One of the benefits of living in a city rife with chain restaurants is that there's no shortage of high-end steakhouses. Two of the very best – Capital Grille and this week's featured restaurant, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House – sit across from one another on International Drive, each staring the other down out of the corners of their rapacious restaurant eyes. Capital Grille's dry-aged steaks and Del Frisco's primarily wet-aged prime cuts doggedly vie for the almighty tourist and conventioneer dollar, both budget-busters and both unapologetically proud of it.
You'll doubtless recall the Del Frisco's of yore on Lee Road (now Christner's) in all its wood-paneled glory; don't think for a second that the Double Eagle is a rehash – this chop shop is named for the rare $20 gold coin. No, Del Frisco's return to the city is as prodigious as the restaurant itself – a two-story colossus with a shimmering nouveau-deco interior that will appease the chevron lover in you.
Wine vaults, towers and cellars are scattered throughout – 1,300 labels amounting to 10,000 bottles overseen by accomplished beverage director Jill Davis and two additional sommeliers – so you're sure to find a complementary quaff for your pricey slab of steak, like the bone-in ribeye ($59). The wet aging of the 22-ounce USDA Prime slab compromises some of the flavor (which is why I've always been partial to dry-aged steaks), but you can't argue its texture. It's as tender as tender can get, and more so if you order the filet ($42.50, 8-ounce; $49.50, 12-ounce). When the steaks are served, you'll be asked to check your steak for doneness immediately. We thought it a tad pushy (and a bit difficult, given the dim lighting), but they were done to our liking. Hey, in the nitpicky world of high-end chophouses, you have to nitpick.
All steaks, by the way, are seasoned with salt and pepper, then broiled, including an American wagyu tomahawk chop ($89), a steak for two (or possibly three). Of the sides, a creamy maque-choux ($12) had us swooning, but the asparagus ($13) had us wondering if anyone in the kitchen knew how to properly trim off the hard ends of the spring vegetable. A slew of sauces are hawked (the $20 foie gras butter, par exemple); we ordered a side of bordelaise ($3) but, instead, received a béarnaise. A béarnaise!
Starters, I find, are wholly unnecessary when sizable hunks of meat are in the offing, but we caved to the pleas of our assiduous server, who rattled off a bevy of apps for our consideration. We were sold hard on the $20 crab cake (it was actually $19.50), but opted instead to enjoy some briny Dabobs and clean Fanny Bays with a cucumber finish. The oysters, in fact, proved more enjoyable than the stone crabs ($26) which were unusually friable, a little stringy and not very succulent, possibly from being overcooked. The hot towel service after we finished our starters was a nice touch, however.
A graham-cracker-crust-forward Key lime pie ($11) wasn't as tart as I like, but a light and fluffy banana bread pudding ($10) was worth the long wait.
At Del Frisco's, sticker shock awaits the steak lover without an expense account, but not so for big-league businessfolk and spendthrift tourists. They're the base on which the Double Eagle preys.
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