Despite bitter rivalry between the two establishments, most city residents can agree that the best cheesesteak in town comes from either Pat's or Geno's in South Philadelphia.
However, following this month's opening of Stephen Starr's Barclay Prime -- the latest in his string of high-profile eateries -- the restaurateur may be giving both a run for their money with a deluxe cheesesteak of his own.
Made with kobe beef, Taleggio cheese, foie gras and French truffles, Starr's cheesesteak offers diners his gourmet take on the Philadelphia classic -- for a whopping $100.
And despite the hefty price tag, in the three weeks since its debut in early October, it appears that the steak is actually selling, with the restaurant serving up about a half-dozen every night.
"We have been pleasantly surprised by how many cheesesteaks we're actually selling," Starr Restaurant Organization Chief Operating Officer Howard Wein said. "People are intrigued by the concept of a gourmet cheesesteak. A lot of people are actually ordering them because they want to know what makes a cheesesteak worth $100."
It was precisely this curiosity that the Starr staff sought to capitalize on when the idea was conceived months ago. Wein initially proposed the idea and saw the cheesesteak as a lucrative marketing tool, which would chiefly serve as a means of publicizing Barclay Prime and drawing diners to the restaurant.
"We put it on the menu primarily to create buzz," Wein said. "It's just one of the many hooks we are using to get people to come to Barclay Prime, and what better way to get Philadelphians to come than to take one of Philly's most famous foods and bring it up a level using gourmet ingredients? Everyone still loves a cheesesteak."
At present, the marketing tactics appear to have been successful, catching the attention of and drawing many who would not normally dine in an upscale restaurant.
"I would definitely go for the experience of eating a $100 cheesesteak, rather than for the actual quality of the food," College sophomore Dan Money said. "With these kinds of things, Stephen Starr has been able to draw a lot of attention to his restaurants and be very successful, even though the food quality is usually only so-so and the prices are pretty high."
Despite the seemingly ridiculous price, Starr's $100 cheesesteak is part of a trend that is sweeping across upscale restaurants nationwide, in which diners are finding fewer expensive and exotic items on the menu, and instead are presented with upscale versions of conventional favorites.
One New York restaurant showcases a $41 kobe beef hamburger, and another the even pricier $1,000 omelette made of lobster meat and caviar. The trend is further reflected by the kobe mini-beef sliders and the foie gras peanut butter and jelly sandwich featured on the menu at Barclay Prime.
"There are a lot of other restaurants around the country which have this type of expensive everyday food," Wein said. "But to my knowledge, Barclay Prime is really the first to offer this kind of thing in Philadelphia."
And while many diners are flocking to the restaurant to sample the steak for themselves, the idea of a $100 cheesesteak has not been warmly welcomed by all Philadelphians, many of whom see the sandwich as an affront to the classic versions served by the city institutions Pat's and Geno's.
"I just feel like the point of a cheesesteak is to be street food -- it's supposed to be cheap and messy like Pat's and Geno's," College junior Athos Cakiades said. "I think the idea of a $100 cheesesteak is just ridiculous -- you don't mess with tradition."
However, Wein insists that Barclay Prime's cheesesteak is not meant to compete with either of the traditional sandwiches, and that despite the intense rivalry between the two, there is still room for Starr's steak.
"There is a time and a place for both types of cheesesteak," Wein said. "We're not trying to compete with them, and there's definitely room for both in Philly. Right now, the $100 cheesesteak is a crowd favorite, so it's here to stay."Comments powered by Disqus
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