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Jun 7, 2014 07:04 AM

Disappointing dinner at David Burke's Primehouse

Last night, I ate dinner at David Burke's Primehouse and was quite disappointed. I will not return.

Before my trip to Chicago, I evaluated several steak houses and decided on the Primehouse. They have a long list of dry-aged steaks along with an extensive and over-priced wine list. I know that I could get some of the wines in Boston restaurants for half the price being charged here.

With the wines being a poor value, I started with a martini and some "sticks." In my case, I had a mix of pork belly and beef rib. They put a piece of each on a stick, appetizer style. Very tasty.

I then had the Caesar Salad "classic table side." "Do you make this table-side?" I ask. "Yes." "Complete with the raw egg yolk?" "Raw egg yolks are illegal in Chicago. We use a pasteurized egg yolk." "OK."

I ordered it, but had to pay $3 extra to have anchovies included. I always thought that anchovies were part of a traditional Caesar Salad. The salad was excellent, but I thought that charging an extra $3 was both chintzy and a rip-off.

Then I ordered a dry aged rib eye. I chose the 40 day aged steak rather than the 55 day or 75 day option. The steak was properly cooked, medium rare. I just didn't think it was very good. It was not very tender, and the meat was mealy. The 100-day aged steak served at Grill 23 in Boston is a superior cut of meat, in my opinion.

My server, Brian was very professional. I'd appreciate having a server that good at every restaurant that I visit.

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  1. I am sorry to hear that. The few meals I have had there were good but obviously your visit was not up to par.

    I agree that charging an extra $3 for anchovies in a Caesar Salad is being cheap. Anchovies are a key component in any properly made Caesar Salad. That would be like offering a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing and charging extra for the bacon.

    Regarding them not using raw egg in your salad dressing, when you ate the salad were you able to tell that it was made with a pasteurized egg versus a raw egg? I do not know that I would be able to tell the difference.

    You are right. Their wine list is very expensive and I am sure they have 50 different excuses for why it is so expensive. However, I have found that to be the case at just about every top-tier steakhouse in the USA. Their target clientele will pay those prices therefore they can charge those prices. .

    I travel to Boston from time to time so will be sure to try Grill 23. Thanks for mentioning that. The last time I was in Boston I ate at Clio and Troquet and found both to be very good.

    I hope you have the chance to try some other restaurants in Chicago. It is a city full of great food.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Fowler

      I could not tell that the egg yolk was pasteurized. The salad was excellent.

      1. re: Fowler

        I also agree with you comment on wine pricing at steak houses. They charge what the customer will bear. At Grill 23, I usually drink scotch.

        1. re: ichabod777

          If Grill 23 has a good selection of reasonably priced single-malts, I may just skip the food and go straight for the scotch. :-)

      2. Charging $3 for anchovies for a Caesar salad is a cheap ass move by David, especially for a restaurant of this caliber.

        When you asked for anchovies, did the server tell you there would be $3 up charge or just added to the bill?

        If so, I would be so aghast that it would bug the sh!t out of me throughout the whole meal.

        I's stupid but that kind of crap just fry's my arse!


        3 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          Beach Chick, I definitely recall that the menu states the anchovies are an up-charge of $3. But as I said in my reply to the OP, that is still incredibly cheap-minded of the owner though to charge the extra $3 for something that is a key component of the salad.

          1. re: Fowler

            It's not a Caesar without anchovies.
            Surprised they had the huevos to put the $3 in print.

          2. re: Beach Chick

            The $3 up charge is clearly printed on the menu.

          3. We took my husband's parents when they visited and, though my husband liked his food, I found everything to be somewhat bland and uninspired (with the exception of the popovers- those were certainly tasty!).

            The pretzel-crusted crab cakes were some of the worst I've had; the sides we tried (creamed spinach and mushrooms) were extremely heavy; steak was tough (though flavorful); and the banana split was awkwardly presented and very dull on the taste buds.

            Brunch was much better, but I would not return for dinner.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bix10

              "The pretzel-crusted crab cakes were some of the worst I've had"

              Where would you recommend one go for good pretzel-crusted crab cakes? In concept, it sounds like a very tasty appetizer if done well.

              1. re: Fowler

                I think I made a syntactical error here. I meant the crab cakes, which happened to be dusted in pretzel crumbs (which does sound divine, indeed), were very poorly executed. They were soggy and the crust had a poor mouthfeel.

