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Jan 22, 2009 07:45 AM

Baltimore Steak Wars....Who Ya Got?

With Sullivans getting ready to open on Light street next to the Hyatt we're going to have 7 high end steak houses within a couple hundred yard of each other around the Harbor.

Given that these are all vey similiar $75 per person and up expense account or special occasion type restaurants, it's hard to imagine they will all make it through in this economy.

Which ones will surivive? Do you think they all can make it or how many so you think will close in the next 12 months?

Cast your votes for Morton's, Sullivan's, Capital Grill, Fleming's, Shula's, Ruth Chris' on Water Street and Ruth Chris' at Pier 5.

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  1. Quite frankly, after spending the past two years learning about and exploring grass fed beef, most steak houses today fall flat to my tastes. And while all the above offer nice cuts and high prices, I just find the flavor of their corn-fed meat to be quite bland - and I still have a $150 gift certificate from Capital Grill to use (and I haven't been in a rush to use it).

    1 Reply
    1. re: onocoffee

      So where do you like in the region? How about Ray's?

    2. Living on the east side I've tended to stick to Fleming's & Cap Grill, both of which I've enjoyed and think are pretty comparable. Anytime I've done the expense account dinners, whether here or abroad, Cap Grill tends to get the nod unless there's a well known local option (which is what I wish we had here. Or maybe The Prime Rib fits that bill?).

      I mean, a chain steakhouse is a chain steakhouse, you pretty much know what to expect when you head in. That said, I've never understood having two Ruth's Chris locations within a few minutes walk of each other, so I don't see how both of those can continue to prosper. I've heard unsubstantiated whispers that Morton's is already in a precarious position, but I doubt it'll be going anywhere. All the conventions that come through Baltimore keep these places humming.

      9 Replies
      1. re: rpb

        Go to Michael's Steak and Lobster house on Eastern Ave. right outside Greektown. Same quality meat but a quarter of the price. Not the best ambiance, but I'm willing to forgo some eye candy to save $40 a head. Crabcakes are great too.

        1. re: Wacko4Flacco

          I live near there and couldn't even tell if Michael's is still in business. So thank you for settling this mystery. What are the crab cakes like?

          1. re: jkosnett

            They've been in the business since the 70s and are still going strong. They haven't changed their decor ever I don't think; think The Regal Beagle from Three's Company.

            The crabcakes are fairly simple- all jumbo lump meat with a mayo/mustard binding, broiled. The fact that you can get two jumbo lump cakes for like $16 makes it well worth it. I live closeby too and always order carry out. A 40oz bone-in prime rib with a salad and two sides for $18 is just impossible to beat.

            1. re: Wacko4Flacco

              Thanks again. I'm partial to Mo's further out Eastern, past the city line. Their crab imperial over salmon is outrageous, and their steaks are also excellent, though maybe no one ever orders them except when they are on special...

              Michael's is on my will-try list.

                1. re: Wacko4Flacco

                  My experience at Greystone (Hunt Valley) is miserly portions, small glasses of wine served in vessels as big as a beer stein to camouflage the ungenerous pours, and rushed service. I'd recommend Ruth's or Morton's despite the extra cost. Heck, if you're in Hunt Valley go to the Outback across the parking lot.

              1. re: Wacko4Flacco

                Michael's is fine but I don't believe the beef is the same quality as the premium steakhouses. I'm pretty sure it isn't dry-aged.

                1. re: Wacko4Flacco

                  bump. Michael's looks like a true Baltimore experience:

                  I've never seen feta cheese listed as a stand-alone appetizer before. Then again, I've never been to a steak house with both house-made moussaka and crab fluff platter on the same menu either.

                  Just not sure I can get myself to drive past Ikaros to get there.

              2. If i had to choose between the chain places, i would say Ruth Chris gets my vote. I still feel The Prime Rib beats all of them.

                4 Replies
                1. re: AlexDer

                  It seems to me that all 7 are basically the same restaurant as they all sell the same cuts of meat and one or two grilled fish, prepared the same way for about the same price. The only difference between them is usually a slight variation of the "house specialty" potatoes and which wine vendor they buy from.

                  What I don't see is how 7 very expensive, nearly identical restaurants located within about a quarter mile of each other can all survive in this economy when other good places are either scaling down their menus or closing.

                    1. re: chowsearch

                      Parking is not a issue if you just do Valet.

                      1. re: AlexDer

                        I think we could all agree valet is nice sometimes, like in LA where you have to drive and there's no parking (drugstores with valet!), and the restaurants are really special. These Bmore chain steakers are just not worth the extra twenty minutes wait. I'd rather drive to Greektown. Simple steaks at McCabe's and Jennings, though not dry-aged with sophisticated pedigree, were more fun for the buck than these touristos. Zorba's may have better lambchops. Charleston's red meat is better overall, not dissimilar costs when all is taken into account, and more special. There may be three dozen Capitol Grilles, a zillion Morton's. Some of the local Ruth's are not the equal of some out of town. And last time I was at chainlet Prime Rib Baltimore, I was amazed at the condition of some of the walls, floors and ceiling...and I'm not talking about paint. It was bad enough to keep me away, so please advise if they've spruced. The DC one, with more at, um, stake, is better. And though right on K, it's easier to park.

