"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.
"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.
We both decided to go for it: I ordered the bone-in, cowboy-cut rib eye, which means 22 big ol' ounces, rather than my second choice, ahi tuna, which they serve "black and white," sesame and shiitake. My BFF ordered the steak and cake, a 6-ounce fillet and king crab cake.
The sides come a la carte and, unless you haven't eaten in weeks, I'd recommend ordering halves, even to share. We chose their four-cheese lobster mac. All I have to say is—do whatever it takes, climb over whoever you have to and get yourself a portion. Only not too much. This stuff was rich and creamy and, shockingly, not over the top. As for the scalloped potatoes we had...well, they were enrobed in rich cheese sauce. But, really, next to lobster mac, it was no contest.
My steak arrived medium rare plus, as ordered. The top and edges were crusty and flavor-packed and the steak had just the right amount of yummy fat for flavor. My BFF's fillet was spot-on too, tender, well-seasoned. The crab cake was a mass of top-notch crab with a dusting of red pepper and zero fillers. I grew up the daughter of a reform rabbi outside of Baltimore, where crab cakes are a matter of life and death. Daddy would certainly have given these his blessing.
We were totally full at that point, but the dessert menu was too tempting for this sweet-toothed girl to pass up. My BFF ordered the apple crumble blondie, a nice solid dessert—though the blondie should have been warmed to melt the vanilla ice cream a bit. Isn't that the point of putting the two in a bowl together?
I confess to ordering the Bailey's Boozie Homemade Hot Fudge Sundae. It's a homemade brownie topped with Baileys Irish cream liqueur ice cream and served with homemade hot fudge, roasted salted almonds, brandied Michigan cherries, whipped cream and Heath bar chunks. Come on. Any girl who tells you she doesn't want that is lying.
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But I'm surprised to report that it wasn't as earth-shattering as I would have expected. Like the blondie, the brownie should have been warmed. And for the quantity of truly delicious ice cream, there should have been an equal amount of toppings. But I quibble.
Overall, the service was stellar. Our water glasses were never empty. Our leftovers, which we had plenty of, were wrapped in gold foil and packed in black boxes with gold, monogrammed seals. And when we got our car back from the valet, there were tiny bottles of water waiting for us in the drink holder. Nice touch.
Bailey's was a Goldilocks experience for me. I didn't know what to expect when I wandered in. Some steakhouses offer nothing but slabs of meat. Other steakhouses make women feel like little more than necessary scenery. But Bailey's felt just right.
Baileys Prime Plus Park Lane 8160 Park Lane, Suite 130, 214-750-8100 Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11.a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday