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brescd01

The Worst Steakhouses

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My wife and I eat out at a nice place once per week at least and recently we hve been trying the steakhouses. I proposed, though my idea did not get much traction, that steakhouses in Philadelphia were important restaurants for more than just steak and that this was a new sort of restaurant unique to Philadelphiam, or at least uniquely important. In any event, we don't blow a wad, just salads, appetizers, maybe one entree.

So I re-visited The Palm last weekend. The Palm has such a storied name for me (I am from New York City), I could not believe it was bottom of the heap like most reviewers suggest for Philadelphia steakhouses. We sat in the bar and had salads, sides, an entree, and drinks (no steak). And it was hopelessly mediocre in virtually every regard. Not bad, just mediocre. And somone has to fix the menu, no menu in an expensive restaurant should resemble te Appleby's menu with its specials and trademarked titles for everything.

Last night I found someone else to pay for a night at Del Friscos. I honestly did not believe LeBan's review of the place. I figured he went too soon, they would have fixed the problems, etc. If anything, it was worse than he described. Food was pretty bad and service was very bad, and I am not someone who notices these things usually. Again, I did not have the steak but appetizers, salad, fish, and dessert. Terrible. And the prices were truly outrageous, and I am not easily outraged.

Just a report.

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Good to know that you got to two of the prominent steak places in town, but how about some DETAILS?? To ust list the courses you had at each place , without telling us ANYTHING about the dishes at all, seems more than a bit disingenuous. I mean, complain if you want about these chain steakhouses, but at least have a STEAK and give some details about the food and drink you consumed.


Rich Pawlak

 

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I remember going to the Palm many years ago before they became a chain, and part of the character of the place was that they didn't have a menu, or at least not much of one. The waiter would come out and just ask what you wanted, and if you didn't know, he would explain, "Well, this is a steakhouse, so we serve steaks, chops, and lobster, and you could order..." and from there it was like hearing the butcher explain all the kinds of things you could make with beef, lamb, and I guess chicken, lobster, and maybe one or two kinds of fresh fish on a broiler, and there were around eight side dishes. Then after reciting all that, he wouldn't write anything down, and would come back with everything as ordered, knowing who got what.

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Wow Rich, that's harsh.

At the Palm we had cocktails; I think a Mojito and my wife the house cocktail. WI got sautéed spinach, Caesar salad, and my wife had a salad too. She had a shrimp entree. We had the "half and half," a mixture of potato sticks and onion rings. Then we split the Tiramisu. All very, very mediocre.

At Del Frisco's the service was spotty at best. We had drinks before we sat down and no one served me at all though staff passed me multiple times. I had the swordfish. I ordered it undercooked and blackened and it arrived with the usual preparation specified on the menu (not what I ordered). I had a Caipirinha cocktail. The waiter's wisecracks were not appropriate to the prices. We split the crab gnocchi, mediocre. I had mousse for dessert (like lead); my friend had the chocolate soufflé, which came straight out of the refrigerator. Mind you, steak specials cost over 60 dollars, as did lobster tails. This is the most expensive restaurant I have found in Philly.

So far as eating a steak, I am not sure why I can't go to a steakhouse and get what I want.

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Of course you can order anything you want, but why would you? You're just setting yourself up for disappointment. It's not a huge logical leap to propose that you'll have better luck when you order things that a particular restaurant does best. Conversely, you should go to restaurants that excel in preparing what you want to eat. It just seems like you're intentionally reducing your odds of having a good meal, for what purpose, I can't imagine.

Sure, steakhouses have other things on the menu, and in a perfect world, everything would be delicious. But the practical reality is that every restaurant does some things better than others, and sometimes there are items on the menu put there for members of groups that don't like the house specialties. That doesn't mean that the kitchen actually knows how to cook them well. They've got an eggplant parm on the menu for the poor vegetarian who got dragged to the steakhouse, not because the chef secretly wants to be known for his vegetable dishes.

In general, Chinese restaurants don't make great burgers. Cheesesteak stands don't often have excellent salads. You can order them if you happen to see them on the menu, but you shouldn't be surprised if they're not good.