                2. They all stink. A steak is a steak, and there is zero rocket science involved in cooking one. It's the quality of the meat itself that matters, and then it's up to the kitchen simply not to screw it up, which they're happy to do with those ridiculous "sides" of boiled and drowned veggies or 5 cent potatoes drowning in 30 cents worth of Sysco Fat Product. And it's not like anyone goes to any of them on purpose. They represent a safe place to take business associates so that no one looks the fool trying to understand a progressive menu. And I would add that they're mostly for men, with sports themes, sports tickers, cold ambience, etc. If they all fell into the jones falls and dissolved into the toxic murk, I don't think anyone would cry.

                  If forced to pick one though, I'll take The Bone any day. Retro atmosphere (not on purpose, but because no one has ever updated it), hip jazz duo, good service. A wine list no worse than the others (and they all blow there, too....big recognizable names so the boss doesn't look the fool trying to order the wine), but with a little more pizzazz.

                  15 Replies
                    1. re: Hal Laurent

                      I'd venture a guess that pleiades is referring to The Prime Rib in a more colloquial sense.

                      1. re: rpb

                        Here's another vote for the Prime Rib. What's the point of going to a place that is more of the same? The PR/Da Bone is great steakhouse food in beautiful, throwback surroundings.

                        1. re: rpb

                          yes, sorry, I meant to Prime Rib later in the post. I've only ever heard it referred to as The Bone.

                          1. re: pleiades

                            I've never heard it referred to as "The Bone". I must not run in the right circles. :-)

                            1. re: Hal Laurent

                              It's probably just a colloquialism among the local "progressive menu" societies.

                              1. re: Chowtimore

                                There's nothing progressive (whatever that means in this context) about the Prime Rib. That's what's good about it.

                                1. re: Hal Laurent

                                  Agreed. Prime Rib is a trip to the past. You get to feel like a member of the Rat Pack for a c-note or two.

                                  1. re: baltobuy

                                    At the Prime Rib when I took my jacket off and hung it on my chair, they asked me to put it back on. Never again. Jordan's in Ellicott City manages to have first class steak and atmosphere without being uptight.

                                    1. re: bobovespa

                                      I think it's nice that we still have at least one place in left in Baltimore that requires you to dress for dinner.

                                      1. re: ko1

                                        AGREE 100 PERCENT.!!! People need to dress a bit more upscale at the higher end restaurants. Otherwise, go to McDonald's or Pizza Hut.

                                        Part of the higher-end dining experience is wearing nice clothes and, perhaps, jewelry. Makes the evening feel special.

                                        I know that many of the Chowhounds don't agree with me on the subject of restaurants imposing some sort of dress code. They believe in live and let live, or dress or not dress.

                                        Prime Rib is not one of my favs, but I do respect their preference for appropriate attire.

                                        I have dined at Jordan's and find it to be quite good, but prefer the cowboy steak at Oregon Grille.

                                        And speaking of Jennings--had a prime rib sandiwich there a few weeks ago and it was delicious. Also, the prime rib at Sunset Restaurant is excellent and a heck of a lot cheaper then that whichh is served at the Prime Rib Restaurant. FoiGras

                                        1. re: FoiGras

                                          Hi Folks, pardon the brief interruption. Please keep the focus on where to find great food and drink in the DC and Baltimore areas. Please feel free to start a thread about dressing up or down for restaurants on the Not About Food board.


                                2. re: Chowtimore

                                  ha no, it's a colloquialism among the grizzled restaurant/wine business vets and ancient philanthropic retirees who love the place. The types who still drink 3 vodka martinis with dinner, like their iceberg lettuce served as a wedge, and may not be aware that cows went from being grass-fed to corn-fed and back again. Progressives abhor the place.

                                  Let me paint a picture of my favorite PR experience- it's the day after a high Jewish holiday, and the Bone is bustling. Baltimore's real fine dining stalwarts, the monied Jewish retirees of Pikesville and environs, have convened. The gents are dapper in solemn suits and maybe a gold bracelet, the ladies a bit more showy in furs, bangles, pendants and chunky neckware. The whole place glows a subdued ruby red, accentuated by the leopard print carpet. The cool lighting around the Rat Pack style bar highlights all the top shelf regulars like Stoli and Tanqueray. A tight little piano/bass duo lays down standards in the corner. This night, My Dad and I are probably the only goys patrons in the place, and that's fine by me. The conversations around me are convivial and fascinating. Politics, Art, Cinema, Theater, Music, and also a little Boca and a healthy dose of gossip thrown in. My Dad and I happily tuck into the eponymous Prime for two, after having enjoyed a couple of cocktails, and wash it all down with a bottle of Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard 1999. We chuckle over the first time he brought me there; I was 13 and did not have a jacket. I was not allowed to be seated until I had donned one from the collection of house jackets from the cloakroom.

                                  No, The Bone is all about traditional style. It's almost a time machine, and I don't think Baltimore would ever want it any other way.

                                  1. re: pleiades

                                    Well written and funny! Also your previous entry on this thread.

                                    1. re: pleiades

                                      thanks for setting the scene, pleiades. it's always nice to read a well-thought-out reply! will definitely move this to the top of the places-to-try list. one question: do you know anything about the prime rib in DC? is it as good as the one in b'more?

                        2. Love a great steak and I honestly think the Prime Rib was the best of them all until Flemings arrived! Flemings dry-aged is absolutely the best in town. I had to send my steak back to the kitchen at Morton's as it was overcooked and quite tough. I wasn't impressed with the taste even after they corrected the problem! My next steak venture will be Shula's. Also had a very good steak at McCormick and Schmicks.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: drcarter050

                            I think you will find Shula's to be the worst of the chains.