What to Wear to a Steakhouse (An Effortless Guide)

by   |  in Style Tips

For today’s style guide, we’re going to help you choose what to wear to a steakhouse. While these aren’t hard and fast rules, you may be looking for general guidance, so that’s what we’re doing here. Let’s get to it!

When it comes to picking an outfit for a restaurant, the one you wear to a steakhouse depends on a lot of things, compared to other dining categories.

Sure, there’s usually a general range of dress codes within any type of restaurant, but the terms “burger joint” or “French bistro” are just more predictable. 

closeup of man in tan suit and blue tie holding glass of wine

Steakhouses just cast a wider net when it comes to appropriate attire.

We’re here to cover all the bases!

What Makes a Steakhouse… a Steakhouse?

A lot of restaurants serve steak. However, a steakhouse, also called a chophouse, specializes in it, often with a dedicated section on the menu.

Chophouses started in 1690s London. The concept came to the US in the 1800s, rising from inns and bars. Since inns and bars ranged from super casual to formal dining, so did steakhouses.

Modern steakhouses are born of that background, so “standard” steakhouses are usually pretty American in tradition.

Types of Steakhouses

Here are some of the most common types of steakhouses, all of which will likely affect what you should wear.

  • Family Restaurants: In addition to a dedicated steak menu, you’ll also find a children’s menu, or the option for smaller portions. These places are often weekend-wear casual.
  • Chain Restaurants: While most chains have relaxed dress codes, there are few exceptions like Mastro’s or Ruth’s Chris.
  • Country & Western: Whether it’s the music or a mechanical bull in the middle of the restaurant, you’ll know a country steakhouse when you see it. Definitely casual! 
  • Road House: If it’s off an exit, is the only restaurant for miles, or shaped like a tavern, it’s probably a road house. Go for a resort-style or vacation-style casual approach here.
  • Standard American: A standard steakhouse is usually themeless and comes with a smart casual dress code, even if unspoken.
  • Upscale/Fine Dining: Always lean into the smart side of smart casual, when at an upscale steakhouse. Always bring your blazer, though you can opt for a solid-colored sport coat if it’s lunchtime.
  • Heritage steakhouses: These are historical establishments, sometimes even from the time of the original 1800s steakhouses. They aren’t always super expensive, but going business casual is a safe bet here. It’s respectful to the revered establishment, and these places are usually located in city centers where most guys are running around in suits.
  • Cultural: Japanese and Brazilian are two common steakhouse experiences, and they often call for attire somewhere in the smart casual realm too. Since both cultures have deep-rooted culinary traditions in steak, the food is often premium, which means the restaurant is likely pretty nice.
man in grey suit smiling and toasting woman with wine
cocktail attire-level outfit is perfectly appropriate at fancier steakhouses

Remember, there are always exceptions and overlaps.

For example, Nashville has plenty of Western style steakhouses that also happen to be high-end. You still might not wear a suit to this place (unless it’s a business dinner), but you’ll definitely want to wear a collared shirt and maybe darker denim.

Speaking of business dinners, the next thing to ask yourself is…

What’s the Occasion?

What time of day is it? Keep in mind that generally, lunch is more casual than dinner. At the same high-end restaurant that you’d wear a solid suit for dinner, you might wear a broken suit instead, for lunch.

Or you might choose leather loafers over traditional dress shoes.

man in tan suit at a restaurant sitting down
Business formal suit and tie works for business lunches at a steakhouse or any upscale restaurant

Steakhouses that are open for breakfast are usually casual. Some family steak places have steak-and-egg specials, for example.

If it’s Sunday morning though, I’d go for a modernized, casualized take on “the Sunday bests.” A cashmere sweater, khakis, and loafers, for instance.

If it’s any kind of celebration, step up your game regardless of whether it’s casual or formal. As we mention in our birthday dinner dress guide, which you can check out here, skip the hoodie even in the most relaxed restaurants. 

And of course, most business dinners require a suit, or at least a jacket. Though this depends on your company, industry, and clientele. 

Casual Steakhouses

Here’s a versatile silhouette for the most casual restaurant situations: Partner a well-fitting henley shirt with dark tapered jeans or chinos and low-profile sneakers. The henley has a tad more structure than a regular t-shirt, but its collarless construction makes it equally as relaxed.

Plus, this combination is excellent for layering, whether that’s jackets, sweaters, or blazers. This is helpful in case you slightly undershoot the dress code (or the weather!)

Most family restaurants, even steakhouses, are pretty casual. As mentioned, a “weekend” look is a safe and easy approach. Still go for well-tailored pieces, but focus on either light, muted tones, or at least softer textures. 

