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Jan 22, 2013 10:04 AM

Prime Meats non-review

I'll preface this by saying that we live in the neighborhood and routinely eat at all of the Frank's restaurants, and aside from service lapses here or there, have never had a problem. But, Saturday night, me, my wife, and my 8 month old daughter tried to dine at Prime Meats and were all but told to go somewhere else instead.

Mind you, we did not try and eat during the dinner rush. In fact, we arrived obscenely early (5:15) because we know the restaurant gets busy and it's not appropriate to bring a baby to a restaurant during the real dinner rush. But, instead of welcoming us into a near-empty restaurant (I counted one occupied table and a few people at the bar), first we were told we had to leave our stroller outside because they have a strict no-stroller-in-the-restaurant policy (no exceptions, for fear it could start a run of strollers in the restaurant, heaven forbid), then we were told we could fold the stroller up and leave it next to the door, then we were told we could only leave half of it folded up and the other half would have to be kept outside, then we were told flat-out that we should consider going to Frankie's instead. We would have just folded the thing up and left it in a coat closet or somewhere completely out of the way, we didn't need it next to our table.

Now, we know that Carroll Gardens is relatively safe, but considering our apartment building just down the street was broken into for a second time last month, I think it's understandable that we didn't want to leave our things outside. I understand if we had tried to eat around 7 or 8 pm and the restaurant was crowded; but it wasn't, it was empty. Or if the restaurant was tiny and there is no room; but it's not, there is room throughout. We probably would have been done eating before it got busy. (By the way, an email to the restaurant has not been responded to).

Instead, we left, and went to La Vara on Clinton Street, where we were welcomed with open arms and the food was delicious as usual (the lamb breast is a thing of beauty).

Incidentally, at 5:00 pm, Buttermilk Channel was packed with families and had an hour and a half wait, while Prime Meats sat nearly-empty. I'm sure they know that the neighborhood is teeming with families, some of whom, I'd imagine, like to eat-out sometimes.

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  1. There are pros and cons to the no-stroller rule, and obviously when you're on one side of it you're only going to feel the cons.

    It could simply be they don't have the space. They may not have a coat closet, or one large enough to "hide" a stroller - you're making an assumption they have the space, when you don't have any idea.

    It may have been empty when you walked in, but they know what time it fills up, and it could have been that by 6:00 - at which point you'd likely still be at your table - they'd be bumping. They work there every day, they know when it gets busy. Again, you don't have any idea. You're making a number of assumptions.

    And if they let you put even part of it by the door, someone else with a stroller is going to pop in, point to it, and say "well, what about us?" - and next thing you know, the very small waiting area up front is packed with them. Or they'll come by at 7:00 and say "I saw a stroller here earlier, why can't I have one now?"

    Obviously they don't have anything personal against babies, their other restaurants are just fine with them. It really probably is just a matter of space.

    It does all beg the question, though, if your apartment is just down the street, why not leave the stroller at the apartment and pop the tyke into a bjorn or something?

    8 Replies
    1. re: sgordon

      let me ask: if we had someone in a wheelchair, rather than a stroller, should they make us leave the wheelchair outside? a stroller and a wheelchair are about the same size, and both hold someone who isn't able to walk on their own.

      i've been to Prime Meats enough times to know that they do not get busy until 7:30/8 at the earliest.

      i guess my main point is, unless the restaurant is super tiny (and frankly, Frankies is much smaller than Prime Meats), and there really is no room for a stroller, then there still should be a place to put them/lock them up. and in any event, the hostess did not need to be so dismissive of our concerns.

      and good question: we had been out shopping, picking up things at Caputo's, etc., and didn't want to go home before eating an early dinner.

      1. re: jon

        There is a fundamental difference between a wheelchair and a stroller: the user of the former is protected by Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The user of the latter is not - it's someone who made a choice to have a child, and understands (or will come to understand) that some sacrifices come with that decision.

