I found out about TBar Steak & Lounge via an Eater post, which lampooned the place for its dorky décor. I wouldn’t normally go to the Upper East Side for a steakhouse, as there are plenty of great ones in my neck of the woods, but hey, I was feeling adventurous.
The good news is that it’s nowhere near as dorky-looking in real life as it looks in that Citysearch photo. And the restaurant seems to be doing well. When I walked in at around 6:00 p.m. on a Thursday without a reservation, they could seat me only in the lounge. That was just fine: the lounge is spacious and comfortable.
The bad news is that they’re serving USDA Choice at a Prime tariff.
I took one bite of my Ribeye Steak ($42), and I knew immediately it wasn’t headed for the pantheon. The conversation with my server was almost surreal.
“Excuse me. Is this prime or choice?”
She looked at me with a puzzled stare. “In terms of…what?”
“Have you heard of Prime beef, versus Choice beef?”
“Can you ask the kitchen if it’s Prime or Choice?”
By this point, I already knew the answer. At any restaurant serving Prime beef, the servers know it. Her response, a few moments later, was just a formality: “It’s Choice.”
For a Choice steak, it wasn’t bad. But it was $42, which is as much as, or more than, many restaurants charge for aged Prime. Any steak-lover will instantly know the difference.
I also ordered the Potato Cake ($12), a luscious creation made with potatoes and gruyère (upper left in the photo). Servers were young and friendly. And obviously not schooled in the difference between Prime and Choice.
TBar Steak & Lounge (1278 Third Avenue between 73rd & 74th Streets, Upper East Side)
Service: Satisfactory, but the servers aren’t meat scholars
Overall: Overpriced, for what they’re serving