Burton and Doyle Steakhouse
Disappointing in almost every way
With so many great steakhouses on Northern Boulevard to choose from, I expected that the sheer competition would be enough to elevate Burton and Doyle to the upper echelons of food and service. Sadly, in my recent experience there the only thing that resembled anything from a 5-star restaurant was the check.
Obviously, a Great Neck restaurant review blog wouldn’t be complete without reviewing each of Great Neck’s steakhouses on Northern Boulevard that make up part of Long Island’s Steakhouse Row: Peter Luger, Morton’s, and Burton and Doyle. For the record, the others further down Northern Boulevard include Bryant and Cooper in Roslyn, and Rothmann’s 10 miles down the road in East Norwich. A former famous steak house in Great Neck, the North Shore Steak House, closed its doors in 2005 and has since been demolished.
I had very high expectations for Burton and Doyle. The name, of course, sounds like the name of a high end establishment, although there’s really no explanation anywhere explaining exactly who “Burton” or “Doyle” were. Driving up to the restaurant, there’s no self-parking and there’s no street parking anywhere nearby, so you basically have to go with valet parking. The valet are friendly well dressed as befitting a fine restaurant.
Walking into the door, you immediately feel like you’re in a high-class establishment. The hostess table is directly to the left as you walk in, and right in front of you is a seafood bar with an impressive array of seafood. The decor was as you’d expect in a steakhouse–dark wood grain walls with old paintings throughout, subdued mica lighting. There was even the smell of fresh lacquer on the walls, which certainly gave the place ambiance but didn’t quite help my appetite any.
For a moment I panicked because I didn’t bother to check for a dress code until I saw two older men in short sleeve button-down shirts and shorts in front of me. Most of the restaurant patrons were dressed as I was, with long pants and either a polo short or button-down shirt. A few were wearing jeans, one or two were wearing jackets (For the record, the official dress code for Burton and Doyle is “business casual”).
I placed reservations on OpenTable for 6:30 PM on a Saturday night. When we arrived the restaurant was still pretty empty. There were four young ladies at the front desk and to be blunt they seemed a little disorganized. One of them told us our table was ready but asked us if we wanted to be seated at the bar first, which struck me as a little odd. The four of them stood there chattering for a couple minutes, and we actually overheard one of them blurt out “should we stick these two here?” which seemed a little awkward.
Finally, one of the ladies walked us to our table, back in the corner of the room. I wouldn’t say she was impolite, but she wasn’t exactly polite either. On the one hand she was kind enough to pull our chairs out for us, but on the other hand she didn’t crack a smile, and her mannerisms seemed kind of forced, as if she wasn’t really enjoying being there. I can’t even remember if she even gave us an “enjoy your meal”.
One thing she definitely didn’t give us were menus. We had to wait a few more minutes for those, despite that there were only five tables seated at that moment.
A man was circling the room serving fresh bread. There was a nice selection, including olive bread, 7-grain bread, sourdough bread, flatbread, and raisin walnut bread. The bread was good but not great; it didn’t quite have the “fresh out of the oven” feeling I’ve had at other steak restaurants.
As I was eating my bread, I noticed a little gnat flying around our table. I won’t necessarily pin that on Burton and Doyle, but then again it was something I hadn’t seen in a high-end restaurant before.
The menu had a number of choices ranging from different cuts of steak to fish and seafood. They even had a sushi menu, although with all the other great choices for sushi in Great Neck I’m not sure why someone would come here for that.
One thing on the menu that intrigued us was the “seafood plateau” which came either cold or hot. I’ve had seafood appetizer platters at Morton’s and have been blown away by it, so I figured I’d give Burton and Doyle’s a shot. One thing they had which I’ve never seen before is a cooked seafood appetizer platter, so we decided to try that. The price was $40.
They also had a “surf and turf” option for $75 that included a filet mignon and a lobster tail. I figured we’d give that a shot, given that it was the most expensive and presumably the best thing on the menu.
It took a while for our server to come to take our orders. When he finally did, he rattled off the day’s specials. While he did a nice job, I kept thinking it would have been nice for him to have told us these things when he first gave us our menus. Just other odd thing I noticed in the service.
I asked him what cut of steak was considered their specialty. He immediately said the Burton & Doyle Rib Steak was the most popular, along with the Sirloin. The first thing that popped into my head was that it was smart of him not to mention the Porterhouse, given who’s a few blocks down the road. While Burton and Doyle probably can’t match Luger’s Porterhouse, they could certainly carve out their own niche with other cuts. I decided to try out the Rib Steak for One, which clocked in at $55. Again, for that price I figured it would be amazing.
We also ordered two side dishes, the hash browns and something called “Woodland Mushrooms”, olive oil and garlic mixed with a variety of different mushrooms from button to shittake. By now, our bill was approaching $200–for two people and with no drinks.
As we waited for our appetizer, a third slightly off-putting incident happened. We were put in the corner table, and during this time some of the employees opened the door to a storage room that happened to be about five feet away from my table. I could see straight into this storeroom, a kind of messy one that contained boxes strewn about. The door remained open for several minutes and employees in the room were talking rather loudly as they tried to sort out what to get out of it.
Now Lisa and I are pretty easy-going, so we let these things slide, but if I were out on a special occasion, by now I wouldn’t be very happy.
Our seafood appetizer game. It looked very good on the surface. There were two tiers of seafood: baked clams, fried calamari, grilled shrimp, pan fried sea scallops, and a huge crab cake.
