The Steak Place


Head down  (1)
Head down 
Head, head, head down.

Fool of the Commonwealth drove down there, (2)
Down turnpike; 
Desperate for food desperate for respite.

The steak place. 
The steak place

Cheap carpet lines the way 
Aluminium tack door handles 
Candelabra lion's head 
Via butchers display too.

The steak place
The steak place

Via a carcass row
Things are brought forward and eaten, 
I see the corners filled with hitmen, 
Two young lawyers they are whispering, in

The steak place
The steak place 

I wanna stay here, 
I don't wanna go anywhere, 
I could remain here,

Head down 
Head down 
Head down 
Head, head, head down
The steak place 
The steak place 

I'd stop the automation, 
I'd sit behind dusty lace, 
I have a word with hitmen, 
I give off a beatific face. 

The steak place 
The steak place
From New York City run screaming, 
Into New England states, 
Combined a man not should have to do this, 
A man should not use his fist in

The steak place.
The steak place. 

I wanna stay here, 
I don't wanna go anywhere, 
I shall remain here. 

(Brown sauce!) (3)


1. The story seems to be as follows: the narrator drives from New England to New York to relax and get a meal in his favorite steak place, where he keeps his head down and minds his own business, because the place is frequented by shady underworld figures; at some point a "hitman" addresses him, and he is very friendly and polite to the latter as he doesn't want any trouble, he just wants to enjoy his meal and soak in the ambience. However, at some point an altercation ensues and the narrator decks the hitman and hightails it back to New England.

Ed has found that in 1984, there existed a place called "The Steak Place" in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. An ad can be found at the link provided; scroll to page three and look in the lower left hand corner. It seems to no longer be there.


2. This indicates that the narrator has come from Massachusetts, the only Commonwealth in New England (four US states are Commonwealths: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia). 


3. I don't know what this is. The Lyrics Parade had "Bad song!" but I think that is certainly wrong. BreconBorn suggests "Brown sauce!" and says a Brit would put it on his steak. An American would probably be bemused (as I was) as "brown sauce" is a British phenomenon...


More Information

The Steak Place: Fall Tracks A-Z

In December 2018, Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts released a CD of 13 Fall cover versions performed during their UK tour in March/April 2018, as a tribute to MES .

The sleevenotes include Lewis' interpretation of The Steak Place. He sees it not just as a description of a restaurant but as a creepy New England/Lovecraftian narrative.

(this comes from Dan)

Jeffrey lewis sleevenotes to steak placeJeffrey lewis sleevenotes to steak place (794.4 KB)

Comments (39)

  • 1. dannyno | 15/09/2013
"(Bad Song)"

That line appears on the Lyrics Parade, which I guess is the source for this page. But it doesn't actually seem to appear in the song.

  • 2. bzfgt | 07/10/2013
That is really odd! Was the transcriber editorializing? Or does it appear in one of the lyrics books, in which case MES was slamming his song?
  • 3. bzfgt | 07/10/2013
Oops, you're wrong; it's sung falsetto and a capella (I don't think by MES), after the fade.
  • 4. dannyno | 02/11/2013
Good heavens. My player seems to cut off after the fade and I've not been hearing it. After a few tweaks and I can hear it again!
  • 5. dannyno | 12/07/2014
The "steak place" seems to be an American joint, and "commonwealth" has an American meaning. But it also has an English meaning, in the context of the Civil War in particular but perhaps also in this context in the sense of former colonies and countries of the British Empire.

And "fool of the commonwealth" has interesting associations.

Marchamont Needham ( was an English Civil War publisher, who wrote for both sides. He started out publishing the pro-parliamentarian journal Mercurius Britanicus, later published the pro-Royalist Mercurius Pragmaticus and then the Republican mouthpiece Mercurius Politicus.

The thing is, the first issue of Mercurius Politicus the first issue of which begins with an editorial to its readers, which said:

"Why should not the Commonwealth have a Fool, as well as the King had?"


and also :

Is MES indicating here that he sees himself in this kind of role?
  • 6. dannyno | 12/07/2014
"Down turnpike"

So, there's the Pennsylvania Turnpike (, the Massachusetts Turnpike ( Als the West Virginian Turnpike (

So bearing in mind my local knowledge is limited, I'm thinking that if Massachusetts is the only Commonwealth in New England, then the fact that the Massachusetts Turnpike does connect with New York state would seem a significant thing?

"Down there" works too.

