Chain Gang | A mighty tasty - and filling - lunch

Smith & Wollensky serves up some fine courses and sandwiches

Posted: March 30, 2007

The Chain Gang was deciding where to head for dinner this week when a member of the meat-loving faction (you can tell them by the cholesterol counts on their Gang colors) suggested Smith & Wollensky.

Are you not familiar with the financial crisis in the newspaper industry, we questioned.

For lunch, he said.

And lunch it was.

Smith & Wollensky, a tony steakhouse chain located in many of your big cities (and, for some reason, Columbus, Ohio - maybe to feed Greg Oden), has a Philadelphia location in the Rittenhouse Hotel next to the square.

You can order a big slab o' steak at lunch, but S&W has an actual lunch menu, which, by Center City standards, is not crazy expensive.

Because the Gang is required to eat more courses and food than any sane person would, we started with appetizers. On a regular day, a sandwich at Gus's Lunch Truck works, but at Smith & Wollensky, we get appetizers.

The Mozzarella and Tomato Salad ($10) was a beautifully stacked castle, a perfect portion for lunch - for a light eater, a whole lunch. The French Onion Soup ($9) was as good as it gets, with a rich, thick broth and lots of melted cheese. That, too, is almost a meal in itself.

The Wollensky Salad ($8), with greens, tomatoes, potato croutons and pieces of thick-cut, smoky bacon (and a delicious, mustardy dressing) is a meal in itself. The Mixed Greens Salad ($7) is good, too, but for a buck more you might as well get a Wollensky.

OK, everybody ready to go back to work?

Wait, here come the main dishes.

The much raved about Filet BLT ($16) was worth the praise, although its heft and juiciness make it a handful to eat. It's tender, sliced filet mignon with lettuce, tomato and regular bacon on an English muffin. So what if we had to cut it with a knife and fork? It's good.

The Prime Rib Dip ($14.75), thinly sliced beef on a hoagie roll, also got high marks, as long as your companions won't hold it against you for dunking your sandwich in the accompanying au jus gravy bowl.

This is the Chain Gang; we didn't even notice.

The Steak Sandwich ($16) looks like a steak sandwich, but it's made with S&W steak instead of Steakums. There's a difference. Whether there's a twice-the-price difference is up to the diner and the diner's wallet. But it was a tasty sandwich.

Of course the Gangster who suggested S&W for its "affordable" lunch went off the menu and ordered the mahi mahi special ($24) with Cajun seasoning. Tender on the inside, nice and crusty on the outside, it didn't need the cocktail sauce he added on anyway. Force of habit. That the waiter subbed the requested creamed spinach for the usual vegetable was a bonus.

We also got a Seared Tuna Salad ($14.75) with the tuna prepared just as requested and a yummy, crusty, cheesy wafer in the greens. All that was missing was a little more tuna.

The sandwiches all came with a decent helping of crispy french fries and, because we're gluttons, we ordered a side of not greasy, crunchy onion rings ($7.50), enough for all of us with some left over for the office.

We had no room for dessert, but we brought back giant slices of the chocolate cake ($11) and the carrot cake ($9), each very good (and still good two days later) and enough for three people. Really.

So . . . Smith & Wollensky for lunch didn't turn out as inexpensive as we planned, but when you factor in that none of us ate dinner that night, it's a good deal as a treat or when the boss (or a client) is paying. *

The chain truth

Chain: Smith & Wollensky, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square (at the Rittenhouse Hotel, off 19th and Walnut streets). Phone: 215-545-1700.

Smith & Wollensky, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square (at the Rittenhouse Hotel, off 19th and Walnut streets). Phone: 215-545-1700.

Reservations: Yes.

Parking: Valet or parking lot. Some street parking if you're lucky.

Price: A huge lunch for five with four appetizers, five main dishes, one side order, two giant desserts, two soft drinks and one glass of wine (someone always has to have a glass of wine) was $179.05 plus tip. If you don't want to pass out at your desk afterward, you can definitely do it for way less ($20-$25 per person) and still be stuffed.

Portions: For lunch? Ample. Did we mention they also started us out with a bowl of warm pretzel bread and a mustard butter spread?

Overall grade: Three-and-a-half out of a possible four links. It really is good value, in a steakhouse setting (the upstairs dining room has a nice view), if you don't feel bound to try everything on the menu. *

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