The oldest steakhouse in the Gables, Christy’s delivers tradition with panache
There is something to be said for longevity, especially in a city like Coral Gables, which honors its past. Perhaps no other restaurant delivers that sense of tradition better than Christy’s, a testament to quality that holds its own even as the world around it changes.
Not that Christy’s has stood still. Its elegant bar has been updated to be more open and inviting. And the artwork that adorns the wall has been modernized, leaving behind the staid pastoral scenes and still life depictions in favor of silk screen, impressionism, pop art, and the like. Somehow it works, especially since the walls remain drenched in the classic steakhouse red of yesteryear. Even the seating is time-honored.
Unable to find anything as remotely comfortable as the old, leather covered chairs that have been there since the restaurant’s 1978 inception, managing partner Chris Klaik had them reupholstered — a few at a time, so as not to disrupt the customer experience.
What you find today at Christy’s is not far removed from the classic experience this enduring eatery has always delivered: superb steaks, excellent service, low lighting, cocktails worthy of Mad Men’s 1950s flair, and a classic Caesar salad that remains, with its secret recipe, arguably the best in the city.
With a tip of the hat to menus that offer a vast number of options, there is something to be said about an establishment confident enough to keep the menu to a reasonable size. They may not tender a prodigious selection, but what they do proffer is prepared very well. You want a salad here? Two choices: Their “famous” Caesar with anchovies on the side, and their wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, Nueske’s bacon, and crispy shallots. Both wonderfully cold and crisp.
You want soup? One choice: French onion, beautifully laced with melted gruyere cheese.
For appetizers, you have the same deliberately constrained selection of classics, some of which can’t be found anywhere else — like their Oysters Rockefeller, with spinach, parmesan cheese, and bacon. The last time we indulged in these rich, succulent bivalves was at the Carlyle in New York City.
Likewise, their escargot is done old school, not deconstructed or gussied up with pastry. Just cooked with white wine and garlic herb butter, served in the sort of circular, ceramic dish with indented cups you would find in a Parisian café. The same goes for their lump crab cakes and shrimp cocktails. Old school all the way.
For entrées, we could not resist sampling Christy’s aged beef — though we did try the sherry and honey-glazed rack of lamb (with Greek mint yogurt!) and the seared deep-sea scallops that arrived on a bed of English pea risotto. Both toothsome. But what we came for was the 20-ounce aged ribeye, seared to a beautiful pink, and another rarity, prime rib. The latter is something that you just can’t find anymore, owing perhaps to the requirement that it be roasted for two hours. The one we were served looked like it came from the table of Fred Flintstone, large enough to feed at least two diners. These great slabs are available on a first-come-first serve basis, so arrive early if you must have it.
Our server for the night, Josie Fosselman, added to the pleasure of the experience — an ebullient former chef who decided to leave the heat of the kitchen behind to work the front of the house. For cocktails, she recommended we stay with the time-honored Classic Manhattan and Christy’s Old Fashioned, both time machines to an era when drinks had a bite and were not supposed to mimic something from a soda fountain — though I did try a martini that was enhanced with espresso and simple syrup. Yes, it was like drinking an alcoholic chocolate soda, unmanly but delicious.
Speaking of the sweet side, we deliberately avoided ordering the Baked Alaska, another throwback that is impossible to find elsewhere. Once these appear, flaming tableside, it starts a domino effect, and we decided to have mercy on Josie. Instead we ordered the light key lime pie with a toasted almond-graham crust, and a five-nut brownie with sea salt caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. No regrets.
At this point, Christy’s is open only for dinner, but one can only hope they will expand to lunch when the adjacent office towers of The Plaza Coral Gables are fully occupied with hungry executives. Perhaps there will never be a return to the two-martini lunches of Madison Avenue in its heyday, but at Christy’s it would not feel out of place.
3101 Ponce De Leon Blvd.