Keens Steakhouse

I like love to plan. My friends would probably say that was a giant understatement. I take solace in knowing that we will be doing something and will get to avoid the opener, “Hey stranger!” in our next email exchange. Being impulsive sounds sexy and adventurous, but those are two adjectives I would never associate with myself. Unless of course I can plan to be those ways. I know few people who can be impulsive anymore anyway. Spouses, children, jobs, fatigue, Game of Thrones, working out, and alone time are just a few of the things that keep impulsivity in the realm of the ideal and in dating profiles.

Plans make me feel grounded and secure. A vast sea of time in front of me where things only might occur results in me retreating or being stressed about everything occurring all at once. That is much too much for this introvert. Which is why planning for dedicated alone/anti-social time is also essential.

We often get out of work early on the Friday before a long weekend and that proves to be a great time to go to a late afternoon matinee with no crowds. When my long weekend kind of now feels like four days instead of three, I’m not going to celebrate by going home to cook, but where to go for dinner when I exit AMC and I’m at Penn Station? Lots of could’s involving the subway rack my brain, hunger fuelling indecisiveness.  This Friday night was warm enough that I preferred walking somewhere. I remembered Keens was nearby. Heading to a busy restaurant on a Friday night on a whim is as close as I get to impulsive.

As a historic New York steakhouse, I’ve always wanted to visit Keens. But I’m not much of a steak person in that expensive cuts can be easily lost on me. That’s why I had the burger at Peter Luger. I knew that Monday to Friday, Keens offered a pub menu with more casual and affordable options, such as a notable burger, which you could eat at the bar. As I was only a few blocks away, I thought I’d see if I could find a seat.

Walking into the bar room, I was greeted by the famous painting of Miss Keens and no place to sit. I discovered that in addition to the dining room and the small bar area, the space between the two was the pub room where I could put my name down and wait to be seated for table service with either the main or pub menu. With only a 10 minute wait, I opted for this unexpected option. Because, I tend to be more of a table girl.

When seated in the cozy room with white-shirted waiters and decor that makes you forget the twenty-first century, I no longer wanted the burger. It felt like I would be getting a kids meal. But I didn’t want to knife-and-fork a hunk of meat either. So, obviously a steak sandwich. I can’t shake the craving for wanting to hold onto something and have my teeth rip through chewy carbs. But do I get the aged sirloin or the bavette steak? Despite just telling you that I’m not sophisticated enough for fancy steaks, I ordered the sirloin. I think I wanted to impress my waitress.

I won’t be able to impress you with an apt description of how it tasted because I probably could have had the bavette and been just as happy. The steak tasted like… steak. The waitress did say that a difference I would notice (I asked) was that the bavette was marinated. The sirloin had a nice sear and was lightly seasoned. I should have removed the lettuce because it caused the slices of meat to slip around a bit in the sandwich. The bread was nice and soft and caught the juices without turning to mush. The horseradish sauce on the side was disappointing in that it tasted little more than sour cream, not even mayo. However, the grilled onions more than made up for that lack. They were perfect, soft and sweet, yet with smokiness from the fire. The fries were neither soggy or crispy, and they were not noteworthy for flavour. They were just your average, but completely serviceable, fries. Salty enough yet also better with ketchup.

And, dessert. I knew that Keens was generous with the whipped cream on their sundaes, so it was not difficult for me to go with the butterscotch. I also can’t resist something in a long-stemmed coupe.  Rightly composed with the large scoop of vanilla ice cream sitting in a puddle of butterscotch sauce, the sundae is topped with an equally large dollop of softly whipped and gently sweetened cream. With salted caramel everything available everywhere, it’s nice to return to a classic like butterscotch, reminding me of the butterscotch candies my grandmother would have in her living room candy dish.

I was almost bested by that cream, but I persevered. I could hear Miss Keens cheering me on from the next room.

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