How to Eat a Steak Without Busting Your Budget

Cheap Chops

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0115-CHEAPSTEAK
Illustration by Daniel Downey

You might see those two come-hither words—filet special—printed on a polyurethane menu warped with coffee stains or scrawled on a whiteboard over a bar, right next to the neon Coors Light sign. You know it’s a gamble. Odds are, that advertised dainty cut off the end of a tenderloin has the same depth of flavor as a hockey puck made of liver or (if you’re lucky) the scrappy texture of stew meat. A filet special gone wrong is the fool’s gold of steak, and in most cases, you could find a worthier way to spend the change dug out of your sofa cushions. But after dining on some of the cheapest steaks in town, we found a few loopholes in the old saying “You get what you pay for.”

 

Murphy’s at Flynn’s
6-ounce lunch filet for $10.99; includes potato and soup or salad

Well before 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, the booths at this northside favorite start filling up as servers hoist out plates of the lunchtime special: a petite filet with an expertly burnished crust flecked with cracked black pepper that locks in the soft, supple, medium-rare flesh. The flavor is spot-on, but don’t be too proud to dunk a few bites in the salty, cornstarch-thickened mushroom gravy that comes on the side, like a bonus. 5198 Allisonville Rd., 317-545-3707, murphyssteakhouse.com

 

Big Daddy’s
6-ounce filet for $10.99 on Tuesdays; includes salad, potato, and garlic bread

A neighborhood institution known for its live music and Friday-night bingo (plus a cornflake-crusted tenderloin that eclipses its plate), Big Daddy’s also checks the date-night box with this beefy early-week dinner special. The small but noble chunk of protein is seasoned sparingly with salt and pepper and given a good char. A wood-handled steak knife makes quick work of the meat, and the toasted slices of garlicky bread can sop up any escaped juices. 2536 S. Meridian St., 317-784-0784, bigdaddysbarandgrill.com

 

Gaslight Inn
6-ounce bacon-wrapped filet after 5 p.m. for $12 ($10.50 on Fridays); includes salad, potato, and garlic toast

It comes as no surprise that this hulking, weatherbeaten structure sitting at the edge of a cemetery is haunted. If you’re lucky, your server might share a few ghost stories as she plunks down plates of flavor-packed filets wrapped in crisped bacon and aggressively seasoned in that old-school garlic-pepper manner that goes well with a stiff roadhouse cocktail. Opt for the housemade cheesy twice-baked potato if you’re not afraid of carbs. 2280 S. Meridian St., 317-782-1250

 

We love steak, any way you slice it. In Indianapolis, there’s a steakhouse to cater to every occasion and level of sophistication, and after months of dining like wealthy cavemen, we present them to you here, in juicy detail. A la cartes include a primer on the king cuts (for those who don’t know a porterhouse from a portobello), tips on the best cheap chops in town, a cattle call of beefy terms, and a stab at defining that common condition among steak-lovers—the meat sweats. You want a piece of this? Dig in.

 

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