8 Steakhouse Chains Where Chefs Actually Eat
There's something elegant about a night out at a steakhouse. The drinks, the buttery rolls, the savory sides, and of course, that juicy cut of steak. Whether it's a smaller filet mignon or a larger New York strip, enjoying a quality steak without having to do all the work of cooking it yourself at home sounds like reason enough to hit the local chophouse or one of the national chains. And chefs couldn't agree more.
While there are plenty of divine ways to cook up a steak at home—whether it be in a cast iron skillet or on the grill—sometimes it's nice to just let someone cook it for you, and there are certainly many steakhouse chains to choose from. But which chains would be considered the best of the best—even from a chef's perspective?
We asked chefs and cooking experts which steakhouse chains they prefer to go to when they're craving a juicy steak without having to put in all the work. Here are their favorite spots.
Robbie Shoults, chef and owner of Bear Creek Smokehouse in Texas, picks Texas Roadhouse, a steakhouse chain that many Americans are flocking to recently. "I always order the Dallas Filet because it's the best cut, lowest in fat, and most tender," he says.
Recently named the fastest-growing restaurant in the U.S., Texas Roadhouse brings affordable steak dinners and down-home country fun to neighborhoods across America. If the Dallas Filet isn't your thing, try one of the other steaks including the well-marbled Ft. Worth Ribeye or flavorful NY Strip served in multiple sizes. You can even choose which steak you want from the chain's display case.
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Joe's Stone Crab is a legendary restaurant that began in Miami and now has locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, and D.C. under the name Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. The chain is, of course, famous for the seasonal delicacy stone crab but it also serves several cuts of prime steak.
Chef Jonathon Sawyer, a familiar face on Food Network, a James Beard award winner, and the chef-partner of the newly opened Kindling Downtown Cookout & Cocktails in Chicago's Willis Tower, is a fan. "Whether you prefer a juicy ribeye or a tender beer braised short rib, Joe's offers only the finest cuts of beef," says Sawyer. "And for those looking for something truly unique, I highly recommend the NY Strip Wagyu from Châtel Farms, Georiga, which is so succulent and flavorful that it will leave you speechless." We're sold.
Fogo de Chao
Norah Clark, an experienced pastry chef who has worked for numerous hotels and restaurants worldwide, including The Ritz Carlton Hotel and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in Orlando, adores Fogo de Chao.
The Brazilian churrascaria-style dining offers "a diverse selection of meats, making it an exciting culinary experience," says Clark. At Fogo de Chao she goes for the unique picanha, a prime cut of top sirloin known for its tenderness and rich flavor. The well-curated salad bar—also called the Market Table—is another draw for Clark. The kicked-up fresh food bar with Brazilian-inspired specialties is a much-needed fresh element to the meat-centric menu that's brought around on skewers until you say stop.
Darryl Harmon, executive chef of Slate and Clinton Hall, spends his hard-earned money at Steak 48. "Their 45-day dry-aged bone-in rib eye with Crab Oscar on top is my favorite dish," he says. In case you are unaware, Oscar topping is an old-school preparation of steak that includes a delicate Bèarnaise sauce, crab, and asparagus. Steak 48 modernizes this old-fashioned preparation by using a crab cake instead of lump crab.
Steak 48 is a smaller chain—with eight locations and two on the way—but one that sources excellent meat. It is owned by the same team that owns Mastro's Steakhouse and has an in-house butcher shop, with trained butchers who custom-cut steaks for the restaurant.
Yes, the largest steakhouse chain is considered a chef's favorite—and no, it's not just because of the legendary Bloomin' Onion. Outback steaks seem to speak for themselves in terms of taste and quality.
"Personally I've made and tried thousands of steaks during my career, but one particularly stands out. I went to Outback in Tampa Bay and it was amazing," says Chef Jenna Moran of Whimsy and Spice. "I tried the chargrilled Melbourne Porterhouse and it was sublime. A porterhouse is traditionally one of the cuts that are harder to get just right." Spoiler alert, we also scored Outback high in our exclusive taste test.
Although Wes Wright, cook and founder of CookOut News, is constantly grill testing for the perfect steak, he admits that going to Capital Grille is an easy go-to when he wants a quality cut of meat for dinner.
"They've been consistent with the quality of their beef and they dry age it," says Wright. "I currently don't have a dry-aging operation, so I feel like I'm getting something extra by going there. They can also get a great crust with the high temps they use to cook a steak. Beyond that, it's hard to pass up their brûlée-style cheesecake."
Not sure what grade of meat is considered the best? Here are The Surprising Secrets Behind Steak Grades, According to a Butcher.
Although Mastro's is a smaller steakhouse chain with just under two dozen locations, it is critically acclaimed for its "masterful, high-end" experience, continually labeled as one of the "top 10 steakhouses in the world" and continually a celebrity favorite.
"Mastro's steakhouse is always a winner in my book," says Chef Ryan Rondeno, from Rondeno Culinary. "Always order the bone-in ribeye. It's very tender and flavorful. If you want to keep it simple, the shrimp cocktail is always a great starter. Make sure you finish with the butter cake!"
Compared to Outback, which has hundreds of locations across the globe, Bavette's is a smaller chain with just two humble locations to choose from: Chicago and Las Vegas. However, this chain is small but mighty, and a go-to favorite for many culinary aficionados.
"I am a big fan of Bavette's for many reasons," says James Peisker, cook, butcher, co-founder, and COO of Porter Road. "They have 42-day dry-aged steaks which really makes them funky and tasty. They do not have a corkage fee for bottles of wine if you share a glass of wine with another table. I love the community aspect. Also, they have seafood towers. I'm a sucker for seafood towers."
A previous version of this article was originally published in Nov. 2022. It has been fact-checked and updated with additional entries and new information.