I have a problem with diets. I’ve been on several of them over the course of this adulthood that I’m rushing through, and without fail they all follow the same pattern. I try to eat better. I exercise more. I lose some weight. This outcome should be enough. After all, this is why you diet. Last year, I tried a Keto diet for a while, hoping it might fix some of what ailed me. I ate meat and dairy and skipped the sugar and grains. The outcome was aggressively meh. I lost a few pounds. But I didn’t feel any better. I never feel any better.
I’ve read with interest the outcomes of people who eliminate things from their diet. One lady, somewhere, stopped eating sugar and in three days she had lost 10 pounds and her skin cleared and she was able to run a marathon immediately. Someone else, somewhere else, stopped eating wheat and the cancer that was ravaging his cells disappeared. Another guy who couldn’t breathe stopped eating dairy and now he’s the world record holder for deepest breath ever breathed. I wish something like this would happen to me, but it never does. I just don’t get to eat the things I really love (read bread and dairy, and also creme brûlée), and I lose a few measly pounds. Big. Deal.
With this in mind, I watched some documentaries this fall and became convinced that some odd muscle pain I had may be due to something I was eating. This is the new documentary, in case you haven’t noticed. Whatever is wrong with you is wrong with you because of what you are eating. I watched enough of these in October and November that on a random day a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving I decided to give Paleo a try. It’s like Keto, but not disgusting. I need to eat fruit, and this would allow that. So I embarked on this new journey, aimed at eliminating dairy, sugar, and all grains (legumes lose, too). I am now more than two months into this latest experiment and I am pleased to report that I’ve lost a few pounds but otherwise feel exactly the same. Just terrible. The most painful part of this is not being able to eat pizza, and also not being able to have proper dairy in my morning espresso. The next blockbuster documentary will be “Cashew Milk: The Innocent Killer”
With this new diet in mind, I needed to have a winter review series that would honor my current predicament. The only thing I could think of that might have some uniformity in our local market is steak. And I’m not talking about gross prime rib, served barely warm and oddly soft, with that limp ribbon of fat and that bland ladle of warmed meat juice. I mean steak. Ribeye. Porterhouse. New York Strip. Filet. Real grilled or broiled steak. Charred. Robust. Important. This is my new aim, and in the Lake Geneva area, there are steak houses that must be judged. Warn them for their coming trial.
Please spare me the same lecture I was given when I reviewed pizza. “Why would I eat pizza in Wisconsin when you can get the real stuff in Chicago?” This is what I heard from the unintelligent. I expect to hear the same again. RPM, now that’s a steakhouse! Gibson’s, that’s where I get my steak! I get it. You live in a big city with lots of really terrific steak. I don’t. I live in rural Wisconsin and when I go out to dinner I don’t want to drive 180 miles round trip. I want to drive down the road, tuck into some booth or four top, and order a ribeye. So that’s just what I did last week when I decided to start the steak review series off with what I figured would be a contender, Anthony’s Steakhouse.
I mean, it even says steak in the name. In all of my years, nearly 42 of them spent entirely in Walworth County, I have never ordered anything other than fish at Anthony’s. It’s a fish fry place to me, no matter what the sign insists. The dinner plan would line up well with my evening. I worked out at 4 pm. Then I went to the Grand Geneva to clean up. Then I’d meet my son at Anthony’s once his ACT prep class was over, and after dinner we’d go see 1917, the new war movie. Lifting weights, steak dinner, war movie? Classic night, and I was excited for it. My son wouldn’t be able to join me until 6:10, so I arrived at Anthony’s at 5:45 in order to survey the scene and maybe place our ordered so we didn’t run into any time crunch before the movie.
When I pulled into the parking lot on that Wednesday night it was empty. Like apocalypse empty. The weather wasn’t particularly poor, but it was a weeknight in January, so I suppose the scene was as expected. Inside, two or three tables were occupied, and at least one guy sat at the bar and had a lively conversation with the bartender about M16s. The lights were predictably dim, the restaurant as quiet inside as the winter night was outside. It was quiet and calm, but it didn’t feel desolate. It felt comfortable. It felt like home, assuming home wasn’t redecorated since 1973, but still, home. I was seated in a booth and the waitress quickly brought out my relish tray. Some raw vegetables, one of which may have been slightly pickled, some crackers, and three bowls with a tennis size dollop of sour cream, butter, and orange cheese spread. The relish tray mocked my diet, but I held strong. Besides, I was too annoyed by the sanitized flicker slowly, lazily, barely dancing from the fake log fireplace on the north wall. What a shame that we’ve ruined the experience of fire in this way. Imagine how much better that moment would have been if that fireplace had life in it, snapping, smoking, blazing life. Such a terrible miss.