So if you were travelling from, say, Boston, to New York City, would part of your journey be on the Massachusetts Turnpike?
  • 7. dannyno | 12/07/2014
Worth noting that there was a place called "The Steak Place" at 112 Central Park South, NYC ( It was reviewed in the New York Times in 1967, but I have no idea if it was still there in the late 80s.

The block included the rock-star friendly Navarro Hotel, later the Ritz-Carlton.

Am I onto something? It's hard to tell.
  • 8. dannyno | 12/07/2014
Or there's this place, which had organised crime associations:
  • 9. bzfgt | 15/07/2014
You'd be on the Mass Pike b riefly, but not for long as it goes east/west. Good comments, I'm not sure I need to take further action on them...I'm tired right now though.
  • 10. dannyno | 18/08/2014
MES quoted in The Biggest Library Yet fanzine, no.8, February 1997:

"We played this concert and I was starving and pulled up in this little New England town and it was really pretty but it had this place in the middle of it and it was like a fortress. All these big metal bulged heads coming out of it, it was like a horror museum. And it had... The Steak Place! And you walked down this alleyway and it was all carcasses under this light. Oh God, I'm gonna lose me appetite here. You ended up in this nice, dark, place, it was dead cool and quiet. I just sat down, had a steak. It was good"

Source not identified, but still.

I ought to be possible, from that description, to identify the town.
  • 11. dannyno | 18/08/2014
So The Frenz Experiment was recorded mid-late 1987, and so the most recent US tour would have been 1986, when the The Fall travelled as follows:

Paradise, Boston, Mass
Living Room, Providence, Rhode Island
Irving Plaza, NYC
9:30 club, Washington DC
New Century Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Stone, San Francisco, California
Lone Star Cafe, NYC

Then into Canada

So without assuming that the sequence of events in the song was the actual sequence of events, where might this town have been?
  • 12. Martin | 22/08/2015
The restaurant presumably wasn't between Boston and Providence as it's only a hour's drive between the two cities and surely the group would have stayed in Boston after the gig on 27 February 1986 and driven to Providence the next day?

Providence to New York however, is 181 miles. Again, surely the group would have stayed the night in Providence itself rather than headed straight to NYC? Anyhow, this route may well have taken the group past towns/cities such as Warwick, New London, New Haven, Stamford and no doubt others, depending on what exact road they took. (And was this one of the tours when MES travelled separately from the rest of The Fall?) Another thing to mention is that the implication from the MES quote above is that his hunger pangs happened sometime soon after one particular gig, but we can't pin this down for sure.

Sorry, no doubt I've muddied the waters rather than bring anything new to the investigation...
  • 13. dannyno | 27/08/2015
Yes, the quote seems to mean he finished the gig, then got hungry. But we might be reading that too literally. And MES may have flown ahead of the group or something. But your suggestion is plausible, and we have to start somewhere.

  • 14. Ed | 09/02/2018
So, I did some Googling and found a place actually called "The Steak Place" that had a butcher shop attached! It was in Chestnut Hill, MA, just outside of Boston. See the item in the lower left corner of page three on this PDF:
  • 15. dannyno | 10/02/2018
comment #14 - oh, good work. Best candidate yet. The area now seems to be residential, don't know what it was like in 1986. Further research required!
  • 16. bzfgt (link) | 17/02/2018
Killer work, Ed!
  • 17. dannyno | 19/10/2018
The restaurant was still there in 1987, see:
  • 18. dannyno | 22/12/2018
In December 2018, Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts released a CD of 13 Fall cover versions performed during their UK tour in March/April 2018, as a tribute to MES.

The sleevenotes include Lewis' interpretation of The Steak Place. He sees it not just as a description of a restaurant but as a creepy New England/Lovecraftian narrative.
  • 19. dannyno | 22/12/2018
In particular he points out the disturbing phrasing of this line:

"Things are brought forward and eaten"
  • 20. BreconBorn | 18/01/2019
I always heard the last two words of this song, which Smith sings in falsetto, as "brown sauce". HP or Daddy's are massive in Britain although brown sauce never took off in the USA. It might be frowned upon to smother a steak in brown sauce or even red sauce (tomato ketchup) but we Brits certainly do it.
  • 21. BreconBorn | 18/01/2019
The point being that a Brit in America might wail (like Smith imitates) for "brown sauce" but is likely to be disappointed.
  • 22. bzfgt (link) | 19/01/2019
"Brown sauce" seems more likely to me, and it seems highly unlikely it's "bad song". Although I can't be sure I hear "brown sauce" -- I hear "Baaau saw"...I am going to replace it with this for now because I think it is so unlikely to be "bad song" that "brown sauce" can't be worse, but it's entirely people will come on and convince me it's "bad song." We'll try this for now. Even better would be some sort of corroboration of "brown sauce," or a 3rd theory that once proposed seems obvious to all ears...but there's no independent reason to think "bad song," is there?
  • 23. bzfgt (link) | 19/01/2019
I feel funny about this though, the only reason I'm doing it is I feel "bad song" has to be wrong in any case.

