New York once overflowed with cigar-friendly steak houses, emporiums where entire herds seemed to be consumed on a Friday and thick cigar smoke rose to darkened ceilings, paired with the finest of single malts, Cognacs and Ports. Sadly, thanks to a statewide smoking ban, those days have passed us by.
One steak house in the Hudson Valley, however, has a large lounge that will remain smoker-friendly. The reason? It's attached to a full-service cigar store.
Don't let the brown paper bag menu throw you—this restaurant serves serious steaks. And the portions are generous. Chef Neil Schlesinger, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Glynna, has been in the business for 35 years. He got his start filling salt and pepper shakers, and when the chef failed to show one evening, he found himself behind the line turning steaks for 300 people.
Neil buys, ages and cuts his own steaks, and puts three weeks of dry aging on his meat before it's ready to serve. His signature steak, the Schlesinger Steak ($21.95) is a 20-ounce rib eye. The 16-ounce New York Sirloin ($23.95), which I had on a visit, was full of flavor, and cooked to a perfect medium rare. There's also prime rib ($23.95), filet mignon ($24.95) and an assortment of chicken, rib and pasta dishes, with a piece of salmon thrown in for those who are red-meat shy. For those with a truly hearty appetite, you can supersize any entrée with a lobster tail for an additional $14.
After ordering, diners get a happy reminder of the differences between upstate New York and New York City: the dishes here are not served a la carte. Order a thick steak and you get a salad and potato. While Schlesinger's doesn't boast Manhattan celebrity sightings, local stars do make appearances, namely the Teutel family of motorcycle builders made famous by the television show "American Chopper."
The building, which is located in the picturesque Hudson River Valley, has a bit of history. Built in 1762, it was known then as the Brewster House. George Washington didn't sleep here, but he slept nearby while the house served as officer's quarters for American soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
You can't smoke in the restaurant itself, but the large adjacent smoking lounge and bar are a smoker's heaven. The decor in the smoking lounge is charmingly old-fashioned. Most walls are done in mahogany-colored wainscoting, and one wall to the side of the bar is done in stone. Sconces line the walls, and lamps on long chains hang from the bar ceiling. Each chair is covered with a baggy, floral-patterned slipcover, and ornate paintings in gilded frames decorate the wall. The lounge is dominated by the bar, which is stocked with bottles of spirits.
|Glynna Schlesinger (center) with cigar retailer Ron Shapiro (left) and cigarmaker Orlando Padrón at one of her cigar dinners.|
There's no need to worry if you forget a cigar. In 1997, the Schlesingers opened a cigar shop—Hudson Valley Cigars—that's attached to the lounge and restaurant. The shop carries a dizzying variety of brands, including Arturo Fuente, Ashton, Avo, Camacho, Davidoff, Don Diego, Fonseca, H. Upmann, Hoyo de Monterrey, La Gloria Cubana, Léon Jimenes, Macanudo, Montecristo, Onyx, Padrón, Partagas, Punch and Romeo y Julieta. The shop has a 120-square-foot humidor and is open seven days a week, until 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The lounge has its own humidor, but if there's something a patron needs at the cigar shop, Glynna says she will open up to accommodate.
Glynna, who is an award-winning bodybuilder when she isn't running the cigar shop, has a close relationship with many cigarmakers, and hosts cigar dinners at Schlesinger's twice a year. In good weather, the dinners are held outside, to allow smoking during the meal itself.
It's a winning combination: belly-filling steaks, good spirits and a wide selection of cigars, served in a cigar-friendly atmosphere by people who know their smokes.
Schlesinger's Steak House
New Windsor, New York
Open seven days a week