A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 02, 2004
Porterhouse Steak
"Porterhouse steak" was allegedly first served at Martin Morrison's porter house at 327 Pearl Street in Manhattan, in 1814. Several stories from the late 1800s describe this in detail.

There is no early 1800s confirmation of this, but there is nothing that contradicts it, either.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Chiefly U.S.

[f. PORTER n.3 + HOUSE n. Cf. ale-house.]

1. a. A house at which porter and other malt liquors are retailed; also, one where steaks, chops, etc. are served, a chop-house.

c1758 S. FOOTE Diversions of Morning in T. Wilkinson Wandering Patentee (1795) IV. 239, I heard a goodish-looking well-dress'd man, that sat in the next box at the porter-house, affirm, that to his knowledge, if you proceeded to exhibit, you and your pupils would be all sent to Bridewell. 1786 N.Y. Directory 41 Norris Rich. porter-house, 3, Broad-street. 1800 COBBETT in Polwhele Trad. & Recoll. (1826) II. 531 They adjourned from the porter-houses and gin-shops to the cheese-mongers and bakers. 1807-8 W. IRVING Salmag. (1824) 286 Those temples of politics, popularity, and smoke, the ward porter-houses. 1858 N.Y. Tribune 16 Mar. 3/3 This morning, an altercation took place in the porter-house of Michael Byrne,..between Joseph Kelly..and others.

b. attrib., as porter-house boy; porter-house steak (U.S.), 'a beefsteak consisting of a choice cut of the beef between the sirloin and the tenderloin..: supposed to derive its name from a well-known porter-house in New York' (Cent. Dict.).

1807 SOUTHEY Espriella's Lett. (1808) I. 67 Then came the porter-house boy for the pewter-pots. 1842 C. MATHEWS Career of Puffer Hopkins xiii. 90 But I guess I'll take a small porter-house steak, without the bone. 1864 SALA in Daily Tel. 27 Sept., The 'tenderloin', the 'porterhouse' steak of America, are infinitely superior to our much-vaunted rump steak. 1883 Harper's Mag. Aug. 462/2 A porter-house steak learned to expect him on the noon of every day.

2. ellipt. A porter-house steak. Also attrib.

1854 Harper's Mag. Jan. 269/2 Will you have it rare or well-done? Shall it be a porter-house? 1908 G. H. LORIMER Jack Spurlock iv. 63 That [dream] in which the waiter is just taking the covers off a double porter-house, medium, with fresh mushrooms on top.


One of Mark Twain's favorite meals was pan fried porterhouse steak with mushrooms and peas.

In the early 19th century a 'porter house' was a coach stop where travelers could dine on steak and ale. In the U.S. around 1814, a porter house keeper in New York City began to serve this steak, and it gained widespread popularity.

January 1842, Arcturus, Journal of Books and Opinion, pg. 82:
"But I guess I'll take a small porter-house steak, without the bone, for this time only!"

New York in Slices:
by an experienced carver, being the original slices published in the N. Y. tribune
by George G. Foster
New York: W. H. Graham
Pg. 66:
"Is that beef killed for my porterhouse steak I ordered last week?"

7 November 1863, Saturday Evening Post, pg. 6:
A contraband servant in Cincinnati was sent to the market for a porterhouse steak, which proved to be very tough. The gentleman asked him what sort of a steak he ordered. "A boarding-house steak, sah," he replied.

16 March 1867, National Police Gazette, pg. 2:
And yet, again, the imagination carries me down to the Tombs, and I see, in my mind's eye, Mr. James Dolan sitting in a very comfortable cell, before him a porterhouse steak rare done, with etcetras, and a bottle of London brown stout at his right cheek.

3 November 1881, Decatur (IL) Weekly Republican, pg. 6, col. 4:
THE term "porter house steak" is said to have first been used in New York about the year 1814. A Mr. Morrison, the proprietor of a porter house, found out the virtues of steak, cut from the small end of a sirloin. His butcher used to term this the "porter house cut" whence its now generally-accepted name - London Graphic.

24 August 1890, Broooklyn Daily Eagle, pg. 18:
To the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle:
Having had quite a discussion on what a porter house steak is and how it came to get that name, we wish if you could throw some light on the beefy subject. Please do something to help us.

Answer - Colonel Thomas F. De Voe, author of "Market Book," etc., states the origin of the name of porter house steak to have been as follows: "Martin Morrison kept a favorite porter house at 327 Pearl street, New York, near the old Walton house. It was a popular resort with many of the New York pilots, because here they were always sure of a pot of ale or porter and 'a hot bite,' including one or two substantial dishes. On one occasion, in 1814, Morrison had enjoyed an unusual number of calls for steaks, and when an old pilot, who dropped in at a late hour, called for something substantial to eat, he was forced to cut from a sirloin roasting piece which he had got for the next day's family dinner. The old pilot relished his steak amazingly and called for another. This disposed of, he squared himself in front of his host and vociferated: 'Look you here, messmate: arter this I want my steaks off the roasting piece! Do you hear that? So mind your weather eye, old boy!' The old pilot's companions soon learned to appreciate these cuts, and it was not long before they were all insisting on having them. Accordingly, Morrison's butcher, Thomas Gibbons, of the Fly market, asked him why he had ceased to order the large sirloin steaks. Morrison explained that he had found that cuts from the small end of the sirloin of the beef suited his customers best, both in size and quality, and directed that thereafter, instead of sending him the sirloin roasts uncut, to have them cut into chops or steaks, as he should direct. Gibbons' daily order, 'Cut steaks for the porter house,' soon gave these the name of porterhouse steaks, by which they became known all through the Fly market, particularly as this excellent cut rapidly became popular in all the public houses in New York." The name is now familiar wherever the English language is spoken.

20 April 1892, Iowa City Citizen, pg. 4, col. 4:
The first porterhouse steak was so named in New York city, in the famous old tavern of Martin Morrison, at 327 Pearl street. This was a favorite resort of seafaring men. A steak being called for by an old pilot one night, Morrison said he had no steaks, but would cut and broil for him a thick slice from the sirloin which had just been prepared for roasting the next day. Morrison's place was known as the Porter house in the neighborhood, and its frequenters soon got to talking about the Porter house steaks. Morrison finally told Gibbons, his butcher in the Fly market, to cut up sirloins for him thereafter.

15 May 1957, New York Times, pg. 71:
Roughly 145 years ago, harbor pilots and roll-gaited seamen knew the one place in town where they could get prime steaks - at Martin Morrison's porter and chop house, 327 Pearl Street. The favorite cut was a slice that took in part of the tenderloin. Morrison's butcher had standing orders for that cut. The butcher called it "the porter house cut." Even Webster's International Dictionary cautiously concedes that the Pearl Street legend may have originated the term "porterhouse steak."
Posted by Barry Popik
Food/Drink • (2) Comments • Thursday, December 02, 2004 • Permalink