Dan, is there some accessible document with these liner notes? If not, if you want me to put anything in please quote it...
  • 24. bzfgt (link) | 19/01/2019
Just to be clear, there is a substance a Brit actually would refer to as "brown sauce"? If not, this is way too speculative. See my (temporary, I hope) note 3.
  • 25. dannyno | 19/01/2019
Brown sauce is a generic name for a particular type of sauce:
  • 26. dannyno | 19/01/2019
I've listed to those last words again. Definitely not "bad song". I could buy "brown sauce".
  • 27. Mark | 22/01/2019
The Jeffrey Lewis fall covers CD ("His Waves") has an essay threorising what this song is about in the liner notes. Would you like it added here?
  • 28. dannyno | 22/01/2019
Comment #27. I've sent bzfgt a scan already.
  • 29. dannyno | 22/01/2019
(see comment #18 et seq)
  • 30. bzfgt (link) | 26/01/2019
Wow there's actually a "your files" part of the site manager where I can upload files...I never knew that.

You get a lot for free here...
  • 31. bzfgt (link) | 26/01/2019
I could have swore I put a whole file up right on the page last week, can't figure out how with the Lewis thing...I think maybe it has to be an image.
  • 32. dannyno | 23/10/2020
Brix, in the sleevenotes to the Beggars Banquet 2xCD/LP 2020 edition of The Frenz Experiment:

We would sometimes go to these restaurants, I don't know if they were chains that had red vinyl banquettes. Mark really loved steak. I remember sitting there and him thinking everyone in the restaurant looked like they were in the Mafia. I don't remember the exact steak restaurant. Massachusetts Turnpike, New Jersey, somewhere round there. We would frequent these places quite often on tour, they were kind of familiar and old school American. I think it is a composite of places.

Ed's identification in comment #14 still seems the best candidate to me. And it's in the right Massachusetts Turnpike area identified by Brix (and in the lyric).
  • 33. Ivan | 30/06/2021
Brown sauce is as ubiquitous in the UK as salt and vinegar.

Danny Baker, the man who saw The Fall in Huddersfield and recommended them to Step Forward records way back when, had an ongoing feature on his radio programme called 'red sauce, brown sauce or no sauce at all' (and may still have it - I think he's got a new show in the pipeline after his BBC sacking).

A quick google will tell you all you need to know about the Baker /sauce connection.
Kenneth Cusack
  • 34. Kenneth Cusack | 29/08/2021
I was always lead to believe this was the place:
  • 35. Grimo | 02/11/2021
Nice reference to a reading of this songs meaning in John Cooper Clarke's memoir I Wanna Be Yours (though odd in that it appears when Clarke refers to being a Specal Guest of The Fall in 2004 and that Smith's 'recent' songs had been inspired by day-to-day life.)
  • 36. dannyno | 24/01/2022
Kenneth Cusack, comment #34: lead to believe by who, or what?

Hilltop seems like another good candidate, to me, mainly because of the decor. It doesn't quite seem as close to MES' description as Chestnut Hill, where the name of the place is also right. But he could be conflating more than one place, of course.

Hilltop had candelabras:
  • 37. dannyno | 24/01/2022
On the other hand maybe closer to the descriptions than I thought at first,

MES, as quoted above:

it was all carcasses under this light

It seems the butcher's shop could be seen through a window from the restaurant, so... that certainly fits.

And I did find it described in one newspaper article as "the place for steak", although I don't see that they used it as a slogan.

Also, it seems to have been most famous for a huge cactus sign, which of course isn't mentioned.
  • 38. dannyno | 24/01/2022
The closure of the Hilltop:

  • 39. Larry | 20/02/2022
+1 for the subject being the Hilltop, formerly of Saugus, MA. Why? Its prominent sign and location. The kitschy aesthetic of the cow statues and cactus sign would've appealed to MES.

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