            2. Assorted thoughts (some relevant; others, perhaps less so):

              1) I, too, am sorry to hear about this, as I was looking forward to dining there later this year . . .

              2) The charge for anchovies in a Caesar is more than "cheap," "chintzy," and "crass" -- it is PRECISELY this sort of ridiculous charge that, for the sake of making three extra dollars, causes people to want to dine elsewhere . . .

              3) A word about the wine list. I agree with the other comments already made that cite the wine list as being pricey, HOWEVER: a) I find that is true of *all* steakhouses, regardless of the city in which they are located; and b) in looking at the wine list as it is presented online -- via a downloadable .pdf file -- I found eight reds <$100, and five more between $100-125 that I would be comfortable ordering with my meal.

              That said, as with most steakhouses, I'd rather bring in my own wine if/where possible, but that is difficult to do when flying around the country, not to mention illegal in some jurisdictions. :^)

              6 Replies
              1. re: zin1953

                Dear zin1953

                I agree with many of your comments. However, just because there are eight reds <$100 per bottle does not mean that they are 'properly' priced or that they taste good.

                1. re: ichabod777

                  Let me clarify what I said . . .

                  >>> I found eight reds <$100, and five more between $100-125 that I would be comfortable ordering with my meal. <<<

                  "Be(ing) comfortable ordering" means, to me, that -- after 40+ years in the wine -- there were a dozen or so wines on the list that I think a) are reasonably priced, and -- more importantly -- b) would be a perfect accompaniment to my steak.

                  There are several other wines on the list that are priced <$125 that I do NOT think are good values, nor that would work with my meal -- the 2011 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, at $85 would not be a wine I would choose (far too young); the 2010 Gallo "Signature Series" Cabernet is actually a good wine, but at $80, I find it way overpriced for what it is; and so on and so on . . .

                  I can honestly say that I have rarely, if ever -- even on the most outrageously priced -- found a wine list totally devoid of a "gem" (or four or five), defined as a very fine-to-great wine at a price point that makes it worth buying¹.


                  ¹ That said, I readily admit this is a much easier task in Europe than in the States, *and* generally more difficult (though by no means impossible!) in steakhouses than in any other category of restaurant in the US -- or rather, I find wine lists in steakhouses generally to be more overpriced than every other category of restaurant in the US.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Again, I agree with most everything you've said. However, most folks cannot identify the gem.

                    Bon appétit

                    1. re: ichabod777

                      DANGER! DANGER! WARNING, WILL ROBINSON . . . thread drift approaching!

                      >>> . . . most folks cannot identify the gem. <<<

                      People who only know the "names" will ALWAYS be taken advantage of on wine lists, but it's not difficult to a) know the alternatives, and b) at what point -- out of curiosity -- does "consumer responsibility" enter into the equation?

                      1. re: zin1953

                        OK. You win with the last word. Bonne journée.

                    2. re: zin1953

                      zin1953, if you are going to be in Chicago later this year you may wish to consider a dinner at Grace. It is excellent and I think would please even your sophisticated palate.

                      I shall warn you though that it is quite different than the now closed Spiedini out in Walnut Creek that I think you mentioned years ago that you enjoyed.


                2. If something at a restaurant really sticks in your craw - like the $3 charge for anchovies - then you really ought to tell them - either telling the on-site manager while you're there, or if you fail to do so but it's still bugging you, then contacting them afterwards, either by phone or e-mail or via their website. You still have the opportunity to do this regarding your dinner Friday night.

                  I've done this only on rare occasions, but on at least one occasion when I have - involving charges for refills of iced tea - I received a personal response from the owner thanking me and telling me that they were changing their policy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nsxtasy


                    Good points. If you look at Chowhound, however, I have never seen a comment from the Primehouse management in response to a customer complaint. A management comment may exist, I simply have not seen one.

                    1. re: ichabod777

                      Such comments are not permitted on Chowhound. This site has restrictions regarding posts permitted by business owners, as outlined on their FAQ page at where it says:

                      "As a rule of thumb, you should never be the first to mention your business in a discussion. You should also refrain from:
                      Using Chowhound for customer service purposes (i.e. “Sorry you had a bad experience…”)"

                      So if you're looking for a response from the restaurant's management, you should contact them directly rather than expecting one here. You can use the form on their website at or you can write them a letter through the mail. If you would like to discuss it by telephone, I suggest asking for the General Manager, as that is the title given in most restaurants to the person in charge of day-to-day operations in the "front of the house" rather than the kitchen.