Short on options, Hartford Steak Co. Tavern still delivers

The Hartford Steak Co. Tavern has a reputation East River as one of, if not the, most solid steakhouse in the region. If you ask around you’re either told Hartford or the Tea Steakhouse, though many follow that up by saying Tea has fallen off in recent years. Having never eaten there, I wouldn’t know. (But I plan to find out sometime soon, it being On The Road month and all!)

I was impressed with my first-ever dinner at the Tavern last Friday. Turns out, Friday and Saturday are prime rib nights. And by that I mean prime rib is what you’re getting; size of cut is your option. I went with the smallest portion (I was about to go shoot some high school football and needed to not be stuffed full), an 8 oz cut with potato, bread and a wedge salad.

While waiting for my meal, I was struck at how comfortable the place felt. It’s nicely decorated with leaded glass throughout, low light and dark wood. The hum of conversation was encompassing, not loud by any means, but the kind of whir that suggests this is a place to catch up with family and friends. Not that I was eavesdropping, but everything from the upcoming Vikings game, to the recent political conventions to how Uncle Ron was doing could be heard from my booth. It’s clearly a community gathering spot, and was packed by 5:15 p.m. when I walked in.

The wedge came first and, surprise!, there was a slice of watermelon with it. I’d never seen that, and was a bit skeptical on how it would pair with the ranch dressing (they only have two styles: ranch or French) and blue cheese crumbles on the lettuce. It was oddly good, and not far off from other fruit/cheese combos you might have tried.

I would have rather it been an actual blue cheese dressing because I find ranch abhorrent as puts the choke hold on all other flavors in any dish it encounters, but I still liked the salad.

My steak was juicy, tender and I fully enjoyed it. I did add some salt and pepper for seasoning, and asked for some horseradish as well. I was happy it was the finely shredded version and not the creamy condiment.

I’ll certainly head back to this steakhouse next time I find myself out that way, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how outstanding the service was. All the basics: friendly, knowledgeable, prompt. But each of the touchbacks were perfectly timed in the way you know they are keeping up on all the tables, and not randomly coming around for water or asking how your meal is. They are in control of the experience.

It was a good one for sure.

Mon.-Thurs.: Filet and burgers
Fri.-Sat.: Prime Rib
Sun.: Sirloin