Wolfgang's Steakhouse Beefs Up Biscayne Bay
by jordan melnick
There are power lunches, and there are power lunches. Billionaire real estate magnate Jorge Pérez and City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff chatting over a meal has the potential to shape the future of a city. Of course, it’s little surprise to see either man at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse; Pérez’s Related Group owns the downtown Miami high-rise attached to the four-story building the restaurant is in, and Sarnoff’s district lies nearby. Still, it’s a classic tableau—the steakhouse power lunch.
No wonder: Wolfgang Zwiener spent four decades as head waiter at the epitome of the genre, Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, Zagat’s “No. 1 Steak House in New York” for 28 years in a row. During his tenure there, Zwiener learned valuable lessons. You have to procure top-quality meat, of course, dry-aging the slabs on the premises. This process involves keeping the meat in an above-freezing room with constantly rotating air so that moisture evaporates from the beef over the course of weeks (at least 28 days)—and it is essential, according to Zwiener’s son and partner, Peter.
“Most people don’t want to get involved in that,” Peter Zwiener says, adding that the majority of restaurants buy their meat pre-aged to save time and money on the extra real estate required by an aging room. At Wolfgang’s, meat is delivered twice a week, and it is labeled immediately with two dates: the day received and the day when the dry-aging is done.
When his father left Luger, Peter and others encouraged him to draw on his experience to start his own carnivorous venture rather than ease into a peaceful retirement. When they opened their first Wolfgang’s in Manhattan in 2004, Zwiener and company knew they had to serve steak worth talking about. When it came to that, they didn’t stray far from the Luger playbook, getting their Prime Black Angus from one of the same purveyors, cooking it in broilers that rise to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, imparting a salty char to the outside of the otherwise buttery meat, and serving sliced, still-sizzling porterhouse for two, three, or four people.
Sides are no-nonsense. The restaurant offers potatoes four ways (German, fried, mashed, or baked); sautéed onions; creamed, sautéed, or steamed spinach; and other steakhouse staples. While the dessert menu is unlikely to surprise you, either, the generous helping of schlag (freshly whipped cream) that accompanies Wolfgang’s sweets won’t leave you wanting anything more than the last bite of plain cheesecake.
Now seven locations strong, the group opened its Miami restaurant in April. As with its other establishments—four in New York, one in Los Angeles, one in Honolulu—the Miami restaurant’s white-clothed tables stand on Brazilian cherry-wood floors under the light of alabaster chandeliers. During the day, Wolfgang’s might as well leave the lights off, as the southern wall of windows lets in plenty of sunshine while framing a postcard view of the Miami River merging with Biscayne Bay and the yachts coasting by (eat your heart out, New York). Fully capitalizing on the scenery, Wolfgang’s has a shaded outside terrace that seats about 50 people.
“It’s every aspect of what a dream location could be,” says Peter, citing Wolfgang’s waterfront perch and its proximity to the AmericanAirlines Arena and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. With local powerbrokers already taking their seats and hundreds of slabs of meat dry-aging in the box, Zwiener knows his work is just starting. “Being a restaurant owner is not a job but a lifestyle,” Peter says. “[It’s] a passion, a way of life.” 315 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-487-7130
photography by gary james (interior, porterhouse); manny hernandez (zwiener)