We mentioned a cashmere sweater, khakis, and loafers earlier. This is a good example. Go for clean low-profile white sneakers if you’d rather be more casual, or a light-toned oxford cotton button-down if you want a bit more structure to the outfit.

You can also go for a quarter zip sweater, or just a knit polo sans outerwear on warmer days.

closeup of steak on a korean barbeque grill
No need to dress up when dining at a korean barbeque joint. Casual clothing all the way!

Road houses and hotel restaurants often allow casual wear, especially during lunch time. Go for a resort wear vibe in these situations. It’s just like the weekend casual approach, but slightly looser.

The lines are still clean, but might move in the wind just a bit. Popover shirts, camp collars, light-colored linen suit pants, and tan leather drivers are all good options.

Finally, have fun at theme steakhouses. Get your favorite boots, denim shirts, flannels, sport shirts, and light wash jeans at country and western chop houses!

As long as the pieces fit well and complement your height and body type, even rugged styles will look casually put-together.

Your Best Bet: Smart Casual

The majority of the steakhouse types we mentioned earlier will fall somewhere in the smart casual realm. Think solid colors, streamlined silhouettes, less details on the surface of the clothes, and low-profile footwear. 

Since steak is, for the most part, a premium dish, leaning harder into the smart side of smart casual is the safest bet.

diagram of appropriate steakhouse outfits from more casual to more formal
A range of formalities are acceptable at most steakhouses. You have to pay attention to the specific type of steakhouse, the occasion, and the company you’re with.

No one will turn their heads if you slightly overshoot. Besides, business meetings, special birthdays, or celebratory family outings happen at casual family restaurants and western chop houses all the time. 

Start with a classic OCBD and either a blazer (more formal) or sport coat (less formal). We detail the differences between the two here! Cotton dress pants are a classy choice, smarter than chinos but not as formal as wool trousers.

If you like sportier looks, you can go for a quilted vest, even under your blazer or sport coat. If you like collegiate styles, try a cardigan.

You absolutely don’t need to be flashy to look good. In fact, for the next category, being showy is pretty much discouraged.

Upscale Steakhouses: What to Wear for Dinner at a Nice Restaurant

If you’re heading to a Michelin-star steakhouse for dinner, stick to cocktail attire, which is just a step above business casual and below formal.

This means a full suit, a dress shirt, and leather dress shoes. These days, you don’t always need to wear a tie unless it’s a special occasion, but check the restaurant dress code just in case.

Most steakhouses will allow you to do a broken suit, but avoid jeans, even dark denim, to be safe. For more on what kinds of suit separates you can and can’t break up, check out our post on mastering the broken suit here!

Important Pieces to Have In Your Wardrobe

Navy Stripe Lazio Suit

This slim and subtle take on the classic pinstripe ensures it looks modern yet timeless, instead of like a zoot suit. It’s made out of Italian S1100 wool, for a silky look and delicate wear. The lightly padded shoulders add structure and formality to the silhouette.

Spier & Mackay Gray Hopsack Sport Coat

This sport coat’s gray shade makes it incredibly versatile, while its basketweave texture adds distinctness without compromising the overall neutral look. It’s also wrinkle-resistant and breathable, making this jacket effortless on all levels.

Peter Millar Sateen Five-Pocket Pants

The cotton modal blend of sateen gives these pants a leveled-up sheen, compared to regular khakis and chinos. Still, its stretchiness and chino-architectured construction also allows you to style them just like you would jeans. 

Spier & Mackay Dress Trousers

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The summery build of these trousers makes them perfect for casual and smart casual situations. Their cotton linen blend is breathable and light, but still sharp and crisp. Plus, they come in several menswear neutrals, and offshoots of these neutrals that are equally as universal, including sage, olive, and cream.

Alex Mill Cotton Cashmere Cardigan

Built like a blazer, this extra comfortable sweater-jacket is the perfect balance of soft and structured. It can dial back more formal outfits, while elevating casual combinations, making it an ultimate smart casual tool.

FAQs

What should I wear to a first date at a steakhouse?

It depends on the steakhouse, but stick to smart casual or beyond. Even if the place is more relaxed, you want to step up your game for date night–especially, a first date!

Can you wear black jeans to a steakhouse?

Yes, you can wear black jeans to casual or smart casual steakhouses. Darker denim is more formal than lighter washes, and therefore more versatile. To be safe, I’d avoid any denim at super upscale fine-dining establishments.

We Hope That Was Helpful!

Again, most standard steakhouses are either smart casual, or at least not so far in the relaxed side or the formal side that smart casual would be inappropriate.

Just make sure you take the type of steakhouse and the occasion into consideration, and you’ll be all set!

Which of our choice pieces would you wear to a steakhouse? If you have any other style questions, feel free to DM us on Instagram!