        Some restaurants do not allow children under a certain age at all, and that's their choice to set the ambiance they desire. It's no different than a jacket requirement. There are all kinds of things you can't do with a child, particularly a baby, in tow. You can't go to a 9PM screening of "Amour" with one either.


        As to the space issue: the square footage of Frankie's vs. PM has nothing to do with the amount of storage space they might have available for extraneous thing like strollers, etc.

        Now, I'll say it wasn't terribly professional of them to wiffle-waffle on the issue the way they did, what with the outside then the half-stroller then the whatever... Just state the policy, say "sorry" politely and try to look really apologetic about it and that's that.

        1. re: jon

          "Let me ask: if we had someone in a wheelchair, rather than a stroller, should they make us leave the wheelchair outside? "

          The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides for equal access for people in wheelchairs. Strollers aren't covered.

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            the point really is that if you can accommodate room for a wheelchair, then you can accommodate room for a stroller, considering they are more or less the same size.

            and we understand the limitations. we weren't eating at 7 pm, 8 pm, or later. we tried to eat at 5:15, like my grandparents used to in Florida.

            we're not dining neophytes. we eat out a lot. and in a neighborhood like carroll gardens, where there are tons of kids/families, to have a policy that turns off a nice chunk of the people who live closest to the restaurant, is just dumb, in my opinion. like i said earlier, there's a reason that buttermilk channel had an 1 1/2 hour wait at 5 pm, and prime meats was empty.

            1. re: jon

              to flip your proposition on its head - they HAVE to be able to accommodate a wheelchair. If they let you bring in your stroller how could they have had room should a disabled patron wanted to enter in a chair?

              I get that allowing/accommodating strollers is a plus in the eyes of people who need them - but i dont get the radiating anger over it. or the intimation that the stroller policy isthe reason that some restaurants are busier than others. but what do i know, i still have dreams of a child-free airline (15% premium on all tickets).

              1. re: jon

                "and in a neighborhood like carroll gardens, where there are tons of kids/families, to have a policy that turns off a nice chunk of the people who live closest to the restaurant, is just dumb, in my opinion."

                or it might make some of us who don't like eating in a restaurant full of kids all the more likely to go there!

                1. re: BrickPM

                  let's be honest, you are probably not eating dinner when it's still light outside, so my trying to eat a super-early dinner with a baby most likely would not affect you in the least. and it's restaurant with steaks and burgers and sausages, not per se (which, incidentally, when my wife and i were there a few weeks ago - without the baby, we were told by the hostess that they frequently welcome babies in to the restaurant).

                  and, i'm not really angry over it, just mostly annoyed, and as sgordon pointed out, i think the real annoyance is with the waffling nature of the policy.

                2. re: jon

                  Sometimes a "no stroller" policy is a roundabout way of saying "no children under age ___" - i.e. children who are of the age where unexpected crying fits, shouting, and food-flinging can occur, no matter how well-behaved one insists their particular child is.

                  Like I said, there are pros and cons. It may turn off your family, but I think a couple successful restaurateurs like the Franks don't make any such decisions lightly. It may also encourage the patronage of those who,,, well, prefer a child-free, more relaxed ambiance. Prime Meats isn't hurting for business by any stretch.

          2. It has been a long time since I've had children of stroller age, but I'm somewhat dismayed at the inability of posters here to recognize inhospitality when they read about it. Prime Meats does have a saloon-like ambience that isn't especially family-friendly, but that also means it gets loud in there... Their no-stroller policy strikes me as arrogant in the extreme. And they handled you very poorly. I don't want to get into a fight about kids in restaurants--and even if I did the moderators would shut the discussion down on this board--but Prime Meats isn't Le Bernadin and diners can handle nearby families. I should add that I've never been to La Vara and intend to go there soon in lieu of PM or Frankie's (which I actually love). Lamb breast would be just the thing in this weather, especially if there are some lentils around to go with it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Laddie Din

              I wasn't going to comment again, but it's -extraordinarily- presumptuous to say "diners can handle nearby families" - I'm sorry, but I don't want to "handle" your screaming child that I've been stuck next to interrupting my dinner conversation. I think it's arrogant in the extreme to assume that other people around you will be just fine with noisy outbursts, flinging food, etc.

