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Mar 19, 2008 05:28 PM

Bookbinder's - Alexandria

Has anyone tried this place out yet? I'm trying to decide on a place to take my bf for his birthday in a few weeks and was thinking maybe Charlie Palmer or Blue Duck Tavern...then I thought about Bookbinder's, but I've heard really nothing about it except that it's kind of pricey. I'm really curious about it, but can't find a menu or anything. Anyone have info to offer?

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  1. I know of nobody who has tried this one, but everyone I know who has been to the original in Philly says that it's overpriced tourist/expense account fare.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sweth

      Sweth is correct. If your from Philly, as I am, it's like a "big whoop" that Bookbinders is here. It is very, very pricey and I don't sense that you would get any truly creative dishes-it's more straight forward steak and seafood.
      I hear wonderful things about Blue Duck, and know personally that if I wanted to do fine dining in Alexandria, I'd spend my money at Eve!
      I have only eaten at the bar at Bookbinders. Wines by the glass were reasonable and a nice pour. The crabcake was dull and the calamari was chewy.

      1. re: monavano

        30 years ago the Bookbinder's in Philly was good. Now however monavano is absolutely correct. It's nothing more than a tourist trap which is kind of sad because at one time it was one of the best seafood reatuarants on the east coast. I'm assuming the one in Alexandria is not much different.

        1. re: RichardCrystal

          In the interests of giving them a fair shot, I should note that Bookbinder's does have some other outposts further out in Virginia, and I've heard OK-to-positive reviews of those locations, so it's possible that the Alexandria location might be better than the Philly one, although Mona's experience at the bar at the Alex. location doesn't bode well.

          (In the interests of being realistic, I should also note that the positive reviews of the other Bookbinder's outposts might be because places like Midlothian VA don't necessarily have much else in the way of upscale dining, so it might just shine in comparison.)

          1. re: sweth

            Sweth is spot on. While Bookbinders in Philly is considered "tourist", their outposts in Central VA are highly regarded. I lived in Richmond for a few years and everyone raved about Bookbinders. So, I do think the popularity has something to do with the relative regional food scene.
            At a lower price point, I think I wouldn't be as critical-it's just very expensive to eat there and it's a shame that the Alexandria location doesn't do lunch-it would be a more affordable option, besides the bar.
            That said, I believe Bookbinders will succeed in the DC area, particularly in Old Town where there is no lack of discretionary spending. I do wonder, however, since Alexandria's Bookbinders has positioned itself and a steakhouse (in addition to seafood) if they will get some stiff competition by the new launch of 100 King, as 100 Prime, which is even now showcasing high grade beef on their menu.

            1. re: monavano

              I stopped by on a couple occasions and found they didn't serve lunch. Irritating.

    2. Finally stopped by Bookbinders for dinner this Saturday. They're in the old Portner's space and they seem to have spent some money to refit the bar area. Nice dark wood; I wouldn't mind coming in for a beer and a light meal, but the beer selection was nothing special: standard mass produced beer. Extensive wine selection though, many by the glass. There's also dining upstairs, but we were seated in the atrium. Atmosphere was informal and not stuffy. I only saw two gentlemen with jackets and ties.

      We got there a little before 6:30 and were seated immediately. The crowd was thin, but by the time we left at 8:30, it was starting to get crowded. The atrium looks identical to Portner's, down to the hanging foliage. Since this is a relatively new restaurant, I was concerned that service migh be sloppy. However, it was quite snappy and I always had a full water glass and the waiter was almost always within eyeshot. The menu is standard steak and seafood; they have a lobster tank where you can order by the pound (at $22 a pound). I was disappointed that they don't serve turtle soup, as that's a Bookbinder's signature, like oysters rockafeller at Antoine's. I ordered the escargots that were swimming in a sort of nondescript cream sauce that was so subtle as to nearly taste like nothing, all atop a stale piece of bread. Mrs. Monkey got some baked trout in a lemon butter sauce that tasted like baked trout in a lemon butter sauce. I got a t-bone, medium rare, which was cooked perfectly, but since it hadn't been aged, the steak flavor wasn't pronouced. Nothing wrong with it though. However, it came with a "bernaise sauce" that didn't taste like any I've ever had before: I tasted no butter or egg or tarragon or vinegar or much of anything. It was pretty much that stuff the escargots were swimming in. I should have confirmed that it was indeed bernaise, but James Carville showed up for dinner and that guy gives me the creeps, so we left. Dinner for two (one app, steak, fish, two glasses of wine, cheescake, tea) was $140 with tip included.

      I get the impression that they're shooting for something that's a little more upscale than Chadwicks and Union Street Public House, but not as high-end as Eve or Farah Olivia. I'm sure they'll be successful, judging by the reputation of the other VA Bookbinders and Old Town's older affluent demographic, but I'm in no hurry to go back.

      2 Replies
      1. re: monkeyrotica

        Great review, thanks. I believe Carville and family are moving to Louisianna, so yours may be one of the last spottings in Old Town.

        1. re: monkeyrotica

          Nice review. I was there last night with a few friends, and monkeyrotica hit it right on the head.

          I spoke with the bartender and he says it's not really affiliated with the Bookbinder's in Philly. The management group bought the rights to the name, and that's the affiliation.

          I had the crabcakes appetizer and the filet mignon main course. My buddy had the fired calamari appetizer and the filet mignon. I have to say that the filets were cooked to perfection, and at about $20 for 8 oz. they were better than and less expensive than Morton's or Ruth's Chris. His calamari was perfect, with light and almost airy crust, no grease at all. My crabcakes were good, not great, but worth a try at the entre portion next time. Wine by the glass was pretty reasonable and a large assortment was available. Yes, I would go back, but there are lots of other places in Old Town I would go to between visits.

          Speaking of which, had a nightcap with my buddies at Pat Troy's across King Street. As we were sipping our seasonal brews, the guy at the table next to me was eating shepherd's pie. It looked darn good! I could see it and smell it from where I sat, and the little corner of it left on his plate had me tempted to dive in before the bus boy got there...

        2. iwas there over the weekend and i can assure you it is nothing like the one in Phili. that is a tourist trap for sure. the location here is a true testament to steak houses. my wife had the grouper which was out of site and my steak was cooked perfectly. an impressive wine list compliments the menu well. the desserts need a little help but the experioence was superb.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eatsguy

            Great to hear. I'm from Philly, so I need to get past the mentality that Bookbinders isn't worth the $$ to eat there. I live too close not to go!