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Barclay Prime - A big disappointment!

After reading all the glowing reviews of Barclay Prime we have been looking forward to dining there. We finally had the right group - steakhouse loving friends.

In short it the entire evening was pretty terrible.

Things started out well enough. We were greeted warmly by the hostess and shown to our table. The dining room is lovely and different. Large chairs and sofa type seating created a living room atmosphere.

The waiter was pleasant and efficient. He answered questions and chatted with us as if we were his only table. We were impressed. They delivered water and wonderful onion rolls.

The service was excellent. The food however was another story.

Highpoints: Lobster bisque - excellent. Kobe beef sliders - great. The butter poached lobster was perfect. Spinach salad was very good.

Lowpoints - the steak. The rib eye was about 40% fat and gristle. The meat was flavorful tho. The other steaks were just ok.

The harvest salad had a tiny portion of greens topped by a mountain of apple and totally overdressed.

The sides: caramelized onions, sauteed potatoes, tater tots were so greasy they just weren't edible. The peas were raw and crunchy We sent them back to be cooked and they were replaced by equally raw ones.

Desserts were ok - again everything was very rich. Even the banana cream pie had a puff pastry crust. Yes I understand that this is a steakhouse but does everything have to taste like they poured an extra stick of butter on it.

The noise was just terrible. I had read that Barclay was a quite alternative to the Capital Grille - not true. They played loud rap style music with a heavy base booming all evening. We could not hear the person seated right next to us.

When we complained about it the waiter told us that they wanted to have a "hip" atmosphere. He definitely implied that we were old fogies.

We finally spoke with the manager who said ours was not a new complaint, he had heard it many times before... but not to expect any changes in that regard. To which we replied that he shouldn't expect us to ever return.

They turned down the music and we could finally converse normally while waiting for the check. Too little too late.

Dinner was $800 for 6 people including two modestly priced bottles of wine.

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  1. Thanks for the descriptive review. I guess as a part of the Starr empire, they need to be hip. I had wanted to try this but will keep my Steakhouse business to Capital Grille. While they may be part of a small chain, they know how to treat customers right.

    1. I had the same experience, my hard of hearing father couldn't hear a SINGLE word all night. We could barely hear the waiter delivering the specials or anything else he said. I was kidnapped, a bag thrown over my head, and taken to dinner by some friends of the family who insisted. I really couldn't notice the quality of the food as the noise and activity level were so over the top, the portions were absurdly ENORMOUS, enough to feed three people. That's all I remember about the food. Nothing was local or naturally raised, I questioned the waiter relentlessly, screaming questions to him over the booming music about the origins of the ingredients.

      Any restaurant that actually says the word "hip" in describing it's ambiance, atmosphere, or style of food preparation sinks like an elephant to the bottom of my list. Theme parks are not my idea of lovely places to go with friends and family for a convivial get together.

      " Gimmee a pig foot and a bottle of beer" ( lyrics from a song by the great Bessie Smith) in a dive by the road and I'd be much happier. That's what I call hip. I guess it's all a matter of taste.

      1. Huh! Sorry to hear about your bad meal at B.P. I was just there last Saturday night (right before Christmas) and had a great meal! The music was fine. It was modern but not hip hop or rappy and it did not intrude at all. My New York strip was perfectly done and very tasty. My lettuce wedge salad was very generous and came with some crabmeat. My wife's veal porterhouse was excellent and the one side dish we got was nicely done, not greasy at all (a potato and onion dish). Dessert was fabulous, but by then I was so full I couldn't finish. With tax and tip, $185. The only "beef" (sorry for the pun) I had was the waiter, who appeared so entranced by my wife that he totally forgot to ask me if I wanted a drink (my wife ordered water, maybe that's what threw him). BTW, the Ketel One martini, dirty, 3 olives, was perfect as well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rondo

          My wife and I dined at Barlclay Prime Friday the 29th. We had a wonderul meal - but I will agree the place is LOUD. At one point, some old disco song was playing and a small group of guys started doing the "OOOOO!!! OOOOO!!!!" with the song. The tables aroud us and the waiter just laughed. We thought the couch type chairs we pretty comfortable, although my wife is short and said they were a little challenging at times for her.

