Chain Gang | You'll need some capital to dine at this Grille

But despite slow service, food was worth the wait

Posted: June 08, 2007

IT WAS A summery afternoon and the Chain Gang was craving crab cakes so we decided to try the new Phillips' seafood restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel at 16th and Vine.

"Seems kind of fancy," one Gangster said as we entered.

"Seems kind of empty," said another.

A few seconds later we learned Phillips was closed for lunch and although we were offered the option of dining buffet-style in the Sheraton lobby, the Chain Gang has standards - the hotel may be a chain, but the lobby wasn't.

"Five Guys burgers is a chain," someone said, "we haven't been there."

"Come on," said another, "we'-

re buying the Wall Street Journal. Let's go to the Capital Grille."

So we went to the Grille (Broad and Chestnut streets), certainly the motliest group they saw that lunch.

Our waiter was knowledgeable and showy, reciting the specials with gusto befitting their price. He even convinced two Gangsters to try the Lobster Bisque ($10 for a cup) by describing how fresh lobster is cut into the soup daily. Whatever. The bisque was tasty, but those big chunks of lobster must have runneth over to someone else's cup.

Salads were excellent. The Spinach Salad ($8) was piled high with bacon, lots of onions, lots of mushrooms. The Chopped Salad ($10), which wasn't on the menu, was so good, a tangy dressing, veggies, tiny tomatoes, one would wonder why it isn't on the menu. Is the fancy steak house embarrassed someone might order a salad . . . and be full?

After our salads, however, something strange happened.

Nothing.

The Gang sat. Servers walked by us. But no food.

The Grille prides itself in being a place for a power lunch - not a slower lunch - but by the time our main dishes showed up, they were being carried by a server and a man in a suit who looked more like a manager. We waited for an explanation but only got, "enjoy your lunch."

Fortunately for the Grille, we enjoyed our lunch.

The Lobster & Crab Burger ($16) was a different twist on a classic with lobster meat and crab meat made into a pattie and served on a bun with fries. It took the sting out of missing out on crab cakes.

The Filet Tips Lunch Special ($23) was a hefty serving of grilled filet and grilled shrimp over greens. Plenty of meat, plenty to eat.

The Sesame Seared Tuna ($23) was a ball of tuna the size of an orange, seared on the outside and nearly raw (as we asked for it) on the inside. It came with a trio of dipping sauces (the best of which was wasabi based) and was really tasty on the outside, but the less cooked portions were too chewy. It looks cool this way but the dish may work better if the tuna was sliced and seared.

Perhaps best of all was the simplest dish - the Ribeye Steak Sandwich ($16), an actual steak on a roll (not slices) cooked just the way it was ordered.

Since the Chain Gang had to get back to work - this is the Daily News, we all have three jobs - we ordered dessert to go and both the Key Lime Pie ($7.50) and White Chocolate Mousse ($7) made it back to the office with no problem. The mousse was devoured in seconds and got raves, the Key Lime Pie had the proper tartness (what's with the pistachios?) but was a little too dense. It's a summer dessert, lighten up.

And someone might want to mention what took so long.

The Chain Truth

Chain: The Capital Grille, Broad and Chestnut streets, 215-545-9588. Other locations throughout the country.

Reservations: Yes.

Parking: Good luck.

Price: Lunch for four with two soups, two salads, three soft drinks, four main dishes and two desserts was $147.66 plus tip.

Portions: Not obscene, but even big eaters won't leave hungry.

Overall grade: Three-and-a-half links for the food, two-and-a-half links for the slow service and lack of explanation.

We might have just experienced a glitch or caught the restaurant in a shift change but at these prices one doesn't expect thumb-twiddling at lunch.

If you've got the time, however, and, especially if someone else is paying, the Grille is a Capital idea. *

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