Market Steer, Modern Take on the Classic Steakhouse

Story and Photos by Gabriella Marks

“You like what you like.” Words of wisdom from Market Steer chef and co-owner Kathleen Crook. A big cabernet with your sea bass? Rosé all winter? Why not be true to your own appetites? It’s a statement very in character from a no-nonsense chef whose pedigree—raised by cattle ranchers in Artesia, World Champion Breakaway Roper on the national circuit, classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu—uniquely qualifies her to run a steakhouse.

Partner that chef with Kristina Goode, co-owner and general manager, who is truly dedicated to the fine art of front-of-house hospitality, and we have a modern take on the classic steakhouse.

It’s not their first rodeo. After meeting in the Dallas food scene, Crook and Goode teamed up for the critically acclaimed Steakhouse 316 in Aspen. Market Steer in Santa Fe is different. They’ve taken their combined decades of experience and opened their own restaurant, one of the very few female-owned and -run steakhouses ever, anywhere.

And they know what they like. The restaurant features one hundred percent prime grade meat, the highest quality of beef. Meat is graded based on a combination of marbling, which is flecks of fat speckled within meat that adds flavor, and maturity. Younger beef produces the most tender meat. Less than two percent of beef raised within the US earns top prime designation. Through intensive research, Market Steer is able to source their beef from only two ranches: 44 Farms of Texas, and Meyer Company Ranch in Montana. While they would eventually like to feature New Mexico growers as well, the challenge lies in production volume, finding a ranch that can keep up with their high demand.

Crook’s preferred aging process is another point of distinction. In the aging process, the natural enzymes break down hard connective tissue, resulting in a more tender cut. She prefers wet aging, wherein cuts are aged in their own juices, yielding a subtler flavor with the same tenderness. In dry aging the evaporation of liquid creates an intense concentration of flavor she finds too umami. “I like my beef to taste like beef!”

These deliberate decisions, to use nearly single sourced, wet-aged prime, culminate in an altogether different kind of steak—a steak different. Not only is the taste distinctive; servers advise diners that their medium or medium rare may not look like what they are familiar with, because prime meat holds its color more than other grades. That steak different may be more red than they are used to, even at matching internal temperatures.

Little touches like that, such as setting a diner’s expectations even for one of the more subtle aspects of the meal, reflect an attention to detail in the front of the house that matches the kitchen. This is Goode’s domain, and she is meticulous in her management. Laughing, she explains, “We don’t take ourselves that seriously, but we take our business very seriously.” It’s a caliber of service rooted in love and respect for hospitality, not just as a practical matter, but as an art. And good service means not only serving diners well, but serving the servers, too.

When they decided to open their own place, Crooke and Goode were committed to creating a good working environment. They cultivate that culture by focusing on it as part of the regular routine. Goode says, “Our biggest thing is that we’re good to our people, so that they have buy-in. We make sure that we’re constantly doing continued education and getting them excited about upcoming food trends or our meat program. Every day we’re doing something different, whether it’s a wine tasting or something from the menu, so it’s fresh in their minds, because it’s important for us to not be stagnant as well.”

The funny thing is, all of that rigor from sourcing to serving ultimately creates an experience that is neither stuffy nor stiff. As service opens, the mood is as light and sunny as the dining room itself. Situated at the corner of Water and Don Gaspar, with glass windows running the length of each side, the room feels expansive, and with views of some of historic Santa Fe’s most lively streets, urban in a way that few places here are.

You can’t read a book by its cover, but you can certainly read a restaurant by its menu. “What the Duck”? This place has a sense of humor. “Cauliflower Steak with vegetable succotash, goat cheese and leek fondue with pecan pesto”? Vegetarians deserve something more exciting and satisfying than uninspired pasta and sautéed veg. “Sea Bass Cassoulet with Anasazi beans, elk, venison, and cornbread crumble?” Classic French cuisine with a New Mexico sense of place. “Sauce Flight?” This is about tasting and sparking curiosity in your culinary palette. Why get a steak au poivre with a one dimensional pepper note when you can dip your prime cut between eight, from horseradish caramel to roasted fresno chimichurri?

Crook and Goode know what they like, and go far more than just one extra mile to bring it to Market Steer. Sound like something you’d like, too? We thought so.

210 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, 505-992-6354

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Edible celebrates New Mexico's food culture, season by season. We believe that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing. With our high-quality, aesthetically pleasing and informative publication, we inspire readers to support and celebrate the growers, producers, chefs, beverage and food artisans, and other food professionals in our community.