According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American eats more than 64 pounds of beef a year, up a whopping 45 percent since 1950 and roughly twice the global average. So it should come as no surprise that we spend billions of dollars annually digging into T-bones, tenderloins and other prime cuts at our favorite steakhouses. Here are five of the most consistently acclaimed franchises—whose combined sales last year exceeded $1.1 billion—in this popular dining category.
Morton's The Steakhouse
“It’s the cuts of Chicago grain-fed cow that have made Morton’s the godfather of American steakhouses,” Frommer’s travel guide has said of this Windy City-based chain, founded in 1978 and known for its waiters who forego menus for a “show-and-tell” of dishes’ ingredients. Similarly, the San Francisco Chronicle has raved that “beef lovers will swoon over the buttery tenderness of the double-cut filet [and] richly marbled ribeye.” And with 76 restaurants worldwide, that promise is as easy as Morton’s famed Key lime pie to confirm.
Renowned for the celebrity caricatures that adorn its walls, The Palm—founded in the Big Apple during the height of the Roaring '20s—is one of America’s oldest steakhouse franchises. New York’s Daily News has called its strip steak “outstanding,” and L.A. Downtown News is keen on its Italian marinated skirt steak and 4-pound Nova Scotia lobster. Currently gracing 26 cities in the U.S., along with locations in London and Mexico City, the chain counts Mark Wahlberg, George Stephanopoulos and L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson among its A-list clientele.
Smith & Wollensky
Fodor’s travel guide has singled out Smith & Wollensky’s big Brooklyn porterhouse and Old Butcher Style filet mignon as its favorite steak picks, while giving the chain’s crackling pork shank and lamb chops two juicy thumbs up. The franchise, founded in New York City in 1977, has since expanded to eight other major U.S. cities, including L.A., Chicago and Washington, D.C., and has also snagged Wine Spectator magazine’s Grand Award of Excellence.
Established in 1965 after New Orleans native Ruth Fertel mortgaged her home to buy a little local eatery called Chris Steak House, this chain has since become an industry powerhouse. Boasting 124 locations in the U.S. and 15 overseas, Ruth's Chris has been dubbed a “steak institution” by New Orleans magazine, which favors the restaurant’s creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin on the side, while Washingtonian magazine has awarded the franchise Best Steakhouse honors for its “rib eyes and porterhouses [that] arrive sizzling and dripping with butter.”
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Just nine years after being launched in 1998, Fleming’s was ranked No. 5 among America’s 10 fastest-growing restaurant chains—putting it three places ahead of coffee behemoth Starbucks. Not only that, but the Tampa, Florida-based franchise had reeled in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s annual Award of Distinction. Fleming’s secret? “It’s just really, really good,” the St. Petersburg Times has said. “At eight ounces, the petite filet mignon is a good example of why Fleming's is worth a trip: It’s not ostentatious or intimidating, and after you finish, you don't feel like the cow that supplied it.”