Beef battle begins: Peter Luger faces meaty competition

Beef battle begins: Peter Luger faces meaty competition

The Battle of Brooklyn Beef has finally been joined.The new Morton’s steakhouse in the Brooklyn Marriott — which will open in late 2008 — is aiming to take a bite out of Peter Luger, the Williamsburg steakhouse that has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the flesh trade since it opened in 1887.

The smart money is on Peter Luger.

But the stomach is on Morton’s.

Look, Peter Luger has ranked as the city’s best steakhouse — at least according to Mr. Zagat — for the past 24 years. In the last Zagat Survey, Luger’s received a 28-out-of-30 score, with reviewers touting its “matchless marbled beef” and “juicy perfection.”

I wonder when those reviewers last made the trek to South Williamsburg. Indeed, this reporter (who is fourth in annual beef consumption behind the United States, Argentina and Australia) found the once-legendary Porterhouse a little gristly on his last visit in July.

Two months later, the New York Times validated my impression, with reviewer Frank Bruni accusing the steakhouse of coasting and gloating.

Meanwhile, Morton’s is not chopped liver (heck, they don’t even serve it).

The Chicago-based chain’s Manhattan location — one of 78 worldwide — got a 23 Zagat rating, though it lost some points for being “formulaic.”

When I ate there, I liked the fact that the other items on the menu — like actual vegetables, real salads and fresh fish — are not just afterthoughts.

And the steak was outstanding. Was it as good as a Luger Porterhouse on its best day? No way. But Peter Luger hasn’t had its best day in a while.

Not that Peter Luger co-owner Amy Rubenstein is worried about the newcomer.

“I think our quality is evident,” she told me this week.

Perhaps, but Morton’s will hurt Luger with its prime customer: businessmen and women with expense accounts. Morton’s, you see, takes credit cards while Peter Luger makes you take a J train to Marcy Avenue with $500 in your pocket.

Plus, with 300 seats, it’ll be much easier to get a table at Morton’s — something that has become an impossible dream at Peter Luger (unless you like your 36-ounce steak at 4 pm or at midnight). So it’s about time another steak has staked a claim to Brooklyn.

It’s not the first time in recent months that an outsider has tried to dethrone a Brooklyn institution. Before Morton’s decided to take on Peter Luger, Applebee’s announced that it had hired Cake Man Raven to sell his wares at their location on Flatbush Avenue Extension — right across the street from cheesecake-selling superstar, Junior’s.

That battle began in earnest on Thursday with a big Applebee’s media event.I was there, of course, sucking down Cake Man’s desserts like a diabetic.

What can I say? I have a reputation to maintain.