The appetizer came on two tiers: the lower tier consisted of the seafood, while the upper tier consisted of various sauces.
Yet another odd thing about the service is that the servers just plopped the food down on our table and walked away. They didn’t explain what each dish was, and they didn’t even tell us what the sauces were nor how to use them. We’d guessed that the sauces, going clockwise, were a kind of wine sauce, tartar sauce, a thousand island-like sauce, and cocktail sauce. But we weren’t exactly sure what sauce paired best with what seafood. Again, in other restaurants the servers would show a little more pride in their food.
I soon found out why they might not. I started with the scallops. They were certainly big and juicy, but they lacked any kind of flavor at all. The same is true of the calamari–the breading was much too thick and the calamari just had a dry, rubbery texture with no flavor at all; ironically, the calamari I had at Cafe Rustica weeks before was far superior.
The shrimp was dry, almost to the point of being ridiculous. And like the calamari and the scallops, it lacked that really “fresh” taste you get with really fresh seafood–I’m not sure whether the seafood just wasn’t fresh to begin with or if they just found a way to cook the fresh flavor out of it, but either way I wasn’t very impressed.
The baked clams were 95% breading and salt. A LOT of salt. I think I might have tasted one clam amid all the breadcrumbs. The crabcake was certainly generous with the crabmeat, but again, I just didn’t get that feeling of it being completely fresh. The crabmeat could very well have come out of a can and not tasted any different. To be blunt, I’ve had better seafood at the Red Lobster. For $40, I expected a life-altering experience (which I actually had at Morton’s before). I didn’t get it.
Then it came time to wait for the steaks. And wait. And wait. By this time the restaurants was filling up fairly quickly. Yet another snafu–when they came to clear away our appetizer plates, they also took away my bread plate, which still had bread on it (while leaving Lisa’s on the table). By this time I was just shaking my head.
Finally, the steaks came out. Again, they didn’t announce what the dishes were, they just plopped them in front of our table. Strangely, they just shoved the plates haphazardly onto the table; in my case they clanked the plate against my water glass, and in Lisa’s case the plate actually ended up crooked, sitting on top of her fork. The server did spoon out a few of the mushrooms for her and for me, but didn’t seem to take much pleasure in it (and he didn’t even bother to spoon out any of the potatoes). We were asked if we wanted pepper, to which we said yes. Again, the pepper grinding wasn’t done with very much enthusiasm. Again, not that I’m a stickler about such things, but when I’ve just paid $130 for two entrees, I expected a little more.
Here’s what the rib steak looked like (note the position of the fork, the knife, and the water glass).
And here’s the filet and the lobster tail.
As far as the steaks go, you’ll probably notice right away that Burton and Doyle steaks have substantial charring. Charring a steak so that it’s black on the outside and pink on the inside is a fairly popular way to cook steak, although on the one hand casual diners may not appreciate that their food is “burned”, while steak purists say it’s almost a crime to do this to prime dry aged beef (which Burton and Doyle says it’s beef is), as it ruins the intense flavors from the dry aging process. Personally, while I appreciate a good charred steak, the charring on this steak seemed a bit excessive; I would have preferred a dark brown than jet black.
Still, the proof was in the tasting. I cut into the rib steak and took my first bite. The steak was tender and cut pretty well. But my first impression was that while the taste was decent, the taste was more from the charring than from the dry aged beef, which I honestly didn’t really taste at all. Plus, overall the steak seemed excessively dry. Not the awe-inspiring experience I’d expect for $55.
As I got closer to the bone, the meat got more juicy and tender. The steak was cooked a pretty good medium rare.
Long story short, there were about three or four bites on the entire rib steak that I really enjoyed.
I had pretty much the same impression when I tasted the filet mignon. It was really, really dry and lacked the kind of tenderness or juiciness that a filet really should have. Again, the only thing really distinctive was the flavor from the char.
We tried the lobster part of the “surf and turn” next. Just like the seafood appetizers, we were underwhelmed. The lobster’s texture didn’t have the “snap” of a fresh lobster, just a dry and mealy kind of texture. It lacked the “fresh seafood” taste of lobsters I’ve had in other restaurants. In fact, there was hardly any taste at all, even when dipped into the butter.
Ironically, the highlight of the evening was the mushroom side dish, which was prepared very simply with a number of different varieties of mushrooms tossed in olive oil.
We also tried a side of hash browns, which were good, although they had an aftertaste which made me wonder if they were cooked in old oil.
Finally, to wrap up the evening, we ended up waiting a very, very, very long time for our check.
I know I’ve been a bit harsh in this review, especially about the service. In fairness, certain parts of the service were excellent. Our water glasses were never empty, and while they weren’t the most friendly servers in the world, they weren’t particularly nasty either. And taken individually, each of the lapses in service we experience weren’t huge gaffes.
But one thing that was very clear was that at the end of the night, all those negative things just added up. I didn’t feel like I had a very good dining experience. And when you consider that this was the single biggest check I’ve ever paid for any restaurant in Great Neck (including Peter Luger), it was all the more disappointing.
Perhaps my experience was just an anomaly; I did notice as we were walking out an hour and a half later after we entered that the restaurant was jam packed on a Saturday night. The cynic in me says that most of the crowd is probably due to spillover from people who couldn’t get into Luger, plus people who were using their Groupons or Living Social vouchers. But it’s also fair to say those who want to experience a typical high-end steakhouse ambiance, and aren’t necessarily as picky about the food or the service, will enjoy this place. As for me, it’ll probably be a while before I go back.