From Steak 48, Urban Farmer, Barclay Prime, Live Ribs! From Casino and now Del Friscos, to old school Morton’s, Hesch’s, and even the legendary The Palm in Bellevue, the Philly steakhouse was and is a totem. Gone, of course, are the three martini lunches and white privilege, but that signature vibe is sliding into a tall suede booth or blood-colored leather chairs and sitting around a linen-draped table , nothing but a mouthful of charred pink flesh, keeping you lifted higher (and two martinis, tops) to continue to exist. Especially in Philadelphia, where steakhouses rule with their healthy, varied approach. Young and old, black and brown and white, blue collar and business class, and female, male and non-binary audiences sit around beefy steakhouse tables on any given night in this beautiful city, Here used to be the rookie’s glittering prize rich. Now, however, it’s like Oprah, but meat is expensive: you have filet mignon, you have porterhouse, you have rib eye.
Between March and April, two locations—Joey Chops and Rittenhouse Grill—open in the Philadelphia area—with very different vibes, decor and hues, and even style of service.
The former is a sprawling new beige and earth-toned property built on the edge of a large shopping center space – car park and all – along Malvern Lancaster Avenue. The latter is a gorgeous, onyx, Art Deco, spacious room with a piano bar, located in the city center behind Rittenhouse Square, forever known by another name (The Prime Rib) until it no longer exists.
“We value our newfound independence as a local Philly steakhouse,” says the longtime owner, currently of Rittenhouse Grill’s 1701 Locust Street location. With its dark, old-fashioned supper club vibe and classic cocktails, it’s like, in Weldon’s words, “Mad Men meets the Rat Gang.” Or as I say it, like Noel Coward picking up his olives and his blood petit filet mignon.
“We’re leaning toward our Rittenhouse Square roots and newer Art Deco decor and renaming and updating it for the next 25 years,” says Weldon — who’s a regular at his Rittenhouse Grille, always dressed in a slim fit “I think our long-time customers in Philadelphia appreciate that they can still celebrate here as they have for the past 25 years. An opportunity that has never been experienced before.”
Old Locust Street’s name that shouldn’t be mentioned anymore is Rittenhouse Grill’s nightly live piano music (Philadelphia used to have some piano bars, but not piano music, thank you very much), towering martinis, sharp crisp wedge salads , a menu of jumbo shrimp chilled to perfection in a slightly spicy cocktail sauce and a menu of meats (USDA prime Angus beef, epic prime prime prime lamb chops, signature Iberian pork chops, Even Kobe Beef (Frank in a Blanket Bar) ends with juicy multi-ounce rib roast. Last but not least, RG’s signature meal, designed by Weldon and longtime executive chef Eddy Castillo, is proudly unchanged as it always is, as it oozes juiciness. Admittedly, in Philadelphia, there are soft pretzels, water ice and Garth and Eddy’s signature cut roast beef ribs to tell out-of-towners. Fresh seafood menus like tuna tartare, chunky crab cakes, hot and cold seafood towers and Brazilian lobster tails also make the Rit Grill menu special. Also, Rittenhouse Grill serves potato skins. No one does it anymore – it’s awesome.
Nestled comfortably on the first floor of the Warwick Crittenhouse Square Hotel (zero affiliation), leopard-print carpets and new lighting design revitalize the uncluttered look of the old Locust Street space to match its sensual vintage decor by Rare Louis Icart paintings and prints.
Night at night at Garth Weldon’s Rittenhouse Grill gets bold and new with a rebrand. The song may have stayed the same, but it was thoroughly remixed.
Joseph Monnich, executive chef and co-owner of Joey Chops, told me after the opening night of his steakhouse, “When my business partner Justin (Weathers) and I conceived of Joey Chops, we knew we needed to keep it in our within the parameters of the brand,” he said, referring to the Stove and Co. concept, which includes DePaul’s Table: Modern Italian Steakhouse, Al Pastor, Stove and Tap, Revival Pizza Pub and GBU (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly).
“We usually present casual concepts in a contemporary style, but a steakhouse needs to be elegant and professional to support a higher average price. We decided to add some cool elements like modern chairs and rich drapes to go with raw organic finishes like Reclaimed wood and corrugated steel ceilings. Food needs to have a personality of its own by using ingredients and cooking techniques from my past experience. You’ll see crudos, shellfish and creative salads. Modern European dishes like snails in green garlic, salmon Wellington and Cavatelli scallops round out the lighter side of the menu’s larger cuts of meat. All in all, there’s something for everyone.”
The meal was a wood-fired “big, boisterous cut of meat” on Joey Chops’ menu.
With 135 indoor and outdoor seating, and a 40-foot main bar and a 25-foot outdoor bar, the 7,500-square-foot Joey Chops is as big as its prime cuts. Instead of a crisp vodka martini and Old World bourbon, Joey Chops has a poached pear martini and Spirited Oceans (with Thai basil, sugar cane and lime). Had crab+prawn cakes and scallops with porcini mushrooms instead of statuesque raw bars.
For the most part, though, Joey Chops has hand-cut steaks and skillet sides, high-end dry-aged steaks and approachable beef buffalo steaks to appeal to a more price-conscious audience—think juicy filet mignon” Queens Cut,” a lightly charred boulevard New York or a gorgeous Delmonico.
Bite the flame-streaked, woodsy Queen Cut in bright light like Joey Chops and you’ll be set apart.
The benefits of eating steak at Rittenhouse Grill and Joey Chops have nothing to do with the competition. Joey Chops specializes in firewood. The Rittenhouse Grill is grilling. One offers a modern twist, while the other offers a switch from familiar classics.
Spend the weekend enjoying steaks at Rittenhouse Grill and Joey Chops. You will thank me.