The next time you decide to dine out at a steakhouse — but aren't sure where to go or what type of meat to order — try NYY Steak at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Don't go for the ambiance, the prices, or even the name. Go for the butcher, Walter Apfelbaum.
Known as one of the premier steakhouses in South Florida, NYY Steak has plenty of meat to be thankful for. But it's the man behind the steak knife who deserves much of the credit for the quality and selection. While many restaurants have what Apfelbaum refers to as "cutters," he stands as one of the few in-house butchers in South Florida.
"Cutters know meat, and they know how to trim it," said Apfelbaum. "But they can’t explain to customers the process, the ‘why’ behind the cut. A true butcher is a teacher, too."
Born in New Jersey and raised in a German household, Apfelbaum says meat was a big part of his childhood. Now a third generation butcher, he remembers riding his bike to the family’s shop every day before and after school, spending countless hours learning the craft. After high school, Apfelbaum enrolled in a vocational school for culinary arts, and had become a butcher's apprentice.
He later began his career at the Ocean Place Hilton Resort & Spa, the largest beachfront hotel in the county. It was there he learned every station in the kitchen, which enabled him to hone his craft even more precisely. From there he moved on to the Culinary Institute of America, eventually ending up in Europe where he learned more about the artisanal side to butchering.
"In Europe, you're going to the butcher for your meat, the fishmonger for your seafood, the goat farmer for your cheese and milk, and the farmers' market for your produce," said Apfelbaum. "Today, I like to give that experience to our guests. When they come up to the window at NYY Steak and see the meat, their first reaction is always 'wow'."
Today, Apfelbaum’s expertise is best seen through his cured meats and handmade sausage. He also ages and trims all the restaurant's steaks by hand, every day. The meat is delivered from Chicago’s gourmet steak shop, Purely Meat Company. While most steaks age to about only 21 days, Apfelbaum inspects each piece before beginning a lengthy process of aging cuts 40 to 60 days, marking the progress daily to ensure each piece of meat is just right.
The end result: an extra flavorful, extra tender cut of meat.
After all that hard work, the butcher's greatest challenge is getting the average customer to step outside their comfort zone when it comes to ordering new or different cuts. Take the Colorado lamb, dry aged 14 days — something not many steakhouses will do. The resulting double bone cops are tender and sweet, he says, without the gamey wild flavor associated with New Zealand or Australian grass-fed lamb, something that deters most people from ordering it while dining out.
"I'm always trying to pull people away from ordering the filet mignon, too," said Apfelbaum. "When you go to a steakhouse — be it ours or any other place that you go — you want a bone-in steak. The dry aged prime meats like the NY strip and the bone-in cowboy with all that beautiful fat and marbling. That's where all the flavor will be."
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Today, many of Afelbaum's customers are so trusting of his recommendations, many ask him to order for them. They also come to him for advice: it's not unheard of for him to answer questions about cooking tips, seasoning, equipment, and utensils to make a home-cooked steak just right. The bond that Apflebaum forms with his guests from these interactions had led to the creation of a VIP text list. For those customers, news about new cuts — or the hot item of the night — will be sent out via text message.
"This is more than just a job for me, this is my life," said Apfelbaum. "The love and passion for what I do is what makes us one of the best steakhouses around."
NYY Steak and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is located at 5550 NW 40th Street, Coconut Creek. Call 954-935-6699, or visit nyysteak.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.