A few days ago, something strange happened. It was a sunless Monday, and the humdrum of lunch filled Wolfgang's Steakhouse downtown. Three guys chatted over steak salads, real estate tycoon Jorge Perez perused a lengthy report while sipping Diet Coke, and waiters scraped breadcrumbs off my white-tablecloth-topped table. Favoring silk ties over cotton tees, the average patron here looks more baby boomer than millennial. At this airy restaurant, which sells a $4,000 bottle of Pétrus, that's to be expected.
What I didn't expect was to be the only woman sitting among the suits.
Sure, the macho crowd gains diversity on weekends. Those days, navy blue Porsche sedans and silver Jaguars fringe the valet's curved driveway. Inside, bejeweled ladies drink martinis and gossip over seafood platters. Handsome guests rifle through the heavy, leather-bound wine list. But even then, the setting might remind you of a white-collar crime flick. Wolfgang's is where Michael Douglas would order a steak medium-rare, play hardball, and then swiftly seal the deal.
In May, Wolfgang Zwiener cohosted the restaurant's opening with condo magnate Jorge Perez and Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. For decades, Zwiener was the head waiter at Peter Luger, the most lionized steak house in New York City. The server opened his first Luger-like steak house on Park Avenue in 2004. Since then, Zwiener has launched six additional locations worldwide. Today, his empire spans from Beverly Hills to Waikiki.
Steak houses such as these supply discretion to guests. Chocolate-hued booths rim the rear of the dining room, a lofted space strategically placed away from windows and everybody else. The view from inside includes Brickell Key, downtown, and scenic bay vistas. But more awe-inspiring are the sounds: the sputtering of blood and butter seeping through the flesh of perfectly cooked steaks.
Wolfgang's hangs its meats in a dry-aging box for weeks and then cooks them in a 1,600-degree broiler. Waiters in white aprons tilt the steak for two, a colossal porterhouse, until a hot pool of grease forms on the plate's edge. They serve the portion — salty, earthy, and rich slivers of meat gashed from both the filet and strip — and baste each piece with scalding juices. Its exterior is charred; its interior is a blushing pink. The porterhouse is absolutely delectable.
It's also enormous. The all-male waitstaff might press for a larger portion, but this $94 steak can feed three. And, if you order sides, possibly even four.
Wolfgang's accompaniments are steak-house standards, ranging from mashed potatoes to deep-fried onion rings. Like the steaks, the German potatoes get singed in the oven. The cubes of sweet onion and potatoes, however, emerge from the kitchen bitter and burnt. Other side dishes, such as creamed spinach and sautéed mushrooms, are blander than they should be. Broccoli and asparagus are also available, either steamed or sautéed. The latter arrived tepid and tasteless.
Perhaps the restaurant seeks to balance the decadence of its meats. In that case, Wolfgang's salads do a good job. The restaurant's eponymous offering couples hunks of bacon, shrimp, green beans, and roasted red peppers. The caesar is better: A smooth, whitish dressing coats romaine leaves, Parmesan cheese, and golden croutons. It's not the most original of salads, but it's well prepared. And, really, if you crave transcendent vegetables, you should go somewhere else.
The same applies to those wanting stellar seafood. Wolfgang's crabcake packs hefty bites of meat into a dense, hockey-puck-size orb. It's mushed together haphazardly: Some bites are crabby; others taste like nothing more than bread. A thick slab of broiled salmon rides alongside quartered lemons and a bundle of asparagus. Squeeze that lemon. On one occasion, the salmon lacked freshness and arrived overcooked.
Although few of the desserts are prepared in-house, they can deliver pleasing results. There's tiramisu, sorbet, pecan pie, and cheesecake from Junior's in New York. The chocolate mousse cake resembles pie, with a velvety filling and a compact black crust. Paired with a heaping mound of sweetened whipped cream, the treat looks like a throwback to simpler days — a time when masses of Cool Whip accompanied every icebox dessert.
Indeed, this clubby restaurant might remind you of times past. At Wolfgang's, the timeless crowd enjoys butter-basted porterhouses, forces down their vegetables, and then returns on the weekends for some martinis and steak.