By Kae Lani Kennedy, Foodable Contributor
In the last decade, the focus of fine dining has shifted from the traditional American cuisine to multicultural fusions, locally sourced ingredients, seasonal menus and lighter menu options. In the case of the American steakhouse, many are closing their doors, but in Philadelphia, Stephen Starr’s Barclay Prime is celebrating its 10th anniversary– as well as a record-setting Summer. So how is a steakhouse thriving during this shift in fine dining trends?
A Cool Ambiance
According to long time staff members Jason Taylor and Matthew Penn, Barclay Prime’s success can be partially attributed to the décor. Most traditional steakhouses have dark wood tones, oxblood leather, and dim lamps as staple decorative elements, but Barclay Prime’s dining room gives off a softer feel by incorporating light colored leather and a combination of chandelier and candle lighting into their interior design. “This is not a men’s dinner club,” said Penn. “The décor brings out the more feminine side of a steakhouse.”
Another contributing factor to this steakhouse’s success is the professional staff. “This is no summer job. This is no college job. This is a profession,” said Taylor, explaining that much of the Barclay Prime staff has a long repertoire of fine dining experience ranging from running kitchens and managing wait staff to owning their own restaurants. Because the staff has a deeper level of knowledge of what goes into running a successful fine dining restaurant, there’s a low turnover rate, no friction between the front and back of the house, and everyone feels accountable for the success of the team. A large majority of Barclay Prime customers are repeats and regulars. These loyal customers often make reservations based off of who is working and will request a specific waiter for the evening. Taylor and Penn believe it’s because of the skilled individuals working in the restaurant that has been bringing loyal customers back over the years.
Menu of Variety; Not Just A Steakhouse
But one of the most pivotal elements to the success of Barclay Prime is that the staff doesn’t think of the restaurant as just a steakhouse, rather they have the creative freedom to explore other genres of fine dining. In fact, it is also considered one of Philadelphia’s top seafood restaurants, with a raw bar menu featuring east coast and west coast oysters in red wine mignonette, ahi tuna tartare, and an Alaskan King Crab cocktail. Along with culinary creativity, the staff also seeks out sources for some of the world’s highest quality ingredients. Over the past 4 years, chefs have been toying around with a local Philadelphia favorite; the cheesesteak. Confident that this is the best version yet, chefs make this $120 Philadelphia cheesesteak with Wagyu ribeye, truffled cheese, and foie gras encased in a freshly baked roll and served with a half bottle of champagne.
From the décor and attentive staff to the creative dishes and high quality ingredients, it’s the little details surrounding the entire fine dining experience that sets this steakhouse apart.