Butcher and Singer: A Classy Retro Steakhouse, and One of Philadelphia’s Best
There aren’t too many restaurants out there in which you’re half-expecting a grand 1940s production number to break out at any minute, but Butcher and Singer, legendary restaurateur Stephen Starr’s sprawling Philadelphia steakhouse, seems custom-tailored to just that. Located inside an early-1900s bank lobby (that was also once home to a brokerage firm named Butcher and Singer), the soaring restaurant has dark woods, an ornate chandelier, parquet floors, deep leather banquettes, potted palms, dim and dramatic lighting, jazz in the air, and a whimsical mural of cocktail-imbibing dogs serving as a perfect backdrop for a special-occasion meal (or a jaunty Fred Astaire dance routine). It was designed as an homage to 1940s Hollywood, and after 20 years in business, the décor and menu is as classic and timeless as ever.
We recently had the opportunity to dine there at the invitation of the restaurant, and that classic steakhouse approach extends to the menu as well. There’s no new ground being broken here, but that’s not why you go to a restaurant like this: Raw bar selections; appetizers like onion soup, escargots, and crab cakes; salads including Caesar, wedge, and shrimp and crab Louie; a selection of strips, filets, ribeyes, pork and veal chops, and lamb; surf and turf, twin lobster tails, and roast chicken; and sides including four potato preparations, maple bourbon bacon, green beans amandine, and bacon mac and cheese are on the menu.
We started our meal with a couple perfectly-prepared martinis and a few classic appetizers: King crab cocktail, Caesar salad, and French onion soup.
The crab was fresh and amply portioned; the salad was cold, crisp, and perfectly dressed (although it could have used a few more croutons); and the soup was rich and super-cheesy.
For our main courses, we ordered the 14-ounce New York strip and the 18-ounce Delmonico (boneless ribeye). The Delmonico was perfectly cooked to medium-rare as requested, but the strip was creeping past medium (the apologetic staff offered to replace it, but that wasn’t necessary).
The restaurant’s website advertises “perfectly charred steaks and chops,” but we were a little surprised to see the extent to which these steaks were charred; They’d been given a black crust that imparted a slightly burnt, bitter flavor. The beefy minerality you look for in a high-quality steak still shone through, though. On the side, green beans amandine were fresh and crisp, and the signature stuffed hash browns (a thick, golden-brown pancake of shredded potato sandwiching diced potatoes, caramelized onions, and sour cream) is a must-order.
A scoop of homemade chocolate ice cream was a perfect finish.
Butcher and Singer is a true showpiece restaurant, one that makes your jaw drop just by walking through the door. Service was excellent, cocktails were just about perfect, and the décor and ambiance set the stage for a perfect steakhouse experience. That the steaks themselves weren’t perfect was a bit of a disappointment, but why let that spoil the fun?
The meal that was the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the author.