              Doesn't matter if it's Le Bernardin or a pizza joint. A restaurant is about ambiance as well as food, and the owners are entitled to create the vibe they desire for it.

              But I don't know that that's the reason behind PM's no-stroller policy - I suspect it actually is just a space issue, otherwise they'd just have a flat-out "no babies" policy.

              As long as people continue to have babies, though, this will be a debated topic among the dining public... We have about as much chance of settling it here as the House and Senate do of coming to agreement on a sensible budget deal...

              1. re: Laddie Din

                Should all restaurants in a family neighborhood allow strollers? If not, why would it be "arrogant" for one, or several, not to? Because it makes them seem like they're trying to be Le Bernardin or Per Se? I don't follow.

                Also don't really understand why you'd be "dismayed" to see a few people trying to explain why this policy is not necessarily "dumb."

                I agree that it sounds like it wasn't handled well.

                La Vara is indeed excellent. I had some fried sea anemones there a few weeks ago with a garlicky yellow gazpacho - this was a special. Would also recommend the gurullos, albondigas and pincho de ceutas off the regular menu. Only thing I've had there that I didn't like was the molletes.

                1. re: BrickPM

                  I apologize if you or anyone took offense. But I will say it: All restaurants "in a family neighborhood" should have room for strollers. Strollers fold. And nice, responsible parents who are also foodies like to eat out with their babies. To refuse them is uncivilized (even if some kids are uncivilized, too, and need to be muzzled firmly). Meanwhile, I can't wait for my 14-year-old to try fried sea anemones. Some kids have adventurous palates and love showing their parents how daring they can be. Now before the moderators shut this down...

              2. So it's easy to determine where the OP will next have dinner out; a place that obviously better receives their stroller (and child) than the subject restaurant.

                What one must understand, is that strollers have grown from small, utilitarian-sized things into veritable SUVs for sidewalk use, complete with cup-holders (one for mom, one for baby), and a footprint larger than an elephant's.

                I'm also taken aback by likening a stroller to a wheelchair by other posters. I'd hazard a guess that at least those who're a bit older and wheelchair-bound wouldn't really care to have the stroller denizens around during dinner-time at a fine restaurant, either.

                Again, if the poster was "welcomed with open arms" elsewhere, then by all means, go there. Leave Frank's Prime Meats for the times you have a babysitter.

                5 Replies
                1. re: shaogo

                  got it: you're firmly in the camp of the "to hell with service and accommodation to the paying public, i'll cook what i want, act how i want, and serve what i want, without regard for the customer, because frankly my restaurant doesn't need you anyway, even if you were willing to be so kind as to drop +$100 on a meal."

                  remember: it was 5:15 pm, there was 1 occupied table, and prime meats is not a fine restaurant, it's a steakhouse that serves steaks, sausages, and hamburgers, all in a relaxed atmosphere. this is not le bernedin we're talking about.

                  but you are right about one thing: of course i will be more likely to go to a restaurant that makes me and my entire family feel welcomed, and i'd venture to guess you would do the same. and based on this treatment, i'm not sure i'd go to prime meats even without the baby.

                  1. re: jon

                    With all due respect to you OP, I think you need to air your grievances on a parent's board. You were treated poorly no doubt. But there are people (those with children included) who want time at a restaurant to eat and drink without being around children. As for this policy in a restaurant, hey they make more money on cocktails than juice.

                    1. re: jon

                      No, it's not about "cook what I want, act how I want etc..."

                      Okay, you and your wife and high-chair seated child (with stroller in tow) will drop $100+ on a meal.

