least in this incarnation, to our steakhouse scene is Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern (1004 Glenforest Road, Myrtle Beach) in Carolina Forest. One of the best things in life is a dirty martini. The trademark of a great bartender is that he/she can make a good martini. Now, this doesn’t mean anything that you slap the suffix “-tini” on and serve in the cone-shaped glass with a stem. We are talking about a proper martini by definition. Gin or vodka, vermouth and olives or a twist. That’s it. Nothing else, in this case, would be considered a martini.
The bartenders at Sam Snead’s went as far to put a dirty martini on the menu. A classic steakhouse cocktail. The twist, so to speak, is that they stuff the olives with garlic. Sure that’s not a new idea, but neither is grilled steak. If you do both of these well, you can’t lose. The truth is that the folks at Sam Snead’s do classics very well. Sinfully well. From the grill to the bar, execution is key at this place.
A Myrtle Beach staple when it comes to steak is Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (8761 Marina Way, Myrtle Beach). This waterway steakhouse boasts another classic chophouse cocktail that has stood the test of time. The Manhattan is just like a martini, only with whiskey and a cherry. Smokey, sweet and to the point. It represents everything a steakhouse is.
At Ruth’s Chris, the staff takes it to another dimension altogether and brings a little Far East to our American culture. They start with Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon. That’s a great place to start in my opinion. They add Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur from France, their own Lemon Sour, a little Luxardo cherry juice and gourmet cherries. The ginger gives a little tinge of spice, a rustic aroma billows from the bourbon, while the sweet cherries calm things down a bit. Spectacular cocktail. Add a nice charred hunk of beef for in-between sips and it is a marvel.
Steakhouse drinking, for all intent and purpose, has three prime possibilities. Obviously, red wine tops the charts for popularity and sharing. However, don’t discount a good Manhattan or Martini when indulging in some quality cuts of beef. They have a place both historically and flavorfully. At any rate, these are fine spots for drinking fabulously and disregarding the temptation to eat light. Cheers!