Bloomberg Review March 3, 2010
Prime Meats Battles Peter Luger, Minetta in NY Steakhouse Wars!
Review by Ryan Sutton
March 3 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Meats may be bringing the steak wars back to Brooklyn. It’s a win for nostalgia in this New York borough where “too cool” is quickly replacing “old school.”
It’s also a battle for bragging rights. Since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 baseball season, superior steak and pizza have been two of the best reasons for a commute to Brooklyn. Kings County still has the city’s best slices, but the bovine equation has shifted to Manhattan with the rise of Minetta Tavern, Wolfgang’s, Strip House and Primehouse. Peter Luger in Williamsburg no longer has a monopoly on the city’s best cow.
The year-old Prime Meats is a competitor not just to Luger, but to every steakhouse in Manhattan. And it’s found a niche with a German bent (soft, malty pretzels) and a bargain strip steak ($23).
The meat isn’t as charred as the $42 version at Minetta; it’s grilled not broiled -- and though it’s not as thick, the well-salted cut has that signature livery tang you want in dry- aged meat. Thank purveyor DeBragga & Spitler. Mop up any drippings with fries that come with it -- typical for bistros, atypical for steakhouses.
If that’s all old school, Prime Meats balances things out with some laid-back cool. No reservations. The wait was 90 minutes on the first Friday of Lent -- curious as this is the famously Roman Catholic Carroll Gardens neighborhood; the steakhouse is adjacent to the church where Al Capone was married. Wonder if he abstained from meat.
Sometimes the hip slacker factor goes overboard. Lines formed at the single bathroom. A window crank doubled as a toilet paper spindle. And Prime Meats, like Luger and certain parts of the Siberian Tundra, doesn’t take major credit cards. You’ll spend 10 minutes waiting for the server to write out your check by hand. The management, who also run Frankies next door and in Manhattan, tell me a credit-card system is coming in the spring.
A sign asks patrons to leave strollers outside. That’s bold for a family-friendly neighborhood. Prime Meats is crammed with pretty girls and their plaid-clad, bearded boyfriends, along with a bartender who complains about Robert Moses (a pastime in these parts) and the patrons who drink his expert libations. Try an unusually sour Rye Manhattan constructed with citrus Buddha’s Hand bitters made in-house.
“Belly up to the bar if you want to drink,” the host declares. There’re no seats in this thin corridor, so you stand at the counter as you eat your appetizers: a selection of cold, creamy oysters or intense beef tartare with strong overtones of anchovy and capers. A scallop special tasted nasty and uncleaned.
I asked my companion, a svelte hipster from Fort Greene, if she recognized the woman with Momofuku chef David Chang.
“She’s the creative director at Vogue,” she replied nonchalantly. “I modeled for her when I was a teenager. She said I was too skinny.”
Too bad that fashionista couldn’t watch my friend scarf down the crimson goulash. The firm porky bites sit in a sweet paprika sauce. Drop a bowl of spaetzle into it for a hearty $16 meal. This is the new Brooklyn, letting the gorgeous get away with gluttony that’s frowned upon in Bryant Park tents.
And it’s not just humane for the models. I’m told the meats come from farms where the animals are treated well. The brook trout is fashionably described as local.
“Does that mean it comes from the Gowanus?” a friend asked.
La Belle Rouge chicken means crisp-skinned, pickle-brined breast and underseasoned thigh meat. Choucroute ($17) doesn’t get better than this: Soft calf tongue, knockwurst and bratwurst have just enough fat to be offset by the gently acidic kraut. Sauerbraten ($19) comes with the requisite dumplings, except they’re made from pretzel dough. Brilliant.
The Main Event
Steak for two or three, the standard for any bastion of butchery, rewards math majors; the menu tells you the cuts range from 36 to 56 ounces and cost $1.80 per ounce. Do the multiplication yourself, then skip the dish altogether. It’s a rib-eye, not a porterhouse, and on two occasions, was tender but lacked the requisite dry-aged beefiness (or sufficient salt). No, Prime Meats isn’t good enough to make you want to travel to Brooklyn. But if you live there, why not?
The Bloomberg Questions
Cost? Most everything’s under $25.
Sound level? 70 to 78 decibels at dinner; as loud as a restrained Oktoberfest celebration.
Date place? If your date is fine with gaining weight.
Inside tip? Coffee doesn’t get much better than the Stumptown roast it serves. Too bad drip or French press isn’t available at dinner, just thin Americanos.
Special feature? Get around the cash-only policy by purchasing gift certificates with your Amex online.
Will I be back? For the $23 strip steak frites and drinks.
Prime Meats is at 465 Court St., Brooklyn. +1-718-254-0327; http://www.frankspm.com.