January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 81: Lewnes’ Steakhouse

Photograph by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg.

There’s a time for the big chain steakhouses, those dark dens that dish up heaping helpings of machismo along with steaks bigger than you can finish and sides that come on plates the size of hubcaps. That time is when someone else is footing the bill.

When the call is yours to make, look to this old corner restaurant across the Bay Bridge in Eastport. With its neighborhood characters at the bar and black-and-white family photographs on the walls, it’s the kind of family-operated place that used to dot the landscape. There’s enough atmosphere here for two or three restaurants.

How much you like Lewnes’ may depend on how willing you are to embrace wet-aging. A lot of people turn up their noses at the process, preferring dry-aged for its depth of flavor. Fair enough, but dry-aging can’t compensate for a kitchen that doesn’t know how to handle a steak. The kitchen at Lewnes’ does. The steaks are slathered with clarified butter and thrust under a 1,800-degree broiler until the exterior is dark and slightly crusty. The porterhouse is the undisputed star, but the New York strip is a close second. And both are a good bit cheaper than you’ll find at the high-end chains. Wash them down with a bottle of red from the restaurant’s private reserve.

If the sides are less conscientiously handled, that doesn’t diminish their satisfactions—the hash browns and the creamed spinach are guilty-pleasure good.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.