Ken Walker left Minneapolis, his home of 20 years, to move to Denver a few months ago. But he didn’t have to leave his beloved steakhouse, Manny’s, far behind.
As a committed regular, he still flies back — just for lunch.
A computer engineer with a side hobby in barbecue catering, Walker is a meat fanatic, and he’s got the look to prove it. Strapping, like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character in “Moana,” Walker wears a necklace with a tiny cleaver around his neck.
Meat weaponry turned out to be a common theme one recent afternoon, when Walker revisited Manny’s to partake in his fourth “Bludgeon of Beef.”
The 3-pound rib-eye (51 ounces to be exact) is one of the largest steaks on a Minnesota menu that isn’t a food challenge. This storied slab of meat is just a solid, inches-thick, bone-in steak, fit for Fred Flintstone. And for Walker — who picked it up by the bone and waved it around like a caveman club.
“Should you be attacked by a vegetarian horde, you’ve got this bone to wield as a weapon,” he quipped.
Often, guests will order this massive steak for the table to share. But then there are the die-hards who want the Bludgeon all to themselves.
“The first time I ordered one, my wife looked at me,” Walker recalled. “I said, ‘What do you want?’”
Manny’s Steakhouse has offered the Bludgeon of Beef for at least 20 years. It’s aged 56 days — 35 wet and 21 dry — giving it a distinct umami funk.
“Age intensifies the flavor,” said executive chef Jason Smith. “It’s got bleu cheese notes. It’s mushroomy.”
Smith seasons the Bludgeon with a proprietary spice mix, then pricks little holes on both sides so the spices can sink in. Charred in a broiler of about 800 to 900 degrees, then placed in a $70,000 oven of the same blistering heat, the finished steak is a vision of blackened, crusty goodness surrounding a soft, red center. About 6 inches of bare bone, browned by fire, protrude off the plate, which holds nothing more than the steak and a handful of quickly discarded parsley.
Smith himself has never eaten a whole Bludgeon. “It’s too much red meat for me,” he said.
Welcome to the ‘meat orgy’
Though diners these days tend to be more like Smith, health-conscious and interested in moderation, that all seems to fall by the wayside when they walk through Manny’s doors.
“The concept [of the Bludgeon of Beef] is about excess and opulence,” said general manager Dave Wilson. “It’s not just what you need, it’s more than you need. It’s a status symbol of ‘I’ve arrived.’”
The restaurant sells about seven Bludgeons at dinner, more if it’s a special occasion. Recent graduation celebrations had them selling 20 in a night.
Fans of the cut take part in a yearly “Bludgeon Fest” gathering featured in photos and plaques on the walls of the restaurant.
Walker, however, is part of a much more exclusive crew as an invitee to the annual “Leadership Conference.” The epic “meat orgy” is open to a select group of regulars, who don aprons and forgo utensils to chow down on platters of meat and free-flowing wine and whiskey. Afterward, the eaters cluster on the sidewalk on Marquette Avenue and smoke cigars.
It’s Walker’s favorite ritual. He’s been going for 11 years.
Method to the madness
But this time, he was just enjoying a nice, incredibly large rib-eye for lunch, on a day-trip to Minneapolis.
When it comes to eating the Bludgeon of Beef, Walker has a method.
He cuts the steak near the bone and tears the meat along the bone — “the best part” — with his teeth. Then he goes back to his utensils, slicing the remaining hunk of flesh into large strips he forks whole into his mouth. It takes him less than 30 minutes to polish off the whole thing.
“I’ve got the meat sweats,” he said. Indeed, his brow was glistening.
With pure satisfaction on his face, he turned to look up at Smith from his red booth. “Well done, sir,” he said.
But Smith balked at the characterization of a mega three-pound steak he had carefully prepared to a cool medium-rare.
“Done well,” he replied.
To see more photos and videos from our new food series, follow us on Instagram at @outtacontrolmn.