Binions 2 interior

The atmosphere at Jack Binion’s is quietly elegant. | Photos by Cynthia Bard

I’ve always thought of Louisville as a pretty good Metro area for steak. You’ve got traditional spots like Pat’s Steakhouse, a throwback to yesteryear, all the way to Jeff Ruby’s, the sports-themed upscale steak place where celebrities dine when in town.

From Del Frisco’s to Ruth’s Chris to Morton’s and several others, there is an impressive stable of go-to names when you’re in Louisville and hungry for USDA Prime Beef.

But the name I don’t hear as often is Jack Binion’s Steak, just a 20-minute drive away at Horseshoe Southern Indiana in Elizabeth, Ind. (right by New Albany). It’s almost as if it’s a destination that is invariably tied to a gambling trip.

But, named for the father of the Horseshoe Casino in Vegas, the steakhouse chain is all over the U.S. and is highly regarded. So my girlfriend and I decided to make the easy drive across the bridge to Binion’s to check it out.

What struck us immediately was the elegant yet understated atmosphere; when people come to Horseshoe to gamble, well, often they’re wearing shorts and sandals. If they happen to win big, hey, why not celebrate with a good steak? But if the only steakhouse in the complex requires a jacket and tie, you may find yourself stopping at Outback on the way home.

So, wisely, Binion’s at Horseshoe keeps it right in a sweet spot where everyone feels welcome.

Binions 1 oysters

Oysters on the halfshell

Upon being seated, we soon realized the service was going to be on point. Our friendly server Macie was on the spot for most of the evening, eager to answer questions and tell us about the menu, which is digital and bound in red leather. It is quite impressive and easy to read, and that’s high praise from a guy with middle-aged presbyopia.

The wine list was relatively succinct but still not lacking, with affordable options from Beaulieu Vineyards all the way to selections on the reserve list, such as Opus One. And for a beer guy such as myself, while there is nothing local (disappointing), I was satisfied to learn I could get a Samuel Adams Lager for $5, the same price as a Corporate Light.

I started with a half-dozen oysters on the halfshell, while Cynthia got a wedge salad. The raw bar menu is of the build-your-own variety, with oysters, shrimp, King Crab and African lobster tail; the oysters aren’t named on the menu, but I was able to quickly determine they were standard Blue Point oysters (I tend to prefer Gulf oysters, but who’s complaining?). They were quite tasty and nicely chilled, medium-sized to large, and served with lemon and cocktail sauce.

Cynthia’s salad was huge, and she quickly proclaimed she approved because, “It looks like a salad Lucy Ricardo would have eaten — and that’s my benchmark.”

I have no idea what that means, but at least she was pleased.

For dinner, Cynthia ordered a 14-ounce New York Strip, while I chose a 14-ounce ribeye, both with mashed potatoes. A variety of sides are available, from steamed asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce to a signature Lobster Mac Casserole, but we stuck with the basics. You can also top off your steak with crumbled gorgonzola, caramelized onions or many other options, get it au poivre style or add seafood to the meal for an extra charge.

Ribeye at Jack Binion's.

Ribeye at Jack Binion’s

And if you want to go all out, there’s the Jack Binion’s signature Wagyu Beef Tenderloin, either in 8-ounce or 12-ounce cut. Flown in from Japan, Wagyu is known for its marbling and intense flavor.

Both of our steaks were presented beautifully with a sizable portion of delicious potatoes that were more smashed than mashed. A nice touch was a half bulb of roasted garlic with each meal that made for a delicious garnish.

Cynthia’s strip was medium well and cooked perfectly, with just a hint of pink and plenty of juice. The huge steak was nicely seared and bore a tasty, peppery marinade that was mostly evident at the edges. The center bites gave way to the natural robust flavor of the beef.

“Great Caesar’s ghost, this is tasty,” was Cynthia’s assessment.

I ordered my ribeye medium-rare, so it was entirely pink inside the dark sear, but warm, and extremely juicy. Cooked perfectly, the ribeye’s flavor nearly knocked me over. This is a cliché, of course, but certain bites actually did feel like they were disintegrating (or melting) in my mouth — the steak was that tender.

One of my favorite things about the ribeye is that the fatty trim absorbed a great quantity of the marinade, so a bite of that was a burst of peppery spice and juice, which contrasted the beefy center meat.

 

Binion’s also has a special menu Monday through Thursday that offers a three-course meal for $39, including a salad, entrée and dessert. In addition, Jack Binion’s Chef’s Table is open for booking to create a meal specifically for a party of guests. (Note, however, that due to Indiana’s smoking laws, diners must be at least 18 years old to eat at Jack Binion’s.)

Anyway, there’s still no shortage of options for excellent steak in Louisville. But Binion’s proved to be a worthy venture outside the norm.