          As for the food - started out with a Sapphire martini - perfect. Onion rolls were very nice. For appetizers we have the Kobe Sliders and the Crab Cocktail. The Kobe Sliders were OK - we were glad to have tried them but wouldn't get them again. Crab Cocktail was very good. For entrees, my wife had the butter poached lobster which was absolutely incredible. I had the rib eye - cooked perfectly at medium rare - great flavor, tender, best steak I've had in the city so far. Had the carmelized onions and potatoes as a side, and I also ordered the bernaise sauce. Both were very good, although I could have used a little more of the sauce. Two glasses of Avalon Cabernet with dinner. Expensive but very nice. For dessert, coffee and cappucino along with 2 milk chocolate creme brulees (with a special note from the chef congradulating us on our 21st anniversary - a nice touch). Finished the night with a glass of port.

          Final bill - $276 plus a generous tip. Thats a healthy check, but it was a great meal. We both agreed we would return.

        2. "Joluvscards"

          Your experience mirrors mine, Barclay Prime came up in conversation while we were vacationing in Miami and happened to eat in a restaurant called Prime112 on Ocean drive.
          When we told one of the managers we were from Philly, he said Barclay was based on thier restaurant. In any case, we had not been there up till then and decided to finally try it.
          It was indeed a complete disappointment.
          First on the music Issue, Barclay prime is following this "HIP" trend of playing "HIP" music which in actuality is completely obnoxious music in that kind of atmosphere, we were given some similarly idiotic response when we asked why the music was so loud, our server said the owner wanted it that way to create a young vibe. The funny thing is most of the people in the restaurant were not "young hipsters", it seems more and more that restaurants just create atmosphere's for thier employees and not thier customers.

          On to the food, everything was a complete disappointment, we had so many complaints about what we were being served, we had to question ourselves to see if we were in a bad mood or were we being "punked" by Ashton Kutcher.
          All the fried sides were gross because the oil in the fryer needed to be changed, the butter poached lobster was an overcooked lame interpretation of Thomas Keller's French Laundry dish, they had this obnoxious nitpicky charges for sauces evn though you were paying tons of money for the sides and the steaks......AND the steaks were just OK.
          The Gachot and Gachot meat that we loved so much at Peter Luger's just wasnt nearly the same, not aged as well, not as flavorful, the wine markups were particularly obnoxious on the low end.
          The best thing we ate all night were the "KOBE" beef sliders which were quite delicious BUT in the interest of honesty it wasnt KOBE beef, it was American WAGYU which for some dubious reason our server acknowledged the restaurant calls it "American Kobe" which is kind of like saying "American Champagne"......
          And that sums it up....
          Barclay is like "American Champagne"
          An imitator of the real thing.

          1. It's interested that you mention Peter Luger's because we dined there about a year ago and loved it.

            I don't know why I was surprised by my experience at BP. It is typical of every other Starr effort. High on hype, low on delivery.

            2 Replies
            1. re: joluvscards

              I've dined at Luger's 4 or 5 times and nearly always found it greasy, pretentious, loud and overrated. I haven't yet been to Barclay Prime in part because of my loyalty to the Palm, which I think is the best steak house in Philadelphia. Capital Grill seems kind of mafia-ish to me.

              1. re: disher

                It's best at lunch. I've been there a number of times with my husband and since it is less crowded at lunch, it's a better meal. I actually think the food is better at lunchtime too. Not loud at lunch. It's REALLY not pretentious; come on, it's a room with sawdust on the floor.

            2. I like Capital Grille. I have always found the food excellent and the service accomodating.

              1. Love Cap Grille. Awaesome Steaks. None of this Kobe or Wagyu nonsense. Best Porterhouse in CC.
                Consistent in Philly and great service.
                What do you mean by Mafia-ish???????

                1. Went to Cap Grille last night. It was good, as usual. Started off w/the calamari (excellent), then "The Wedge" - iceberg lettuce, bacon, blue cheese dressing; followed by a 20 oz. sirloin done perfectly medium rare as requested. Finished half the steak, and took the rest home for the family to polish off. I agree w/PFD, one of the best places in Philly (although I give Barclay Prime a slight edge).