As you stated at the top of this topic, you have proposed that Philly steakhouses are distinguished by being skilled at non-steak cuisine as well. How are you feeling about that theory?

I think the trick to having truly satisfactory restaurant meals is to figure out what the place you've chosen does best, and order that. And associated with that, pick the right place for what you feel like eating. And don't order pizza at a sushi bar.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Obviously I go to the places that deliver to me that which is most important to me, and for non-ethnic, non-haute cuisine fine dining, virtually all the options in Philadelphia are steakhouses. Take Barclay Grill as an example, it would not have the reputation and reviews it has if it did not do all aspects of a fine meal so well (appetizers, salads, desserts, drinks, service), as wonderful as its steaks are. And this city is bereft of full-service high-end seafood restaurants. The best is Oyster House, and that is casual at best. The most elegant comfortable bars are disproportionately in steakhouses as well. I don't remember whether you were one of the naysayer about my "steakhouse plus" concept, but in hiladelphia, like it or not, steakhouses are an important feature of fine dining meat or otherwise, much more so than in NYC.


Edited by brescd01 (log)

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I've not been to the philly Delfriscos, but I have been to the ones in DFW and have always been pleased. A shame it isn't good up here.

My two nominees for worst steakhouse are both in DE. Conley-Ward (tiny ill-cooked portions and lousy service) and Sullivan's, which is a chain, I believe. Solidly mediocre.


Edited by gfweb (log)

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And this city is bereft of full-service high-end seafood restaurants. The best is Oyster House, and that is casual at best.

Hey now. Speaking as a former employee of Striped Bass, which is sorely missed without a doubt, I still think OH is filling a niche in these times that are not the same as the pre-recession times of high end seafood restaurants. Even the vanilla-beige chain seafood places like Oceanaire couldn't make it here, and they appeal to the lowest common denominator, which number in the tens of thousands. I'm not sure another Striped Bass/Le Bernadin type place would survive here of late, and I can't really blame anyone for not taking the gamble that it would. Does it suck that there isn't a really fancy high end fine dining seafood restaurant in Philly right now? Maybe, but I think the answer depends on whether it's your money keeping the doors open or not. And whether or not having a perfectly nice dinner at OH, or at Little Fish or ordering the seafood entrees available on any given night at Fond, or Matyson or Bibou, Ken's Seafood in Chinatown or any number of other possibilities will do instead. If it's all about the atmosphere and getting dressed up to go, then perhaps a night at the Fountain, Lacroix or Le Bec Fin would suffice and scratch that itch for you. If it's about having well prepared fish/shellfish/seafood dishes, you could do worse than the possibilities that currently exist. JMO, of course. I truly believe that someone will open up another high end seafood restaurant in Philly soon. But maybe not by tomorrow or next week. These are trying times in the restaurant business. Imagine how you'd feel if it were your several million dollars tied up in Union Trust or Barclay Prime or wherever, where folks now treat it as a "special occasion" restaurant and the days of unlimited expense accounts are as extinct as the dodo bird. I'm certain three years ago when they were looking at the architects drawings of the gorgeous soaring ceilings that would fill the empty spaces that are now the newer high end steak houses it all seemed like a grand idea. Then the market crashed and everyone was screwed. Someone did the math all that long time ago and decided that building a gigantic 300 seat steakhouse was a sound investment. It would be filled 2.5 times per evening on the weekends at an average check of $87.6/person and it would take X number of years to recoup their investment. Unfortunately that algorithm didn't hold once the shit hit the fan, economically speaking. The first thing that goes when folks are tight for money is their "descretionary spending". For most folks that's high end dinners.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Despite the fact my dog is not welcome there, I LOVE the new Oyster House. I have not had anything there that was not delicious. And the decor is very classy. But it is not high-end or luxurious, it is more like a pub that serves seafood. And I HATED Oceanaire. I really, really long for the "casa de productos" restaurants I enjoyed in Madrid, the specialty seafood brasseries I tried in Paris, or even the specialized seafood restaurants of NYC, of which there are apparently quite a few.

I never liked Striped Bass. It was prestigious and of course an excellent restaurant, but I prefer much less precious food.

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Someone went to a steakhouse, ordered some non-steak dishes, and thought they were terrible.

