Strip Club Eats
Ten gentlemen’s lounges with good food. Seriously.
By Eric Slatkin
Working the kitchen at a gentlemen’s club
By Alexander Lane
Charles Sneed, the generously tattooed, pork chop–sideburned executive chef of Archibald’s, a gentlemen’s club in Washington, DC, says he “doesn’t give two shits” what’s going on downstairs.
Sneed, 35, took the job a few months ago, expecting “a sweaty grind: Take shit food, throw it on a plate, and send it out.” (Before this, he worked at a country club in Florida.) But the owner of Archibald’s has empowered him to class the place up, he says, perhaps to compete with the nearby Camelot Show Bar, a well-regarded competitor four blocks away (see main bar, item number 1). He makes sauces and soups from scratch, and goes beyond burgers and wings to offer such specials as Asian chicken salad ($8.69) and crab-stuffed whiting ($12.49).
There are quirks peculiar to this sort of establishment. Sneed had to fire one young cook, for example, because he was unable to focus on his work. “He would walk out of the kitchen to go to the bathroom or something,” Sneed explains, “and I would get a report that he was downstairs watching the dancers.”
Charles Brown, a husky grill cook with braids and hoop earrings—one of the six kitchen staff—says he suspects the customers pay more attention to the entertainment than the food. “But that doesn’t mean we half-ass it,” he says. “We still cook to the best of our ability and send it down as if they weren’t being distracted by naked women.”
1. Camelot Show Bar, Washington, DC. Near embassies and government buildings, the upscale Camelot attracts a lobbyist lunch crowd. CHOW contributor Alexander Lane (see sidebar) enjoyed a Greek plate featuring oregano-seasoned steak tips, pickled peppers, feta, olives, and pita triangles arranged in distinct quadrants. James Gandolfini (of The Sopranos) was reported to have stopped by a week earlier, which in the strip club world is equal to a papal visit.
2. Casa Diablo Gentlemen’s Club, Portland, Oregon. Owner Johnny Diablo is a devout vegan who bans fur, silk, and wool on his stage. His menu at Casa Diablo is cruelty-free as well, including such specials as barbecue “rib” sandwiches (made from soy protein) served with onion rings (made without eggs). You can get homemade apple crisp on the side for only $6. Though in an article in the New York Times he admits to coming under fire from the vibrant Portland community of “feminazis” (his term), Diablo happily reports that his clientele of mostly blue-collar, male workers doesn’t complain about the lack of cooked animal flesh.
3. Alluvia Restaurant at the Cheetah Lounge, Atlanta, Georgia. Executive Chef Bill Toro (who has worked with Richard Blais of Top Chef) runs one of the only kitchens in Atlanta that uses all USDA Prime beef. You and a friend could even share a 38-ounce Prime porterhouse for two. Toro has also attempted some ambitious ice cream flavors such as lemon basil, but his most popular offerings are the homemade chocolate and vanilla.
4. Coliseum, Detroit, Michigan. It has 14,000 square feet of space. It has won awards from the local paper. It has a helipad. And the Coliseum also has a respectable selection of seafood options (including grilled salmon and pan-seared ahi) and sources its lamb from New Zealand.
5. Delilah’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Delilah’s isn’t short on strip club industry awards, but it has also been rated in Zagat. Though branded as a steakhouse, Delilah’s will soon launch a small-plates menu, including braised short ribs, lobster tail–infused mashed potatoes, and a fried Caesar salad (flash-fried hearts of romaine tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and vinaigrette). The club also offers bachelor party packages featuring a three-course meal, a full open bar, and no cover charge.
6. Nove Italiano, Las Vegas, Nevada. Though the Playboy Club and the Nove Italiano are separated by two floors in the Palms casino, the restaurant’s manager estimates that 70 percent of diners who eat at Nove Italiano ride the escalator behind the bar to the gentlemen’s club after dinner. Try the black ink squid–infused homemade pasta in tomato fennel sauce, mixed with lobster, scallops, shrimp, and calamari. After your meal, just let the server know you plan to go up to the Playboy Club, and you’ll get whisked to the front of the line.
7. Robert’s Steakhouse, New York, New York. Located in the Penthouse Executive Club, Robert’s has a respected executive chef (Adam Perry Lang, previously of Daniel) and the only chef de cuisine at any of the clubs included here. The results are tasty free-range brick-roasted chicken, imported Kobe beef, and sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna. Those on a budget might need to decide between a lap dance and a steak (the former costs $20, plus the $30 cover; the latter costs $50, and the cover is waved if you’re eating at Robert’s). Judging by Frank Bruni’s rave about the food in the New York Times, it wouldn’t be a mistake to go with the steak.
8. Sam’s Hofbrau, Los Angeles, California. Unlike the others on this list, Sam’s Hofbrau isn’t going for the fine-dining crowd. But its burgers, pizza, and spicy Buffalo wings still get high marks. With the addition of a new pizza oven, the kitchen has even added such non-hofbrau offerings as carne asada pizza with marinated meat, jalapeños, chiles, onions, and Monterey Jack cheese.
9. Shotgun Willie’s, Denver, Colorado. Though the Shotgun Willie’s website looks like a cartoon for kids, this home of “entertainment for adults” serves bar food with flair. Word is the Shrimp Fernando is a must-have: eight large shrimp wrapped with bacon, stuffed with cheese, and deep-fried.
10. Sizzle Lounge & Grill, San Francisco, California. Part of the Broadway Showgirls Cabaret, Sizzle offers fresh tuna tartare, New York strip (with lightly buttered julienned carrots and broccoli), and creamy, lump-free mashed potatoes with a hint of pepper. Daily specials have included fettuccine with spinach, bacon, and grilled chicken ringed with fresh Roma tomatoes and lightly topped with shredded Parmesan. We’re sure the restaurant’s name refers to the food.
CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.