Cook a Swanky Steakhouse Dinner at Home with These Old-School Recipes

Surprise and delight your guests by bringing back classics like Steak Diane and Crab Louie.

By Anna Hirschorn

Updated on February 12, 2024

You can probably picture the sort of menu that features Clams Casino, Crab Louie, and Steak Diane. It’s oversize, a single card-stock placard, handed to you with great flourish by a waiter wearing a white dress shirt and black bow tie. The background music is piano, played at a gentle volume just out of sight. Elegantly old-school, this kind of fine-dining experience demands a pre-meal martini and might even make you long for a post-dessert smoke.

Fare swanky enough to warrant a proper name began popping up at grand American hotels during the early 1900s, before Prohibition, the Great Depression, and two world wars conspired to stymie the trend. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the postwar boom—plus home-ec “innovations” like Swanson TV Dinners and Duncan Hines cake mixes—transformed eating out into an exercise in accessible extravagance. Suddenly, flambé ruled the day as sirloin (Steak Diane) and tropical fruit (Bananas Foster) were doused in alcohol and set afire tableside. Indulgences that had been denied in the lean years, such as shellfish, now came topped with bacon and butter (Clams Casino) or rich rémoulade sauce (Crab Louie). Since then, times have changed and changed again, but that doesn't mean you can't dress to the nines, pour a stiff drink, and gild a few culinary lilies. These five classics from the SAVEUR vault prove that more really feels like more.

Maura McEvoy

Adorned with a smoky shallot-paprika butter and crisp shards of bacon, these dainty baked littlenecks are an elegant, crowd-pleasing starter. Serve them on a bed of rock salt to stabilize the wobbly half shells of clams—and make for a beautiful presentation. Get the recipe >

Maura McEvoy

High drama, minimal effort—that's the appeal of this steak smothered in a flambeéd cognac sauce. It used to be the signature dish at Manhattan’s Drake Hotel, the 21-floor structure that went up on Park Avenue in 1927 and had a steady clientele of celebrities, from Judy Garland to the members of Led Zeppelin. A lot may have changed over the years (the hotel was demolished to make way for a skyscraper in 2007), but Steak Diane has stood the test of time. Get the recipe >

Maura McEvoy

Nobody knows for sure who Louie was, or where this salad was invented—but we think the version made at Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco is as good as it gets. The dressing—a creamy, briny combo of mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, olives, and onions— is a real knockout. Get the recipe >

Maura McEvoy

Since the 1950s, American housewives have adapted Chicken Divan to include shelf-stable ingredients like cream of mushroom soup and mayonnaise. We honor the casserole’s original form with homemade béchamel. Enriched with Parmigiano-Reggiano and laced with sherry, it's the ideal foil for succulent chicken breast and tender broccoli. Get the recipe >

Maura McEvoy

You already played with fire for the main course, so setting your dessert aflame should be a piece of cake. Our version of the famous dish from New Orleans institution Brennan's heightens the flavor of the fruit by using banana liqueur in addition to classic rum. Get the recipe >

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