By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
"Wow. Looks kind of like a casino," I said to my BFF (best food friend) as we approached the entrance. "Or a strip club." An upscale one at that. It wasn't that the place looked sleazy—more grand than gaudy. The good news is, once we stepped inside, it turned out Bailey's Prime Plus, Park Lane (not to be confused with Bailey's two other metroplex locations) was sans the predictable "good ol' boy" Dallas steakhouse snootiness.
The snow was coming down hard, and we were happy for the umbrella the valet held out as he escorted us down the red carpet (yes, there is a red carpet) to the front door. We were greeted graciously and quickly shown to an oversized, open-ended booth that felt a bit like a luxury train car.
Stepping up into the plush, high-backed space felt strangely private amid the sea of booths and tables in the massive room that is cleverly divided by glass partitions to the side and a dramatically lit, rectangular "pond" down the middle (in which I kept expecting to see koi), creating a surprisingly intimate feel. The rich, bright décor boasts modern paintings; a wide, gold-leafed border; massive chandeliers; and silver candlestick-stemmed oil lamps atop every table.
8160 Park Lane
Dallas, TX 75231
Region: Northeast Dallas
"Be careful," the hostess said as she handed us the thick, metal-covered menus. "They're heavy." Considerate, perhaps, but I wondered if she told that to the men too. Too often steakhouses make me feel either summarily dismissed because of gender, or like an annoying fly in the soup. "Who let the little girl in?" I imagined people saying as soon as I walk in. But in Bailey's, not so much. (Maybe it was the lack of wood paneling.)
Our waiter was friendly and engaging, at least at first, telling us about his love affair with the Food Network and how he was thinking of going to cooking school. He seemed more formal with other diners, which may say more about me than him. I like different speeds among waitstaff. I also like that he was just one of a veritable crew of people who took care of us.
An interesting mix of music played, which made for a nice "sit back and enjoy yourself" vibe. No pretense required. Around us sat the traditional big-juicy-steak-on-an-expense-account types and a few pretty couples. I was in heels and vintage Von Furstenberg, others were in jeans, and all seemed to fit right in.
We decided to start with Romano cheese-crusted asparagus. The stalks were stacked Lincoln-log style and smelled fantastic. They were light, crispy and hot with a bold flavor. Inside it was all juicy tenderness. The chilled Bailey's House Ranch for dipping was so good that Hidden Valley should give up.
And would someone please call my mother right now and tell her that it's her fault I never ate my vegetables. She should have fried the damn things in cheese.
Our second course was rather disappointing. It looked pretty enough, and the idea sure sounded good. Jumbo shrimp wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon stuffed with sharp cheddar, smoked Gouda and jalapeños served with warm garlic butter. But the dish was uncomfortably chewy and overwhelmingly bacon-y.
Then came the bread. "Honey, this can't be legal," my BFF said after her first bite. "There must be drugs in these." A take on monkey bread, Bailey's version has Parmesan and a blend of herbs the staff was very secretive about. It was moist and soft and warm and left our fingers glossy with butter. I love when that happens.
We opted to split a half-order of what Bailey's calls simply "That Salad," made up of baby greens, brandied Michigan cherries, candied pistachios and Oregon blue cheese tossed in maple sherry vinaigrette. I asked why the name, figuring other patrons saw the gussied-up greens at an adjoining table and said, "Looks good, I'll have that salad." But Ryan was no help. "That's just what it's called," he told me. And I was too wowed by the presentation to press him further.
"What are you doing?" my BFF asked as I surveyed my salad bowl. "Strategizing," I said. "I want to have as many perfect bites as possible." The blend of elements from juicy to crisp to tangy to sweet was so perfect that I wanted to get a little taste of everything each time I brought fork to mouth. I love a good challenge.
As for mains, you can order a number of steaks—all prime and dry-aged I'm told—fillets, rib eyes and strips served straight up or dressed Oscar-style, pepper-crusted or with foie gras. They also have a $99 Tomahawk rib eye meant to be shared. "Have you ever seen anyone eat the whole thing themselves?" I asked the waiter. "I've seen a lot try. And I've seen a couple of football players manage it." Much to my dismay, I couldn't get him to name names.
All the usual beef suspects required of any self-respecting steakhouse were there. But there were also all these other choices—revved-up versions of items often considered stepchildren at steakhouses, including a spicy Texas rubbed chicken and a cinnamon maple-glazed pork chop—as if the chef had more in mind than being just another boys' club.