After sitting for a while and working through my disappointment in that sinful electric fire, I realized that my waitress had been missing. I was seated at 5:50, and it was now 6:05, with no further sign of her. She knew I was waiting on another guest, so perhaps this was the reason for her absence? The clock ticked, and I was getting irritated. I didn’t want to miss the movie. I wanted to order. 6:09. The delay was bordering on neglect. I stood up, which made me feel like a jerk. My wife would tell you that I am a jerk, but she pronounces semI-truck like semE-truck, so that’s not the point. I flagged down one of the other waitresses and asked her to find my waitress. A few minutes later, she re-appeared, and confirmed that she was waiting for my dinner guest to arrive. I let her know I had a movie to catch, and put in my order.
There is some debate as to how I should order for this review series. Should it be the same cut of meat? Should I always order the ribeye? Should it be prepared the same at each restaurant? I decided I will ask the waitress what she recommends, and then follow the advice. After all, she knows what’s most popular. I asked her what I should order. She told me the ribeye, without hesitation. I liked her conviction. She asked if I wanted it prepared Greek Style, which I, like most Norwegians, am not familiar with. When I paused, she told me that’s how I wanted it. Otherwise it’s under seasoned, she said. I ordered it medium. Before you inundate me with comments about how you like your steak mooing, I assure you I am no stranger to this macho attitude towards steak. Sadly, it’s the wrong attitude. Blue steak is repulsive. For a side, I chose a simple baked potato, because even though some Paleo folks insist potatoes are bad, another random-guy-with-podcast-and-documentary says they’re super great. Baked potato, no butter it would be. It was 6:15 when I completed my order.
My son arrived, and wondered out loud where everyone was. I assured him that a Wednesday in winter should be like this. He agreed. I had the option of a soup or salad with my dinner, and I opted for soup. It was brought table side quickly, a beef vegetable soup that looked and tasted just like every beef vegetable soup ever made. I picked my way around the macaroni and sipped the broth. It was fine but if I had a hankering for soup I wouldn’t seek this one out. At 6:30, the dinner arrived. Admittedly, I was starving. The steak was presented on its own oval plate, which was warmed to a few degrees over touchable. Surrounding the steak was a puddle of jus, which was very much a jus and not a demi glace. The lonely baked potato was on its own plate. Looking all gross and sad without any butter or sour cream or bacon or chives. Still, the steak looked good and I was beyond ready to eat.
The initial glance proved that this was a well prepared steak. It had a heavy char that I found to be very desirable on this cold night. The ends of the ribeye were misshapen and quite fatty, which a local butcher told me is often a way that restaurants make a smaller steak appear larger. No matter, I cut into the steak and found it cooked to the rare side of medium, which I suppose is preferred compared to the alternative option. The first bite confirmed my suspicion. This was a delicious steak. Tender without being soft. Charred, without being overcooked. The seasoning, a bit of oregano and lemon, wasn’t overpowering but did add a nice complexity to the dish. The jus was flavorful without being too salty. The baked potato was terrible, but I dare you to find a naked baked potato that isn’t.
I worked through the rest of the steak and found myself commenting often about how fatty it was. There was a lot of fat on this cut. It wasn’t off-putting, but it wasn’t great. I understand that fat is flavor, but there are limits to this understanding. I enjoyed the flavor, and appreciated that fine combo of tender meat with heavy char. The steak was $33.99, which I think is probably in line with my expectations moving forward. The menu calls their ribeye “Just Good Steak”, and when the night was over and I drove to the movie I decided that they were right. Was this a terrific steak? Not especially. But was it prepared with care, served with pride, and did it hit the spot on that cold winter night? Absolutely.
Highway 50, Lake Geneva
$33.99 for the Ribeye, served Greek Style