Time: Saturday. May 03, 2014. 8:30 PM. Reservation.
Location: SF; Nob Hill
Address: 1906 Van Ness Ave
Cuisine: American, Steak
Party Size: 3 (M&V&B)
Order: 3 Prime Rib (2 House of Prime Rib Cut, 1 King Henry VIII Cut), 1 beer, 1 corkage fee
Pre-tip Cost: $168 [$155 food & drink; $13 tax]
Verdict: For those who worship red meat, this is your temple.
The House of Prime Rib is a San Francisco institution. Established back in 1949 and, despite all the changes that the city is experiencing, it stubbornly remains the same now as it was then. The meal is a flashback to what I imagine the American fine dining back in the 50’s and 60’s was The menu is remarkably simple with the only real decision being how much meat you want, essentially offering “small, medium, or large.”
Upon entering the House of Prime Rib your nose is immediately filled with the delicious aroma of meat. You quickly notice just how busy the place is. All the tables are occupied with diners. The bar and waiting area overflows with more people waiting to dine. There are staff buzzing around the floor in all directions. Mixed in throughout the three separate dining rooms are metal zeppelin looking carts. The whole place feels alive.
I mentioned that the House of Prime Rib feels like it hasn’t changed in years. The neon sign out front invites you in with a simple yet classic font. The menus are bound in leather, well worn and faded. The fully stocked wooden bar looks like people have been resting their drinks on it for the last 60 years. The place screams “you change for us, we don’t change for you!”
We had to wait a little for our table to open up in the lounge. Servers quickly came to take our drink orders and we were offered some salty bar snacks as well. After about a 15 minute wait, we were escorted to our table.
Upon sitting down, a loaf of warm sourdough is placed on the table with a cube of salted butter. In addition to the bread loaf, a finger of cornbread is also provided.
The menu itself is rather simple. Decide how much meat you want then make some either or decisions regarding creamed vegetables (corn or spinach) and potato (baked or mashed).
Included in each meal is a salad served with the house made red wine vinaigrette (that appears to have a little mayo infusion). The salad is lettuce centric with some julienned beets mixed. The dressing is hand spun into the salad table-side with a touch of flair. It’s size is that of an entree salad at some places.
Roaming throughout the restaurant are a number of metal blimp looking carts that carry the prime rib to be cut, like the salad at table-side.
I personally ordered the largest cut of prime rib – the King Henry VIII – which I complimented with a baked potato and creamed corn.
First, the potato. The spud is massive and is slathered in toppings. Butter first then a healthy couple of spoonfuls of sour cream and topped off with a few spoons of bacon bits and chives.
The prime rib is served on the vintage House of Prime Rib plate with some Yorkshire pudding to sop up the residual au jus. The meat is soft and flavorful, a product of the quality of the beef and the aging process that they proudly advertise on their website. Accompanying the meat is a trio of horseradish condiments, ranging from mild to sinus-clearing spicy.
We didn’t save room for desert. In fact, I didn’t even touch my potato, instead focusing on the meat at hand and taking the potato to-go in a bag to eat for lunch the next day.
Another thing I didn’t save room for was the infamous “desert slice.” After finishing off all the meat on the King Henry VIII cut, the meat zeppelin will return to the table and offer a desert slice of prime rib. My first two times I laughed it off as a joke however I later learned that it was all too real (with the apparent caveat that you can’t get the extra slice then just take it to-go).
The House of Prime Rib has been serving the same dinner, the same way for years. As there are really no options other than a slab of red meat, the place isn’t for everyone. But if you are a meat lover visiting the City, you probably will not be disappointed with the House of Prime Rib. Just make sure to make a reservation in advance!