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Hunter S. Thompson meets The Rat Pack

Steak 38, Cherry Hill NJ

January 2012

Hunter S. Thompson once said “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” Steak 38 owner Joe DiAmore’s ‘claim to fame’ is first-class, table-side service for Caesar salad, fish de-boning, meat carving and the ever-popular Bananas Foster at his restaurant. Mixing these two mottos is what created Steak 38. Joe DiAmore and Benji Blumberg of the original Barnacle Ben’s Seafood restaurant have joined forces for Steak 38 after a brief stint of this establishment having closed its doors. This tag team of powerhouse chefs puts over 60 years combined of restaurant experience at the helm and it shows.

Steak 38 does not easily endear itself as you pull into a parking lot of a motel that looks more accustomed to renting rooms by the hour instead of housing a restaurant. After stepping inside Steak 38 the décor does not do this place any favors either. It is not because the décor is appalling; it is just extremely old fashioned. This eatery is an enigma in this age of trendy restaurant concepts by not selling out and catering to the Hipsters, Posh Rittenhousers,Cherry Hill– Voorhees Elitists, Haddonfield Hobnobbers, or Phila-Jersey Foodies. Steak 38 is only interested in maintaining the atmosphere that Joe DiAmore opened this place with over 30 years ago, and that is what I like about it. This is one of the few places where a call to Marty McFly to fire up the DeLorean is not needed, as the past has gracefully melded with the present.

In order to fully appreciate Steak 38, you must embrace it. To do so, it is recommended to show a little early with friends and have a cocktail or two at the bar. While getting close to the end of your second drink, I think you will see and feel the transformation inside you from the old Italian music playing and pictures surrounding the place. Oddly, I showed up with John Smith and Jane Doe, but now I am having drinks with Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. In a flash, the time has come to be seated, and who is this telling us where to sit, could it be, I think it is, Frank Sinatra. Now that the entire Rat Pack is here, I know I’m in good hands.

As soon as you are seated, waiters bring out warm bread accompanied with fresh roasted peppers. I am happy these came complimentary, as they are so tasty; I had three servings of it. The meal starts out with Snapper Soup, and I can not remember the last time I have had a tastier version. The meat is so gracefully placed throughout the soup and flavors with just the right amount of intensity that the bowl does not stay filled for long. While looking around to make sure no mafia hits will be placed while I am dining, the main course finally arrives in all of its glory, Prime Rib. This incarnation of Prime Rib is delicious and cooked to medium temperature perfection. I know of many high end steak houses that should come here just for a lesson of how to really cook and serve Prime Rib. The outside perimeter of the steak has the tasty fat, flame broiled crispy, while the meat inside is so tender I do not even have to use my steak knife until halfway through the dish. Joining the steak as an afterthought is delectable thin sliced onion rings and a twice-baked potato that does not harm the dish in any way, but also does not enhance it greatly. The shining star is the Prime Rib. One would assume that the culinary show is over, but at Steak 38, this is not true if one orders Bananas Foster. Your dessert is wheeled out table-side to be created flambé. After the fireworks of your dish being created are done, all one can do is dig in and taste the milky, sugary, and liquored treat till the bowl is empty.

Steak 38 is a gift from the past I wish a couple more businesses could learn from. Everything does not need to be hip, new, or experimental. Also, I am not pontificating that Steak 38 has no faults. It is just nice to see that some people stick to their ideals and ambitions regardless of the world changing around them, and for that you must respect them. Now if only Joe DiAmore and Benji Blumberg can tell me where they buried Jimmy Hoffa, I can leave here knowing all of their secrets.

Four out of Five stars

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