                      You can count me in the majority of people seeking a pleasant dining experience who'll walk right out of a restaurant wherein a troublesome youngster causes a disturbance. That will cost the restaurant ten times what you intended to spend there. Believe me, ten times, 'cause there's a wine/booze check that no responsible parent would incur if they had their child in tow.

                      Can you guarantee that your stroller-age child will not erupt in noise at least once during the dining experience.

                      I'm not trying to be tough on parents but c'mon -- there're lots of us who're on a date or who've chosen not to have children who affirm that choice when selecting a restaurant.

                      1. re: shaogo

                        when was the last time you were eating dinner at 5 pm?

                        i'm not saying that each restaurant should have it's own policy; they should, and i'm cool with that. and there are plenty of restaurants in the area where we wouldn't even think of taking a baby (i.e., battersby, the grocery, the pines). i'm just trying to make a point that in this situation, at this restaurant, i think their policy was stupid.

                    2. re: shaogo

                      I'm with you. As the father of a young child, I wish more restaurants had space for me to park the stroller so it was out of the way. That being said, in no way do I think that they need to. Nor do I take offense to restaurants that are clearly not stroller friendly. If we have our son with us, we go to stroller friendly places, if we are alone we go to places that aren't. It seems so simple, not sure why this always turns into a hot button issue.

                    3. Folks, this thread is becoming a referendum on children in restaurants, rather than a discussion of Prime Meats in particular, and that's a subject which, as many of you noted, doesn't go well here.

                      If you have a specific experience at Prime Meats (with or without a child) to share, please go ahead and post, but we'd ask everyone to set aside the general discussion of whether kids belong in restaurants at all.


                      1. Since Dad just threatened to "Stop This Car," I'll say only this to the OP. As you obviously know, PM and Frankies is the same owner. So it's not a matter of Baby Hostility; at least not on the part of the owners. I actually see "no strollers" signs pretty frequently in places that clearly allow children. Maybe they don't have enough space. Maybe it's a matter of staff safety. Maybe strollers are sometimes stolen or "exchanged" for a better model. Maybe "neatly folded" strollers have a way of being knocked over when they're leaned up against a wall. I really have no idea.

                        It sounds like they totally bungled their half-hearted attempt to accommodate you, and actually offended you more than if they had simply said "Absolutely No Strollers No Way No How" from the very start. I'm sure The Franks didn't set out to offend you or any other diner with children. They're smart businessmen and have been running decent places for many years.

                        As far as Buttermilk Channel is concerned, since they were full of diners with children, did you notice what they did with the strollers there? And for that matter, what do they do at F's Spuntino?

                        As someone else up-thread suggested, you may want to find a parent's forum for the neighborhood. I'm sure there are lots of other people who've encountered this at PM and other places, and maybe even have spoken to restaurant owners about the whys and wherefores of their various policies. Your observations about Buttermilk Channel vs Prime Meats bears this out. Word has gotten around, and parents clearly know who accommodates them better than others.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: egit

                          got it. forgot that the CH boards are only for praising restaurants and not offering critiques about service issues, and certainly not for - gasp - mentioning service issues that involve babies. will remember for next time.

                          but i think you hit the nail on the head about my real peeve which was no clear answer. had they done that, we would have been on our way.

                          1. re: jon

                            "forgot that the CH boards are only for praising restaurants and not offering critiques about service issues, and certainly not for - gasp - mentioning service issues that involve babies."

                            First off, that's not true. Plenty of people raise service issues here. The fact that the moderators allowed this thread to stand ought to confirm that.

                            Second, when you voice a complaint in a public forum you get no guarantee that people will agree with you. The replies to your original complaint have been reasonable and balanced. You might not think so, but that's the chance you take posting on a message board.

                            1. re: jon

                              I agree that the big issue here is that Prime Meat handled you as a customer very badly - customer service is always on topic on this board, but discussion of whether kids belong in restaurants or not always result in flame wars here, since board partidpants disagree - thats the aspect that gets shut down on Outer Boroughts, since its caused unpleasantness time and time again.