Say you have great memories of spending summers at the beach as a kid. Boogie boards, first kisses, go kart racing, half a cigarette and 30 minutes of nausea under the boardwalk. It all seems like yesterday, and as you think back on those times, nothing sounds better than returning. But imagine you do go back, only to discover Golfin Dolphin Mini Golf has been replaced by a motel advertising “jacuzzi and free HBO” and your favorite ice cream stand doesn’t serve mint chocolate chip anymore. Sure, everything looks mostly the same, and you’ll still have a nice time staring out at the ocean - but it’s just not what it used to be.
That’s how we now feel about Prime Meats - the meat-centric Carroll Gardens restaurant from the same guys behind Frankies 457. We were big fans when Prime Meats first opened in 2009, and loved the old-timey ambiance and the selection of meats and cocktails. But unfortunately, we’ve been back several times recently, and while it’s still a great place to hang out, the food has not at all lived up to our lofty memories.
From an ambiance perspective, Prime Meats is still great - it feels sort of like a place we imagine middle management at Standard Oil would have come for their nightly steak and whiskey in 1899 or 1906 or some time shortly after cars were invented. The space - a narrow tavern and a skylit dining room - has a not-kitschy old-world feel with servers wearing neckties, classic cocktails, low-key jazz, and candle-lit tables. Drink a martini in the dining room under the stuffed deer head and huge curtained windows, and it’s hard not to feel like you’re in for a very good night.
Unfortunately, that feeling fades as you actually start eating the food. It all sounds great on paper - lots of meats, fried things, and some vegetables thrown in for good measure. And you can have a pretty good meal here if you stick to the burger or the house made sausages. But on recent visits, some of the food here has made us cock our heads and ask, “Are they for real with this?” The steak frites is fine, but the mountain of fries doesn’t disguise the fact that you’re paying $36 for a few strips of flank steak. Breaded and fried pork is something we usually eat and nod appreciatively, but the pork schnitzel here just doesn’t have much flavor. By far the most disappointing dish is the roasted chicken, which has wet, flappy skin over dry, bland meat, and tastes like the cafeteria chicken that you’d douse in ketchup, or you’d trade it with that kid who didn’t like pudding.
If there’s a two hour wait at Frankies and you want a spot within eyeshot, then head to Prime Meats and focus on the cocktails and atmosphere and eat a burger or sausages. Other than that, we can’t justify spending a not-insignificant amount of money here when there are so many spots serving better food. If you have great memories of Prime Meats, then don’t spoil them with a return visit now. It’s bad enough finding out that the go kart spot is now a parking lot where kids play Grand Theft Auto in virtual reality.
Not as salty as the soft pretzel you get at a street cart after the bar, but equally enjoyable. Meaning you’re happy with your purchase for the first bite or two, and then realize this big piece of bread is pretty bland. So get some extra salted butter and spicy mustard, which are both good.
This appetizer tastes more like a dessert, which we almost always support. The sweet potato comes with big scoops of sour cream and a bunch of n’duja. It’s spicy, soft, sweet, and it’s a lot of food. This should be on your table.
The menu says this comes with a duck egg and wild rice. If they’re on this plate, then we couldn’t find them. It’s basically just a plate of mushrooms. Nobody went in for a second bite.
If you couldn’t get into Frankies 457, but still want something that tastes sort of Italian, then this cacio e pepe with spaetzle tastes like a drier, thicker version of cacio e pepe you’d find elsewhere.
Three sausages come out on a wooden plank - this is simple and the best thing here. The bratwurst (fatty) and knockwurst (like a baseball game hot dog, but with a bunch of paprika) are good. The Lucanian, though, is spicy, crispy, and a must-order.
This isn’t bad just when you compare it to other $29 half-chickens. The soft skin and dry meat on this chicken would be bad at supermarket rotisseries or elementary school cafeterias.
This is a fair portion of not too-breaded pork, but the bit of lemon juice doesn’t mask the fact that it’s dry and bland.
We were told that this bavette is wagyu-grade, but it tastes like most other salty flank steak we’ve had. It’s also just four narrow strips meat, and while it comes with a huge portion of fries, it’s not worth $36.