Philadelphia suddenly has a lot of steakhouses again. The resurgence comes after a lull following the double-whammy of the 2008 financial crash and subsequent rise of healthy fast-casual. But now, boom — Philly’s expense account landscape is flush again.
There are pros and cons to all the chop houses in town, but you’re guaranteed nice cuts and professional service at pretty much any of them. To help choose where to go when you’re ready to splurge, we created the following guide. Yeah, these cliches are unrealistic when you’re talking about people. When it comes to differentiating among the city’s meat palaces, they’re still a bit of a stretch — but also surprisingly useful.
Here’s what Philly steakhouses would be if each was a different high school stereotype.
Ocean Prime: The New Kid
No matter how long they’ve been around, The New Kid will always seem a bit awkward and out of place — even if they laugh at all the inside jokes.
It’s colorful and elegant and appointed with unique works of art, but somehow the splashy interior of this posh dining hall, which opened here four years ago, still feels like it needs some breaking in. Are the servers who whisper to line cooks as they wait by the semi-open kitchen discussing when to bring your steak, or plotting an escape to Ohio, where the company that owns the joint is based? Or perhaps Miami, which is what comes to mind when sitting at the bar and sipping on giant martini glasses filled with fruity cocktails.
124 S. 15th St.
Ruth’s Chris: The Mean Girl
The Mean Girl does everything right, or believes she does — and won’t shut up about it.
The wall mural overloaded with Philly references is a nice nod to local culture, but it looks misplaced in the swank white-and-black dining area — which is crowned by a procession of ringed modern chandeliers that could pass for an upside-down drum machine programmed to ping out Paris Hilton ditties. The sizzling plates for the butter-topped steaks make for a neat effect, but when servers act high and mighty about it, like it’s the only proper way to serve meat…well, that’s just not the case.
1800 Market St.
Hugo’s Frog Bar: The Pumped-Up Jock
Bigger is better when The Pumped-Up Jock is concerned — whether it’s the size of their muscles or the bravado with which they show them off.
Once you’re seated in the windowed dining room or on the outdoor patio overlooking the Delaware River, you can almost forget the beeping and blooping of the casino floor you had to make your way through to get there. Especially because of how assertive this Chicago import is in making the case for its top-grade chops and self-proclaimed “epic” desserts. After you polish off a slice of pie the size of your head, you won’t even notice the gamblers drooping over slot machines on your way out.
1001 N. Delaware Ave.
Morton’s: The Proud Goth
The less public recognition The Proud Goth gets, the better — at least that’s what they want you to think.
The dining room is as giant as the side dishes (if you didn’t know an entire head of steamed broccoli is what steak always needed, now you do), but most locals walk right by this Center City spot without even realizing it’s there. The few windows at the front of the space are covered by signage, making the interior feel like a dark hideaway. Which can be endearing for a certain kind of night, but somehow the decor makes it feel like you could be in any city in the US — a decade ago.
1411 Walnut St.
The Palm: The Cool Scenester
The Cool Scenester acts like your best bud— but won’t let you forget they’ll always be way slicker than you.
Believe it or not, the bar at the back of the recently renovated dining room is one of the most chillax places in the entire Bellevue lobby. On a given night you’re more likely to find the high-top tables and booths there filled with beautiful people in fashionably ripped jeans and chic tattoos as folks in blazers and pencil skirts. Tables on the main floor are more tightly packed than many other steakhouses, and the food is still pricey, but the atmosphere is relatively relaxed, so you can order your $125 surf-and-turf without worrying you’ll offend your neighbors by mispronouncing “sauce bearnaise.”
200 S. Broad St.
Urban Farmer: The Arty Intellectual
The Arty Intellectual knows more than you about every aspect of culture — or perhaps is just very adept at pretending they do.
Though it’s no doubt more modern than its predecessor, the remake of the former Fountain into a millennial-friendly establishment has a bit of a “trying too hard” vibe. The local art splashed around is interesting, but the big dining room still ends up feeling slightly cold. Tableside gimmicks abound, but is carpaccio served over a frozen block of pink Himalayan salt really any better than if it was on a plate? It’s definitely more Instagrammable, so there’s that.
1850 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
Barclay Prime: The Rich Preppy
You’re welcome to tag along on The Rich Preppy’s adventures — they’ll be sure to hide their smirk when you show up underdressed.
As if it wasn’t pressure enough to select which wine will pair best with your meal, this Stephen Starr chateau will also ask you to choose your own knife. Pick by whimsy, do your best haughty “whatever you recommend” line or just skip the need entirely and get your marbled Wagyu beef frizzled to a crisp in the unnecessary (but definitely famous) $100 rendition of a cheesesteak. Tip: Easiest chance to play fancy is in the lounge during weekday happy hour, when cocktails and apps come priced for the hoi polloi.
237 S. 18th St.
Chops: The Band Geek
It’s not that The Band Geek doesn’t like to have fun — it’s just a certain kind of fun that ends in time for a good night’s sleep.
At lunch, the sunlight dining room at this Comcast Center anchor is probably the most welcoming of any Philly steak specialist. Happy hour is popular, too, even overcrowded — until the 7 pm trains start departing from Suburban Station and the floor suddenly empties out, leaving a few unlucky servers behind to count their tips and hope for a few tourist tables. And don’t plan on a Saturday night visit to people-watch through the floor-to-ceiling windows: The restaurant is closed on weekends.
1701 JFK Blvd.
Del Frisco’s: The Serial Dater
No need to shame The Serial Dater by calling them that other four-letter word — they’re comfortable flaunting their sexiness, so who are you to judge?
When proprietors are cheeky enough to install a gold stripper pole in the dining room after a restaurant critic jokes about it…well, that speaks volumes about the vibe they’re hoping to curate. It seems like everyone in the crowd is on constant cruising mode, from the lawyers in thousand-dollar suits to the footballs stars in thousand-dollar sneaks. Relax, kick back, pop a few lollipop chicken wings (or whatever else you have in your pocket) and you’ll fit right in.
1426 Chestnut St.
The Prime Rib: The Aloof Drifter
You don’t hear much from The Aloof Drifter, or know many details about them — but they’re always there, hanging around the fringes.
This mirrored hideaway at the bottom of the Warwick in Rittenhouse has been around for 20 years — and the vaguely musty scent that wafts through the gilt-edged, black-walled dining rooms attests to it. But the tuxedoed staff doesn’t seem to mind, and neither does the pianist striking the keys on weekend eves, following a playlist of their own design. And if families staying upstairs want to bring in noisy kids to eat, well, this is officially a hotel restaurant, so just go with the flow.
1701 Locust St.
Capital Grille: The Worldly Stoner
As society struggles from day to day, The Worldly Stoner knows many things are timeless, so they don’t sweat the details — unless it’s about which strain is best.
Best bet is to step inside the gold-edged doors of this spendy Broad Street staple with someone who knows a bartender or maitre’d. The long-tenured staff can be the difference between scoring one of the soft leather bar stools or being forced to wait for a table while balancing your drink on the ridge along the wall. The bar is really the best place to eat anyway — you’ll get a big cloth napkin spread out as impromptu tablecloth and skip the dining room’s cloistered feel.
1346 Chestnut St.