The steakhouse has a little brother, Del Frisco’s Grille, in four cities with a fifth on the way. You can order steaks there too, but the menu is broader, more casual, and less expensive. Full disclosure: we visited at the publicist’s invitation and did not pay for our meal.
In New York (one of two cities that has both a steakhouse and a grille), the two places are close by, on opposite sides of Rockefeller Center. From local businesses and business travelers, to Radio City, Top of the Rock, and holiday shoppers, there’s a steady flow of visitors with disposable income.
Del Frisco’s Grille isn’t, strictly speaking, a steakhouse, but it very well could be. It has a muscular, distinctly masculine décor. The space was bustling on a recent Thursday evening, with what looked like a mostly young, after-work crowd that skewed single and available, especially at the bar.
The menu is divided into nine categories, many of them with dumb names like “Food to Fight Over” (appetizers and bar food), “Ruffage” (the word “salads” wasn’t available?), “Knife & Fork” (as if we’d eat the rest with our hands?), or “Lil’ Somethin’ Somethin’” (side dishes).
Who are they’re impressing with such gimmickry? It just screams “suburbia,” and reinforces the perception of Del Frisco’s as not really serious.
Well, I’m not going to tell you that it’s destination cuisine—it’s not, and you wouldn’t believe me if I said otherwise. But for what it is, the ingredients at Del Frisco’s Grille are a cut above the norm at such places, and the food is prepared well.
The menu is a mix of items dictated by the corporate office and others adjusted to local custom. The chef, Scott Kroener, who has been here since the restaurant opened a year ago, serves the chain menu and introduces his own recipes, within the confines of a prescribed template.
Broadly: the salad and appetizer-like items are in the $9–18 range, entrées $19–44, sandwiches $16–19, and sides $9–12.
The Crabcake ($19; above left) is unorthodox: all lump crabmeat without breading, inside a moat of cajun lobster sauce. The Ahi Tacos ($18; above center) are made with tuna tartare, avocado, and a spicy citrus mayo. Cheesesteak Eggrolls ($15; above right), with chili sauce and honey mustard, are surprisingly good.
If I could order again, I’d choose the Cheesesteak Eggrolls, and yes, that surprises me. My girlfriend would probably choose the tacos.
Bacon-wrapped scallops (above left) in a vinaigrette dressing were an off-menu special. The chef said it’s one of his favorites, but it wasn’t one of mine. But I did very much like the Heirloom Tomato and Burrata salad ($18; above center). If that’s typical of the other salads, it could easily be a shared appetizer. Bread rolls (above right) were served warm, and the butter was soft, the way I prefer it.
Del Frisco’s wet-ages most of its steaks, which could explain why it’s not considered a top-tier steakhouse in this dry-aged town. The chef has added a dry-aged bone-in New York strip to the menu (above center). It won’t challenge Minetta Tavern, but it can give most other places a run for their money. We also sampled a wet-aged specimen, the filet ($44; above left), which like most filets was more tender but less flavorful than the strip.
Both steaks were a bit over-seasoned with salt and pepper, an objection the chef is aware of, and which has been mentioned in some online reviews. I am not sure why he keeps doing it. All three sides (above right) were capably done: the Truffled Mac & Cheese, the “Spinach Supreme”, and the Asparagus (all $12).
The desserts were top-notch. You’d need a big appetite to finish them. I couldn’t really choose between the Nutella bread pudding and coffee ice cream with caramel sauce (above left), the Crème brûlée cheesecake with apple cinnamon compote (above center), or the cocnut cream pie with white chocolate shavings (above right).
The space is a bit louder than I’d like, though I’m sure it’s to many people’s tastes: raucous restaurants exist for a reason. We received the white glove treatment, so I can’t comment on the typical service experience.
The cocktails, mostly vodka-based, are sweeter than my preference. I liked best the Del’s Derby (Maker’s Mark, muddled orange, mint leaves, simple syrup, soda). There’s also a 700-bottle wine list, which we didn’t explore.
Del Frisco’s Grille isn’t really part of New York food culture, and doesn’t really try to be. It’s a national chain, designed to deliver reproducible upscale comfort. The best indication of its potential is the dry-aged bone-in New York strip, which is the local chef’s idea, and is not on the corporate menu. Order that, and the heirloom tomato salad, and you could be happy here.
Del Frisco’s Grille (50 Rockefeller Plaza, 51st Street, between Fifth & Sixth Avenues)