High-end steak houses like Ruth's Chris and Peter Luger are a great place to study trends affecting the US economy, argues Slate's Daniel Gross. The price of sirloin, for instance, reflects the recent spike in energy prices, as demand for ethanol has raised the price of corn, which is what Gross calls a major "input" into that side of beef.
Steakhouse sales are also tied to the exuberance of men in the corporate world, writes Gross. They're prime venues for meetings, deal-closing dinners, and recruitment lunches. When profits are down, those Kobe-fed execs may find themselves taking lunch at their desks. (Read more ethanol stories.)