Restaurant Review: Parx Grill
The Bensalem casino's steak house hits the jackpot
by Brian Freedman

As you head into the Parx Casino in Bensalem, be prepared for the cognitive dissonance you’ll inevitably experience. The space, in its entirety, seems to have been constructed somewhere else and dropped— humanitarian relief-style—into the center of the least likely place on the planet.

But there it is, shimmering in the distance like some sort of proto-Vegas promised land as your car trundles past strip center after rundown strip center en route to Bucks County’s one-building stand-in for The Strip itself.

But then you pull into the valet line and the journey there is forgotten in an instant. The chameleon-like color changes and sculptural detail of the casino’s facade, the incessant ringing and bleeping of the slots, the wall of cigarette smoke that greets you like an open-handed slap. It ain’t Monte Carlo, but it’s a heck of scene right here in our own backyard, far more shiny than anything most of us had come to expect in this decidedly un-glitzy corner of Bucks.

Parx Grill itself, the casino’s high-end steak house, is just as visually stunning, its cavernous- industrial shell brightened up—and given a touch of unexpected warmth—by shimmering modern chandeliers and a hearth’s fire projected on the far wall.

That aesthetic, in fact, is echoed in the presentations of the dishes, which tend toward the simple and clean with an occasional flourish for visual interest. And the flavors, as one guest at my table noted, were every bit as good as they are at certain well-known steak houses, though here at generally far more reasonable prices.

There are witty touches throughout the menu that evidence a confidence-building attention to detail in the kitchen. Vine-ripened tomatoes in the Caprese salad, usually a mealy and flavorless mess this time of year, were brightened up and given added depth by the addition of a well-balanced pesto and a Port reduction that brought to mind the more traditional balsamic but tweaked the formula just enough to make it interesting.

The wedge, a compulsory exercise at any steak house, was a sort of salad by way of Mondrian in its linear, deconstructed feel. A line-up of iceberg quarters marched across the plate, sliced hard-boiled egg sat alongside, and tomato ran interference down the middle. A side boat of blue cheese dressing and the warming smokiness of bacon completed the plate. All the flavors were spot on, though I’d have liked to see a few more chunks of cheese in that dressing.

Entrees were just as notable for their price and sizing as for their preparation. How often, after all, are you shoehorned into ordering a Fred Flintstone cut of cow at the big steak houses because they don’t offer anything more reasonably sized? Here, blissfully, the portions and the prices are more in line with our country’s current fiscal and waistline reality.

The 8-ounce, $28 filet mignon delivered all the tender texture you’d expect, as well as a sense of beefy concentration that you typically don’t from such a lean cut. Prime rib ($21) was kissed by garlic and fresh herbs without tasting victimized by them. Lobster tail, though not cheap at $28, was a well-cooked option, and the crab cake, with its tender interior and crisp-charred crust, was flavorful enough on its own to make the accompanying red pepper aioli completely unnecessary. Besides, the roasted corn relish scattered around the plate was a far more interesting option in the accompaniment department.

Not everything hit the right notes, though. There was a wan French onion soup whose thrown-together presentation—melted cheese on an unattractive slice of bread floating in the middle like some sad sort of island, and oddly thin and overly glistening broth—found its unfortunate counterpart in both underseasoning and a pronounced sense of sweetness from the onions that was completely out of balance. A side order of mushrooms was as flat-flavored and devoid of personality as any I’ve had in a very long time. And the wine list, while studded with affordable options, is about as exciting or thoughtful as a Wham! reunion concert.

But for those few mis-steps, there were far more sure-footed triumphs: Hearty, wholly successful onion rings, sweet and nutty simultaneously; cheddar gratin potatoes, which nodded in the direction of home-cooked comfort fare but with far more finesse than mom ever achieved; a liquid chocolate cake that, despite its been-there-done-that pedigree, won me over with its unarguable deliciousness.

So, that shimmering you see off in the distance isn’t a mirage. It’s a surprising and charming destination where you’d least expect. Which, for me at least, makes it that much more exciting that it’s landed right here in Bensalem.

2999 Street Road, Bensalem

Brian Freedman is a food and wine writer based in Philadelphia. (