Getting a table at a New York City institution just got a little easier.
Steak destination Peter Luger recently started taking online reservations — welcome news to longtime customers and tourists who would routinely spend hours on the phone trying to score coveted dinner reservations during the golden hours between 4:45 and 10:45 p.m.
“We were getting 6,000 calls for reservations every day, which is an insane number,” said Daniel Turtel, 28, a fourth-generation owner of the 132-year-old, German beer hall-style restaurant in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.
The Williamsburg eatery, which can serve more than 6,000 people in a given week, discovered the call volume after installing a new phone system. But it wasn’t the first they heard of the wait times.
“We had been getting slight suggestions from people that it maybe took a little too long to make a reservation,” Turtel said with a smile. “We were increasingly aware that the wait time on the phone was not such a charming aspect."
Luger went with Resy for its reservation services. Currently the restaurant is booked two weeks out on the platform.
Keeping with tradition
Beyond its new reservation system (as well as expansions to Long Island in 1960 and, next year, Tokyo), Luger hasn’t changed much since Turtel’s great-grandfather, Sol Forman, purchased the restaurant in 1950. For one, it’s still cash-only. The steakhouse also still uses USDA Prime beef that’s dry aged with a secret method that is “very stridently controlled for humidity, temperature and time,” Turtel said.
Turtel’s great-grandmother, Marsha Forman, became famous for her trips to the Westside meat markets in her Cadillac — with her long, white braided hair and white fur coat — to hand-select the beef. Even today, a family member picks every piece of meat that’s on the menu, which also has been consistent over the years.
“There’s steak for one, steak for two, steak for three and steak for four,” Turtel said.
The steaks are accompanied by traditional sides like creamed spinach and German potatoes, or appetizers like tomato and onion, shrimp cocktail and bacon.
The $7 slices of perfectly cooked, extra thick, sliced bacon originated as a staff meal.
“Bacon is a huge thing here,” Turtel said. “Customers in the know would order it and eventually someone had the idea to put it on the menu."
Luger’s signature sauce, available at the restaurant, its online butcher shop, in supermarkets and at Costco, is also a favorite; it’s still made across the street from the Brooklyn restaurant.
“Originally it was mixed in the back on a daily basis and regulars would come in with empty jars from home and ask the waiters to fill them up,” Turtel said.
And then there’s the schlag — a bowl of whipped cream still made by hand today, all day long, on site.
“People have come in for years and would apply the schlag test," Turtel said. "You turn the bowl upside down and if it doesn’t fall out, it’s real Peter Luger’s schlag."
Peter Luger is located at 178 Broadway, Williamsburg, 718-387-7400, peterluger.com