Big surprise.

With so many innovative independent restaurants in Philly, I think there are a zillion better options for salads/seafood/non-steak cuisine (as people like Katie have pointed out). I wouldn't seek out that kind of cuisine at a chain steakhouse, and I certainly wouldn't expect it to compare in quality to that offered at so many other great restaurants in our town.

Now, if this were to turn into a discussion on the STEAK at various steakhouses in our area, that would be awesome. I love steak. :wub:

But otherwise I confess myself a bit confused as to the point of this discussion.


Sarah Fernandez aka "mssurgeon81"

Philadelphia, PA

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The value of pointing out which restaurants are no good is as great as identifying the good ones.

Not sure I agree. As others have pointed out, it is rather harsh to label a steak house as "no good" when one didn't order steak. The Palm is, at the very least, a good restaurant. I like it a lot and not just because I cajoled my characterture onto their wall. The steak, the lobsters, the creamed spinach, the hash browns, the potatoes - all very good.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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The OP posted a list of side dishes that were mediocre.

It seems that you'all expect the side dishes to improve if he also orders a steak?

What about the desserts? Do they improve too?

How does the kitchen manage that?

Is it the OPs fault he noted the fact of no seafood place that met his criteria for high end?


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I think people are being too philosophical. I also was not comparing the Palm to all restaurants, just other steakhouses or high-end restaurants. I really don't see the big deal about not ordering a steak. The top steakhouses in town impressed people with a lot more than their steaks. Leban thought Del Frisco's terrible, I did too, what's the problem? The Palm is at the bottom of most lists I have read of the best steakhouses, I thought it belonged there, how am I really separating from the herd?

I also fail to see the plethora of options for a nice night out in Philadelphia that other posters suggest. If we eliminate the precious or ethnic and we want full service, very few restaurants remain but steakhouses.


Edited by brescd01 (log)

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But otherwise I confess myself a bit confused as to the point of this discussion.

If we eliminate the precious or ethnic and we want full service, very few restaurants remain but steakhouses.

During my expense account days, I had the opportunity to eat well here and in a few other cities. At some French place in Atlanta, the white gloved waiter tapped the silver domes together as the entrees were served. Perhaps that was intended as fine service, but I thought he was drawing attention to himself.

And that seems to be the point of this discussion.


Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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Go to Osteria. I'm not sure if it's still on the menu, but their steak for two was easily among the best pieces of meat in the city when I had it, and you'll have much more sucess with the rest of the menu if you choose to go that direction.


I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

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If you're in Philly, I wouldn't go anywhere but the Prime Rib, myself. I think it's the best steakhouse in the country (I haven't been to the Baltimore or DC locations in a long time, but they were always just as good, if memory serves). I have been disappointed multiple times by the Palm, as well as Morton's & Ruth's Chris (in any city).

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Sorry.

The Prime Rib is in no way the best steakhouse in the country.

That is just way too bold a statement, most people can easily pick 5 places in 5 seconds that are better.

All the Craft, CUT and BLT places are better and those are not even the best.

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Sorry.

The Prime Rib is in no way the best steakhouse in the country.

That is just way too bold a statement, most people can easily pick 5 places in 5 seconds that are better.

All the Craft, CUT and BLT places are better and those are not even the best.

I have to disagree with you. Craft's steak was awful when I was there. It does, in fact, rank among the worst places to eat in NY on my sliding scale of cost-to-value. Cipriani is ahead of it, and maybe one or two others, but not many. I haven't eaten at CUT, but BLT is nothing to write home about. I've eaten at most of the major steak houses in NY and I don't think any of them come close, including Strip House, Wolfgang's, etc.

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I somehow missed these lines:

I had the swordfish. I ordered it undercooked and blackened...

and

Food was pretty bad and service was very bad, and I am not someone who notices these things usually.

And now it all makes sense. You're just having fun with us, aren't you?

You start a topic called The Worst Steakhouses, and base your critiques on not eating steak, order fish in a way that's sure to confuse the cooks, sit in the bar rather than the dining room, claim that you don't normally notice when food and service are bad, keep referring to the nonexistent Barclay Grill, and try to convince us that Capital Grill gives you different colored napkins so the lint is color-coordinated. I'll admit, you had me going for a while...


