the story of idaho finger steaks

Sorry, Not Sorry Potatoes

Many regions lay claim to a signature beef dish. Britain boasts Beef Wellington, France owns Chateaubriand and Italy is known for scaloppini. However, when Flavored Nation, a culinary festival that showcases an iconic food from each of the 50 states in the U.S., chose the dish to represent Idaho, it wasn’t potatoes, but rather the humble finger steak. While the finger steak is certainly not as highbrow as the afore-mentioned dishes – dispelling any pretense that the word “steak” might evoke – it represents the down-to-earth Western lifestyle just fine. It also just makes sense to represent Idaho with a beef dish, given that the state has more cattle than people. 

so what is a Finger Steak?

Finger Steaks are like the Northwest’s answer to Southern fried chicken.

Beef is cut into finger-length strips, then breaded or battered, and quickly fried until golden and crispy. Cuts of beef used vary as do the recipes for the batter – recipes that tend to be guarded with the seriousness of a national secret or the Hope diamond. Often an order of finger steaks is delivered in a parchment-lined plastic basket (thus dispelling any lingering pretense) with a mound of French fries and some form of mandatory dipping sauce. For some locals, these are a near-addiction. 

finger-length cuts

breaded and battered

fried golden & crispy

served casually

The History of Finger Steaks

So who is accredited with this culinary creation? Well, you can't tell the history of finger steaks without talking about three things – Mylo Bybee, the Torch Lounge and B and D Foods. 

First came Mylo Bybee.

A U.S. Forest Service meat cutter/chef, Bybee was working in the central mountains of Idaho. He was intent on using everything possible, including the trimmings from the steak. He created the iconic dish and took the recipe with him when he opened Mylo’s Torch Lounge in Boise in the late 50’s. The restaurant quickly became famous for its finger steaks, so much so that many people have tried reproducing them at home.

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B and D Foods

But there’s more to the story of Finger Steaks, and that’s where B and D Foods comes in.  Red Steer was a popular chain of drive-in restaurants started in the late '50s by Clair Hawkins and three of his brothers. The popular restaurant had 50 or so locations in the Mountain States during its height. One of their signature menu items was the Crinkle Steaks Dinner.   

Hawkins recognized that making finger steaks from scratch at each location was too labor intensive so in 1976 he started B and D Foods. They have been making finger steaks for foodservice ever since, selling mainly to fast and fast-casual establishments. Primarily the restaurants are in Idaho, although they do have a peppered finger steak that has found a market in Texas. The company produces some 600,000 pounds of finger steaks each year.

serving up idaho finger steaks

Traditionally finger steaks are served with cocktail or fry sauce and French fries. However, don't let that limit your creativity! Try any of these adaptations below.

          • Toss with buffalo sauce and serve with blue cheese or ranch dipping sauce and celery for a beefy alternative to chicken wings.
          • Finger steak gyro - wrap finger steaks in a pita or tortilla. Top with lettuce, tomato, onion and a horseradish cream sauce.
          • Serve with a dipping sauce sampler - blue cheese, BBQ, ranch, cocktail, sriracha (sriracha + ranch) or horseradish cream.
          • Use finger steaks for a pub house play on a steak salad.
          • Top with crisp coleslaw and serve in a taco shell.
          • Finger steak poutine - mix the French fries with the finger steaks and top with cheese curds and brown gravy for the ultimate in bar food.

idaho fry sauce

When it comes to serving up Idaho Finger Steaks, personal taste reigns supreme. They can be served with almost any dipping sauce you prefer, but in Idaho, the most popular condiment for dipping is cocktail or fry sauce. 


• 1 cup mayonnaise  

• 2 tablespoons mayonnaise  

• 1/4 cup white sugar  

• 1/2 teaspoon salt  

• 1/8 teaspoon paprika  

• 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard 

• 1/2 teaspoon onion powder  

• 1/2 cup ketchup  

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar  

• 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 


  1. Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, sugar, salt, paprika, ground mustard, and onion powder until smooth. 
  2. Stir in the ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce until well blended. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Store covered in refrigerator.

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