Don Pepe Steakhouse had us as soon as we bit into the buttery garlic bread and sipped the full-bodied garlic soup. How is it, we asked ourselves, that we have often passed this steakhouse and never eaten there? It was because we had a biased attitude of restaurants on major highways as many of them are chains and not to our liking. We were wrong, and to our delight we experienced terrific food and service at this restaurant that has been open since 1995.
Don Pepe touts itself as a steakhouse specializing in choice and prime steaks but there are many Spanish options on the menu such as shrimp in garlic sauce; Spanish sausage and cheeses; octopus and Serrano ham. Paella will be made on request. Diners can also opt for veal, chicken, fish and lobsters ranging from two to six pounds.
We bypassed the red or white sangria and upon ordering a bottle of wine our waiter asked us if we would like to try a similar wine that is off the menu and about the same price. “If you don’t like it,” he said, “I’ll bring the bottle you were going to order.” Both of us were given a taste of 2015 Vina Zaco Tempranillo and were so pleased that upon arriving home we ordered a case from Gary’s in Madison.
After sharing the garlic soup which was jam packed with garlic slivers, we dug into our enormous entrees. A prime 32-34 ounce “we’ll eat the rest tomorrow,” T-bone steak was luscious and exceeded our expectations. A 1 3/4 pound whole red snapper was juicy and one of the largest whole fishes we have ever been served. Along with platters of crispy Spanish potatoes and a vegetable mixture of onions, mushrooms, zucchini, string beans and green and red peppers we ate past fullness. However that did not stop us from having creamy flan for dessert. Other house made options were chocolate mousse, poached pears in port wine topped with vanilla ice cream, rice pudding, cherries jubilee and leche frita a fried milk dessert.
The ambiance here is not what you would find at Morton’s or Wolfgang’s Steakhouse. It is dated and simple with brick walls, some Spanish themed dishes decorating on the walls and Spanish flags hanging from the ceiling. Tile floors and brick walls add to the noise level. A weekday visit would be best. However, the service we experienced was just as attentive and the steak just as memorable as any of the well known prime steakhouses.
The Safersteins started plotting our next visit here when we saw an order of two humongous lobsters served to a table adjacent to us
Don Pepe Steakhouse, 58 Route 46 West, Pine Brook; 973-808-5533. Open for lunch and dinner, daily.