But at ground level the floor resembled a human stockyard, as is customary these days at such events: They grow desperately grander as the dining-out dollar shrinks.
No one wants to be the odd man out: "May the best steak house win," rasped owner Ed Doherty, acknowledging the Darwinian contest unwittingly touched off when the places were planned a few years ago in a different climate and a different world.
When Union Trust opens tomorrow, it will add its 350 seats to those of the other newcomers (that would be, just since summer, Butcher & Singer, Table 31, and Del Frisco's Double Eagle), pushing the total to more than 1,200, not counting the hundreds of seats at the old-timers - Morton's, Smith & Wollensky, Davio's, Palm, Capital Grille and Ruth's Chris.
That's a lot of pricey red meat (around $40 and up per steak), once the gold standard for quick bucks in the crowded restaurant sector. But price wasn't the object of a talk by Mark Bittman, the popular New York Times columnist and author, a few days before at the Free Library.
He'd come to tee off, once again, on the toll that industrial meat production takes on the environment (deforestation, water pollution, poor protein return on grain inputs), and indeed on the climate itself.
"Livestock," he explained, quoting from Food Matters, his newest book, "produce more greenhouse gas than the emissions caused by transportation. . . ."
That's not news, necessarily. But like the festering inattention to the excesses of Wall Street, it is suddenly and frighteningly topical: The burden of raising so many cows and chickens and pigs - especially if their populations are doubled to feed growing demand in the developing world - will come home to roost.
Bittman said he'd done his bit (triggered by a health scare) by becoming a "vegan before 6 [o'clock]," eating fruits, vegetables and grain-centered meals during the day, and indulging himself with some meat or fish for dinner.
He lost 35 pounds. His cholesterol is under control. And he has more spring in his step, a personal pay-off for thinking globally, but acting locally - and a testament to, as he inelegantly put it, "less-meat-atarianism."
At Union Trust, Doherty's partner, chef Terry "TW" White, argued that steak houses, still, could benefit in hard times, offering comforting food, a wider menu, and a moment of sumptuousness - "a three-hour vacation" for those suddenly unable to fly down to the Caribbean.
Just because the party's over is no reason, apparently, to call it a day.
Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.