The first thing you see when you walk into Gallaghers Steakhouse, a 93-year-old restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, is steak. In the glass-paneled meat locker in the steakhouse’s front window are cut after cut of prime beef — a Fort Knox of meat, tagged and aging.
When the restaurant closed indefinitely in mid-March in accordance with a citywide order meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gallaghers donated most of its perishable food to New Yorkers in need. But these dry-aged steaks stayed put, day in and day out.
“We had the meat, and we wanted to give it to somebody,” said Dean J. Poll, the restaurant’s owner. “We didn’t know what we were going to do.”
Those steaks could age, but they couldn’t age indefinitely. Gallaghers usually serves meat aged around 28 days, but it had bought some of those steaks in mid-February. It was time to cook them. So Mr. Poll and his executive chef, Alan Ashkinaze, decided to give it to firefighters and police officers, as a way to say thank you.
“The first responders are the heroes of New York, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” said Mr. Poll, 62. “Cops go to work with a gun, and firemen go into burning buildings. Their job is putting their life on the line every day they leave their houses.”
On Friday morning, firefighters from around the city came to the restaurant, graciously accepting cuts of meat that Mr. Ashkinaze had prepared and wrapped himself. In the afternoon, members of the New York Police Department arrived to pick up their own order.
“What are we going to do? Just let it sit there?” Mr. Ashkinaze said. “Let’s take care of the people who are trying to take care of us.”
All in all, Gallaghers planned to donate 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of meat by day’s end, Mr. Ashkinaze said. That’s about $50,000 worth of meat, Mr. Poll said, leaving about $300,000 worth in the locker.
“We will not donate any prime, dry-aged meat before its time,” Mr. Poll said, laughing. “Next week, we’ll give out more.”
He plans to donate to other first responders, including medical and other emergency workers. Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, he may give all of it away.
As firefighters came, they brought T-shirts for the restaurant crew: Some shirts celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, while others had American flags.
“The department is grateful for the outpouring of support from the public and businesses throughout this pandemic,” said Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the Fire Department.
This is just one of many initiatives to feed emergency personnel across the country. Some restaurants are feeding medical workers. People are also ordering pizzas, donating them to emergency rooms and fire stations.
As one firefighter turned to go, Mr. Poll offered some advice on the steaks. “If you have thick ones, and you have a grill, grill ’em,” he said. “If they’re thin ones, pan-fry ’em.”
Later, Mr. Ashkinaze offered his own expert suggestion. “Salt and pepper, baby,” he said. “And make sure the grill is nice and hot.”