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Butcher & Singer – Philadelphia, PA

November 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA Butcher & Singer - Philadellphia, PA
In town for a boys/sports weekend – needless to say, a steakhouse was in order for the tipoff dinner before the 76ers game.

In Philadelphia, there is no shortage of steakhouses – all the chains are there (Morton’s, Smith & Wollensky, Ruth Chris’), but we were looking for something with some local flavour – and Butcher & Singer, part of the Starr restaurants group – at least didn’t fall into the ‘huge chain’ category, and had some decent reviews.

Located on Philadelphia’s trendy Walnut Street in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, and located across the street from Louis Kahn’s old office, Butcher & Singer wouldn’t be out of place in the 1930’s with its elegant, deco-themed, super-glamorous interior. Three guys in jeans on the way to the 76ers game? They happily accomodated us, but in this setting of brass, marble and red velvet, we wouldn’t have been out of place in tails and toppers, complete with a couple of flappers, full of moxie, and ready to paint the town red. Okay, I’ll stop – but you get the idea. It’s nice inside.

We booked an early reservation (5pm), showed up a few minutes late, but they graciously accommodated us and our server immediately took some drink orders and we were sipping on a cocktail in no time. One minor gripe: I ordered a vodka martini with lemon, and was brought a glass full of olives – when I pointed this out, our server just took out the olives but left the glass. A martini with both the flavour of lemons and olives isn’t so great – I think our server was just a little new in his career, so I’ll let this one go.

We perused the not-so-cheap menus – mains $30 – $45+; our server suggested that the kitchen could easily split a salad between two of us, and also suggested a steak plus a few veggie dishes would be more than enough food. Two of us split the dry-aged porterhouse ($74 for two) and T had the 12oz filet. T and I split ‘the wedge’ for a salad, and we ordered asparagus, and the stuffed hash browns for sides.

Another minor gripe – the wine list: not cheap. I figured the markup was 3x at least – which may be normal for some restaurants, but our server was pushing a $170 bottle of wine on us a little too hard. I’m not super-knowledgeable about wine, but if you’re pushing a $170 wine on three guys in jeans on their way to the 76ers game, you might not know your audience that well.

The wedge salad was great – russian dressing on a wedge of lettuce, with crumpled blue cheese and bacon bits – it had the cold, crisp flavour of lettuce with the creaminess of the rich russian dressing, and with the blue cheese which made it a perfect way to start the meal. I’m not usually big on salads – too often it is just a generic dish that helps restaurants pay the rent, but this was great.

The dry-aged porterhouse for two was superb – we went with medium-rare, and the steak actually came cut up, with some pieces more on the medium end of the spectrum, and some more on the rare end of the spectrum – whether this was intentional I’m not sure, but it worked out perfectly for S and I as he preferred the more well done pieces. The char crust on the outside of the steak made this one of the most flavourful steaks I’ve ever had – end of story. They know their steak here.

The stuffed hash browns were good – it was a frisbee-sized plate of hash browns, and the asparagus were huge, but unfortunately overcooked a bit too soggy and under-flavoured. The flavour problem probably more reflects the time of year and quality of produce available, but overcooking veggies is a sin that no restaurant should make.

We skipped dessert (had to get to the game), and they accommodated us again with a super-fast turnaround on the bill. Dinner came to $300 not including tip for the above and a $75 bottle of wine.

Service was ok – I think our server was a bit inexperienced and made a few mistakes, but the manager came over twice during the meal to see if everything was okay, which I appreciated. I got the impression that most of the servers there are quite experienced and probably go out of their way to make sure you have a great meal. The setting is elegant and unique – a complete and perfect re-creation of a supper-club from the 1920s that is both comfortable and fun. The food is better than your usual steakhouse fare, and indeed they know their meat. It’s a pricey place for a dinner, but I think if we were dressed to the nines (okay, last one, I promise), and had a big blowout, it would have been well worth the money.

But if you’re not that into food, and you don’t care as much about the huge level of detail on the interior, you could probably get a cheaper meal that met your needs somewhere else. I think the only way that I’d come back here would be if I was in a tux for some fun night out with some similarly attired friends and our spouses, just to have some kind of high-end Busby Berkeley/PG Wodehouse (Wooster in America) kind of evening out on the town. I guess what I’m trying to say that it’s the whole experience that would bring me back, not the food. Bon Vivants who are totally crazy about food might want to spend their $$$ elsewhere (unless in tux and top hat, in which case B&S would be perfect).

Butcher & Singer
1500 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-3523
Tel: (215) 732-4444

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Tags: Philadelphia · Western Food

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