NOTE: I know not everyone is ready to dine out for health and/or financial reasons. I share my dining experiences for those who are ready so people know what to expect and what safety measures restaurants are taking to protect guests and staff. And I want to help restaurants (& the jobs they create) survive. If you dine out, I strongly recommend wearing a mask when you order, when you’re served, when plates are cleared and any time you’re near staff or other diners. Click here for more tips on how to help restaurants survive (including tips for dining in, for take out and free ways to help).
I was both happy and sad when I watched the torrential rains on the day I had reservations at Barclay Prime. Happy because I was still a little nervous about going to a restaurant post-lock down. But sad, too, because I was looking forward to it. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
We had to open our umbrellas on the way to the restaurant, but once we sat down, the sun came out for what was probably the first time all day. Forecasting our dinner there? I think so.
After pursuing the extensive list of health measures outlined on the website it seemed that the many restaurants owned by Stephen Starr are making health and safety a top priority. After walking by about 250 times to check it out for myself, I decided the sexy steakhouse would be a safe choice.
During my reconnaissance strolls, I noted that there was only one row of tables, not two. I liked that. The restaurant sits on the corner of 18th & Rittenhouse Streets. The tables were set on Rittenhouse Street, a smaller, much quieter street than 18th so there was less foot traffic on the sidewalk and fewer cars. I liked that too. Finally, I appreciated that staff work with both masks and gloves.
I made reservations early, which made me feel a little like I was ready for the geriatric ward, but I knew it would be less crowded. The threat of more rain kept the crowds light, which didn’t hurt either. Tip: If you’re a little nervous like me, book on the early (5-5:30ish) or late side (8-8:30ish). Avoid 7 p.m.
All guests arriving at the hostess stand must have their temperature taken by a free-standing machine. Temperature over 100.3? Your whole party will be asked leave. Not wearing a mask? You fail.
Then you’re escorted to the table and given a disposable menu. I started with a Negroni and my companions (who are both in my bubble) had an old fashion and a bourbon’s eden - made with bourbon, apricot, dry sherry and citrus. Tip: If/when Barclay Prime re-instates it’s happy hour, it’s worth checking out for the comfortable atmosphere, gracious service and great food and drink discounts.
Our server brought over those addictive warm pop-overs and conveyed some dangerous information that I didn’t know. They’re limitless. I still wish I didn’t know that -- I could live on those popovers. Tip: Even if you’re avoiding carbs, Barclay Prime’s pop-overs are totally worth the splurge.
We started with an heirloom tomato salad with grilled peaches, basil and mint. Then had NY strip steaks, and shared grilled broccolini and Kennett Square mushrooms. Ever since going to Kennett Square to research the mushroom farms for my book, Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia, I’ve been a sucker for locally-grown mushrooms.
My only “beef” about the meal wasn’t with the restaurant, but with the other guests. I believe that it’s important to wear your mask - even when you’re seated and any time you’re not putting food or drink in your mouth. I know some people think that’s extreme. At the very least, wear your mask when you order, when the dishes are delivered and cleared to protect your server.
You can pay your check in the traditional way or opt for touchless payment using a QR code. It’s quick and easy and avoids unnecessary contact.
All in all 😷😷😷😷😷 and that’s not just the Negroni talking.
by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. For even more tips, visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com. Planning a staycation? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.
Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including two posts with tips for how to help restaurants survive and a look at Philly-style masks.