                  1. I hate all of Starr's places mostly because of the noise, but we must all be living in different worlds! We went to BP (hip way of saying Barclay Prime???) on Xmas Eve and had a wonderful wonderful dinner. We have been there several times and ironically always sit in the bar so I have no idea how loud the dining room is, but the bar is delightfully quiet. Romantically quiet. For apps, my wife had fresh and small oysters. I had shrimp cocktail. Three shrimp perfectly cooked for 19 bucks! Had to eat the shrimp with a knife and fork. We shared the porterhouse. I had the strip, the wife the filet. I guess we could never be admitted to Peter Luger's joint and I say thank god for that!! We shared the creamed spinach scented with ginger. That creamed spinach was better then bad sex! For desert we had the bananna cream pie which we always have there because it is so damn good. The taste of butter was particularly sensual. Two cups of coffee, two glassses of wine and we were looking at a check of 140.00. With a 30 tip, and "fun" to come after dinner, we welcomed Santa with a huge you know what.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

                      OP, you are my new hero! BP not a "hip" way of saying Barclay Prime, I just get tired of typing! The bar looks very interesting. Might have to hang out there next time I go. Of course that would require another winning session at the Borgata poker tables (wife and I were celebrating my 5th place finish in a tournament). Is the creamed spinach at BP better than at Cap Grille?

                      1. re: Rondo

                        I thought "BP" was the hip way of saying "Brasserie Perrier".

                    2. I think the creamed spinach is the best in the city, although Cap Grille can give BP a run for the money,

                      1. Ruth's Chris has great creamed spinach

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: coolgeek

                          Morton's creamed spinach is actually better...have you tried it?

                          1. re: SaraMiller

                            only once, and they served it at the end of the meal, after I pointed out that they missed it, so it probably wasn't the best one they ever served. it was tepid, at best

                            for some reason I have it stuck in my head that it's not a standard menu item, but they'll make it if you ask

                        2. I had an absolutely fantastic dinner at Barclay Prime, but a sales rep picked up my tab. The wines I had put the dinner over-the-top, otherwise I would put it in the same class as Capital grille. Hard to say because of the excess spent on me, but I liked the cold seafood app. The crabmeat was especially nice. I thought the Kobe burgers were just OK, but my NY Strip was fantastic, and the desserts were as hedonistic as one might expect. My memories of the evening a month ago are fond ones, but was that because of the Clos-St.-Hune, Lynch-Bages, and BV Clone 4? Maybe...Next time I'll use a more critical palate. Music didn't stand out one way or another to me....

                          1. I went to Barclay Prime last Wednesday, 8/29. The first thing that struck me was how dark the dining room was. As a person with good eyesight I struggled to read the wine menu while watching a fellow diner struggling to read his bill. The wait staff carry small flash lights!! It is a bit loud and the music is irritating. The food was very good though.
                            We had a very indifferent, overpriced, forgettable bottle of Cab. Sauv. Without desserts, 2 cocktails and 1 brandy, our bill, (with a decent tip) was $270. I'd return if someone else was paying but it doesn't stand out as a great restaurant. The week before I dined at Susanna Foo's and the food was superb. Much better wait staff and a better atmosphere.

                            1. The first time I went to BP (with 5 others) that sirloin steak (Pittsburgh med/rare) was so buttery and tender that it could have been a Tenderloin.
                              I was annoyed with the "sales pitch" that the wait person is instructed to give to each table about what things to get with what -- (meaning padding the bill!)
                              To avoid that annoying sales pitch, my stock response to: "Have you been here before?" is "Many times."
                              But I was so tickled with the quality of steak that I highly recommended going back with another couple a few months later.
                              He and I got the steaks again, at my prodding, and they both were grissly, tough and shocking to me. I was embarrassed that I had raved about my previous steak.
                              Also, I am short and found the seat so low that they had to bring me pillows.
                              I felt like a kid in a booster chair.
                              Capital Grille is okay. Palm -- the worst!
                              But that's okay. I have found Flemings in Radnor. Perfect steaks!

                              1. I'm going to have to side with the restaurant on the noise complaint. They were up front with you- "We are who we are." I also respect your decision not to go back.
                                By the way, I've been meaning to post on this, but I had the most gluttonous day of my life- Peter Luger's in Brooklyn for lunch and Barclay Prime for dinner. I liked Barclay Prime- mostly due to food, but in part because of the atmosphere and music.

                                1. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to strongly disagree with the majority of the posts on the page. Barclay Prime is the "prime" of steakhouses. Never once have I ever enjoyed a meal so much as the ones I have there. The "loud" music, lime green couches, marble floors, low-lite chandliers, excellent food, and most of all personalized service makes for the ultimate dining experience. Barclay Prime is among the country's top ten steakhouses, as voted by aol.com. I say shed a few years off, gain some weight, enjoy the music and speak a little louder.

                                  1. Just had a client dinner for 8 people at BP. Top notch service and food. Clients were still talking about the experience days later. Not for the faint of heart when the check comes, but certainly left a great impression for my group.