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Go to Osteria. I'm not sure if it's still on the menu, but their steak for two was easily among the best pieces of meat in the city when I had it, and you'll have much more sucess with the rest of the menu if you choose to go that direction.

The best steak (non-steakhouse category) would be an interesting topic, wouldn't it? (Definitely more interesting than this one.) I agree that the fiorentina at Osteria would be a contender for that title; it's pretty fantastic.

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The steak for two is still on the menu. Calling it a fiorentina is debatable - even in Tuscany there are differing opinions as to exactly what cut of meat should be used for 'bistecca alla fiorentina' - so I'd just term it 'costata'. And mind, the cooking is spot on, with one of the best sears I have ever seen, IF you like your beef adorned with garlic and spices, which is most certainly not something you'd find in Tuscany. My problem with it - you knew this was coming - was in the quality of the meat, which was not even remotely up to par. Oh, and with the pricing on the winelist, which could only be defined usurious if one were feeling exceedingly generous, but that's another debate entirely.

In short: I'm hoping to find a better steak somewhere in Philly. I'm not sure that Osteria's rendition should be that high on the list.

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These comments (Rich, Philadinng) are either tongue-in-cheek or ridiculous. I value my nights out, I would never intentionally disappoint myself. Sales reps treated me to a night at Del Friscos, I sat at a table, after drinks at the bar, and I got bad service in both spots. When I said I do not normally notice poor service, I obviously meant I am not too fussy. I ordered fish because I felt like it. By the way, of four people there only one ordered steak, one ordered chicken, two fish. Why ordering undercooked blackened swordfish is confusing I am not clear on, no other restaurant I have tried has this problem. I have to order the swordfish to a certain degree of done-ness, why not undercooked? For swordfish lovers, this is pretty common. Tuna has been cooked this way for a long time in restaurants.

I ate at the bar at the Palm because there is a TV there and more commotion and people watching. Again, why going to a steakhouse and eating lightly or not eating steak is so outrageous, I cannot understand. The Palm has an enormous non-steak menu, in fact, by far most of its dishes are not steak. Del Friscos in particular promotes its seafood on its web site, as do many of the steakhouses.

Leban hated Del Friscos so I am in good company. The Palm has ended up on the bottom of most lists, I am not saying there are not good things I may have missed but my perceptions are hardly eccentric.

I continue to assert that there are not to many high-end full-service (non BYO) non-ethnic options in Philly for a night out. For a thread that has been knocked so many times, it has attracted an extraordinary number of views and posts. It is what it is, my report on two steakhouses one of which was bad and other other of which was mediocre, in my experience. I eat out about once per week and enjoy myself most nights. These were the exception.

Actually Rich and Philadining, you are just having fun with me, right?


Edited by brescd01 (log)

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Well, I'm pretty confused. What level of doneness is 'underdone' for swordfish? Or tuna for that matter? If I was cooking for someone, and they asked for their tune 'underdone', I would admittedly have absolutely no idea what level of doneness they would consider underdone, since it presupposes some unknown, unstated definition of what 'correctly done' the diner has in mind, not to mention why said diner would want it less then correctly done.

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You're just having fun with us, aren't you?

You start a topic called The Worst Steakhouses, and base your critiques on not eating steak, order fish in a way that's sure to confuse the cooks [...]

Hmmm, maybe the OP was indeed on to something. I happened upon a 1988 review of the Post House in Manhattan (same people are behind S&W) and was reminded of this thread. I was struck by the balance between meat and fish accorded by Miller in his review (and by the criticism of the poorly cooked tuna :laugh: ). But a glance at their current menu indicates that the Post House doesn't seem to be pushing fish as strongly as it must have done in 1988. Maybe the rise of fine fish-dining (La Bernardin, et al) accounts for the change. So perhaps the OP was reasonably lamenting the death (or dearth) of "the steakhouse that excels at fish".

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I recall reading (perhaps here?) that someone who had the temerity to order something other than a steak at Peter Luger's was admonished by the waiter: "And you go to Hawaii to ski?"


Charles Milton Ling

Vienna, Austria

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