After a year and a half of living in San Francisco, and Janine heckling me to try it out, I finally made my way to House of Prime Rib (hereby known as HoPR). This steakhouse on Van Ness holds legendary status in the City and has been around for decades. With valet parking on the outside, bright red booths on the inside, chefs carting slabs of prime rib around the dining patrons and the wait staff in suits, this place is the epitome of old school San Francisco and commands a certain amount of class. My aunt told me back in the day you needed to look GOOD to attend the restaurant – dress code and all. I wish it was still like that. It looks like a classy joint, but modern ‘laid back’ (read: lazy) California eschews such formality and effectively reduced its dress code to whatever your interpretation of ‘business casual’ is.
We sat down and our server came to ask if we’ve been here before and explained the menu. HoPR has a VERY simple menu as it only does one thing – serve you prime rib. You get your choice of three cuts in terms of size, and some sides and that’s pretty much all there is to it. I ended up getting the House of Prime Rib cut, about 10-12 oz of beef. Salad, yorkshire pudding, creamed corn and a baked potato.
The prime rib was nice and tender, the potato huge with chives, bacon and sour cream as condiments. The creamed corn was, well, creamed corn. Yorkshire pudding was brought out in a pan and was served to us cut into four pieces. I’m used to individual portions so this was a novelty. There really wasn’t too much to write home about aside from the atmosphere.
I’d love to say you really come to HoPR for the quality, but after some thought no, you don’t. You come here for the theatrics with a healthy dose of 1960′s ‘fine dining steakhouse’ nostalgic ambiance. It truly feels more like a themed restaurant to me than an upscale establishment. Take this little detail for example.
The salad comes in a salad bowl in an ice bath that is carted to you by a waiter. He hands you a chilled fork for the salad. He then spins the salad around in the bowl and drizzles down copious amounts of dressing, plates it and hands it to you. Pretty cool right? Though the weird thing is the plates are hot out of the dishwasher and by the time I was finished half the salad, the lettuce has wilted. What happened to the attention to detail?
House of Prime Rib is so successful that it doesn’t really need to care about these details. Droves of tourists will happily flock to this place and try it out. And for many of them it is perfectly fine. I personally think it is pretty good for value and a good way to assert your masculine side by eating copious amounts of beef.
Will I be coming here again? As much as it is good for value… probably not. I mainly go out to eat things I can’t make a home and steak/prime rib isn’t one of those. Plus, reservations are pretty hard to get a hold of. It’s good at what it does, but I’m just not that excited about it and I don’t think I ever will be for straightfoward steakhouses as the meals I get there are meals I’ve had many times at home and almost something I’d rather have at home instead.
If you haven’t been before and have some extra cash kicking around, go ahead and put it on your SF bucketlist. I wouldn’t rush to tick it off though.