Steak Secrets From Brooklyn’s New Neighborhood Chophouse

Chef Chris McDade shares his tips for making the steak salt and brown butter jus he uses on the cuts at Gus's in Carroll Gardens

October 18, 2022 6:17 am
The ribeye steak at Gus's chop house
Meat eaters should have their peepers peeled for the ribeye steak at Gus's Chop House.
Teddy Wolff

Nestled near a leafy corner on Union Street in Carroll Gardens across the street from a set of the type of classic Brooklyn brownstones that dominate the neighborhood’s residential streets sits Gus’s Chop House, a new destination for cocktails, veggies, fish, pork, chicken and steak from chef Chris McDade and sommelier James O’Brien.

But, as McDade, who also opened Popina with O’Brien on nearby Columbia Street, makes clear, just because Gus’s (which has an off-menu burger made from a blend of pork and beef that’s sold in limited quantities) slings steaks does not mean it falls into the steakhouse category. “A steakhouse has a fancy, fine-dining kind feel to it. An expense-account feel,” McDade tells InsideHook. “I love that atmosphere, but it was important to us to give the neighborhood something else. A giant steakhouse in the middle of Carroll Gardens just didn’t feel right.”

What McDade and O’Brien have given the neighborhood is a no-frills restaurant with an uncomplicated menu that was inspired by a visit the pair took to a London establishment that celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019 called The Quality Chop House. Originally a working-man’s tavern, the Quality Chop House places an emphasis on coaxing the flavor out of their meat and uses a brown butter jus to do it. A similar sauce made of almost equal parts brown butter and a sticky chicken sauce flavored with charred mirepoix and garlic now graces the meat that comes out of the kitchen at Gus’s.

“When you slice a piece of meat and put it on a plate, a little bit of juice is going to come out. The meat juice mixes with the jus to form a sauce for each piece of meat. It just pulls the umami out of the meat,” McDade says. “Everything we do is trying to accentuate the natural meatiness of the pork, the beef, the lamb or whatever. Once the meat hits the table, we want it to be one of the truer representations of itself.”

For similar reasons, McDade uses a steak salt made from a combination of sea salt, smoked salt, black pepper and a little bit of sugar that goes on most of the proteins and many of the vegetables at Gus’s. “We try not to get in the way of how the meat tastes and salt makes you taste food. The sugar helps with caramelization and the black pepper helps with the crust,” he says. “When it comes to seasoning salts, I like to keep it pretty simple. We source good meat and then we try to enhance the flavor. I love lots of sauce on things but that’s not what we do at Gus’s.”

What McDade does do at Gus’s, where most of the meat is cooked on a flat-top plancha griddle (“It’s great because you get direct contact with the meat which allows you to play with it in different ways”), is shoot for comfort and consistency.

“We all have our neighborhood favorites where we like to go and have steak. Is it their best steak every time? No. But it’s the exact same every time. There’s a level of comfort in that, right?” he says. “We want Gus’s to be exciting but also very familiar every time you come. We want it to be somewhere kind of like Cheers.”

Now that everybody knows Gus’s name, here’s how to make the restaurant’s signature steak salt and brown butter jus.

Steak Salt

Prep Time: Minimal

Cook Time: N/A

Total Time: 5 minutes

  • 500g maldon
  • 250g smoked maldon
  • 30g cracked black pepper
  • 30g sugar
    1. Pour all ingredients into a mixing bowl.

    2. Use your hands to thoroughly combine by squeezing ingredients between your fingers.

    3. Transfer to an airtight container.

      *Additional cooking tip from McDade: “If I want an herbal touch, instead of adding dry herbs to the seasoning salt, I’ll do it with a marinade, basting, or sprinkling some fresh rosemary or thyme in the juices released when the meat is cooked and pouring it over top.”

Brown Butter Jus

Prep Time: Minimal

Cook Time: Varies

Servings: 3 cups

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 peeled carrot
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups brown butter
  • Salt to taste
    1. Cut vegetables into similar sizes about the size of a wine cork.

    2. Either under a broiler or in a cast iron pan get a good char on your vegetables. (If you think you may have burned them, you’re on the right track.)

    3. Add vegetables and stock to a large pot and reduce until about 3 cups of stock remains.

    4. Add your brown butter.

    5. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and season with salt.

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