Vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians avert your gazes: It’s time to talk steak.
Not just any steak, but the carnivore-craving stuff that’s been aged for weeks, lathered in cocktails of butter and garlic, then seared to perfection inside a $35,000 gas broiler.
Meat is in our DNA. Perhaps the welcome scent of sirloin on the fire brings us back to the cave?
Meat has been in our blood for two million years. Experts say our distant ancestors got their first taste by scavenging the raw leavings from a saber tooth tiger kill.
Humanoids started cooking meat about 800,000 years ago. Cooking made meat easier to chew and digest. That fueled the early humanoid brain and gave meat-eaters an evolutionary advantage.
The evolution continues in Boulder, home to some of the more savory options in the state.
Here are how some steakhouses do it in food-filled Boulder.
3295 30th St.
This Boulder tradition has served up amazing food for over 50 years.
Loyal customers, loyal employees and a pledge to create meals from the finest products gathered at local farms has helped The Cork stay atop the steak game.
The restaurant’s chef, Jim Smailer, has been on the job for 35 years. The sous chef, Greg Larson, has been there for over 30 years. Some items have been on the menu for over 36 years.
“Same ingredients, same recipes for all these years for our prime rib and teriyaki sirloin,” said Caitlin Cocco, the restaurant’s general manager.
Loyal customers, a lot of take-out and high standards kept The Cork going during the Covid crisis.
“Our consistent regulars are to thank for keeping us going,” Cocco said.
The Cork used to be part of the Cork N Cleaver chain. The menus were once engraved on large meat cleavers. So many vanished over time that the restaurant offered free meals for those who returned the heavy metal objects.
The prime rib remains the most popular item, but be sure to leave space for dessert, especially the mud pie, which is about the size of your head.
Tips for cooking a great steak: “Quality,” Cocco said. “Only use prime, all-natural beef. Less is always more. That’s our approach. We’re very old school here.”
921 Walnut Street
This popular downtown steak haven was started by legendary restauranteur Frank Day, who began his eatery career in the 1970s. Day took over Boulder Chophouse and renamed it when the pandemic forced the previous ownership group to close.
“During the pandemic shutdown, the group that owned the previous restaurant went bankrupt and they did not plan to reopen their Boulder location,” said the chophouse’s general manager, Sam Blundell. “Day reopened the restaurant and brought all the staff back.’’
Day has long-term plans and knows the chophouse will thrive.
“Day is not about making a quick buck; he is proud of what we are doing, and wants to be a staple in downtown Boulder,” Blundell said.
Since reopening in April of 2021, business is up and the vibe is strong.
“This is a totally new restaurant that carries on the tradition of the previous Boulder Chophouse,” he said. “We have kept many traditions, but we have also elevated everything.”
Including the interior, which offers two styles of dining. There’s the formal side with booths and full meals, then there is the modern section, which has more of a pub feel.
“Everyone likes their steak differently,” Blundell said. “Customers always ask me how we make our steaks. But backyard grillers could never pull this off.”
One reason: Frank’s Chophouse uses a $35,000 Montague dual deck gas broiler to do the work.
“It’s at the center of the kitchen and it’s a beast,” Blundell said. “It’s an amazing machine. It cooks so fast, and everything comes out with a great sear.”
Best Dish in the house: “We have a lot of contenders, but it is tough to beat out certified Angus beef porterhouse,” Blundell said. “It’s 32 ounces and it’s meant for two. It’s a showstopper.”
1023 Walnut Street, Suite 400
A touch of old Spain awaits diners at Corrida, a local steakhouse with one of the best views of The Flatirons in town.
The inside is designed to resemble a street in Barcelona.
The carne section focuses on regeneratively sourced, grass-fed beef. The restaurant relies on local products and has connections with ranches in Boulder, Parker and Le Veta. The menu items include a rotating selection of sirloin, American wagyu, NY Strip, Tomahawk ribeyes, Cowboy ribeyes, Japanese A5 Wagyu — and even the prized Vaca Vieja.
“The name ‘corrida’ means bullfight in Spanish,” said Samuel McCandless, Corrida’s chef. “Beef is huge there, so we look for the coolest beef around. … We get the best products we can find and produce it Spanish style.”
Prime is the lowest cut of beef offered at Corrida.
“We get beef, from ranchers who work with the land. It is carbon neutral, carbon negative. We have a flank steak from grass-fed on a farm just three miles from the restaurant, it is incredible,” the chef said. “We get exceptional beef.”
McCandless ages the beef, sometimes up to 60 days. Then the meat is prepped with a concoction of butters and herbs and beef garum.
“Beef garum is a traditional condiment that goes back to ancient Rome,” McCandless said. “We add this into the butter, and it creates a flavor you can’t get anywhere. It’s like beef soy sauce caramel.”
Steak Tip: “Always buy from a pro,” McCandless said. “Buy the best beef you can. Use enough salt. Take your time when you cook it. Don’t rush it. Leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes before you cook it. Keep it simple.”
1606 Conestoga Street, #3
Blackbelly has grown from a food cart to a catering business to a boutique butcher shop to an outstanding steakhouse.
Its owner and chef, Hosea Rosenberg, gained national attention several years ago by appearing on the reality show, “Top Chef.”
Chef Rosenberg said his steaks are top-notch because they are sourced from nearby ranches and from animals that graze freely, feeding on local grasses and non-GMO corn and feed.
“They raise their animals with the utmost respect applying natural, humane practices,” he said. “We also carry Waygu beef that is raised in Colorado. It is from a pure Japanese bloodline and considered one of the world’s most premium and marbled with the perfect amount of fat.”
Rosenberg has found a way to expand his business in the tough local market. He said the success comes from taking a personal stake in the community.
“We care a lot about the community and always try to support it,” he said. “We believe food is life and we are proud to feed our community with only good, nourishing food, from the best sources, cultivated by local farmers and ranchers who care about protecting the environment, and being extremely conscientious in their approach to their work. “
Rosenberg started out with a food cart and farm, but quickly learned that farming was not for him.
“I am a better chef than a farmer, so I decided to focus on what I do best,” he said. “We still consider catering a top priority, but it is nice to also have a diverse array of offerings including the upscale dining restaurant, casual breakfast and lunch at the market, and our butcher shop. “
Steak Tip: “When cooking a steak, keeping it simple is best,” Rosenberg said. “Use the best cut of meat recommended to you for the kind of method you want to use and let its flavor shine. Here are the steps I send to people inquiring about cooking a perfect steak:
1) Remove from fridge 1-2 hours before cooking
2) Season generously with salt & pepper 15 min before cooking
3) Cook on a very hot grill or cast-iron pan. Turn once, flip, the turn once more. For optimal sear, don’t move it around any further.
4) If cooking in a pan, you can baste the steak with butter, garlic, thyme, and rosemary
5) Let the steak rest for half the time it cooks (very important!)
6) Slice against the grain for tender, not chewy pieces
7) Open some wine, relax, and enjoy!”