House of Prime Rib

by foodhoe on June 11, 2009

Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA | 415. | website

We came here to celebrate my good friend JT’s (the bonvivant) birthday recently.  I was excited when I heard we were going to the House of Prime Rib, which I have wanted to try for a long time.  It’s an old fashioned restaurant with very few choices to be made:  beef or fish; how much meat do you want; loaded baked potato or mashed potatoes and gravy.  There are few variations on this most basic menu, but their speciality is prime rib after all.  They’ve been serving it up since 1949, that’s 60 years…   The restaurant has a hodge podge of styles that mostly comes off as frumpy and old fashioned, but I like that the building is broken up into five separate dining areas, some with fire places.

The room we were in was dark and felt like we were in a hut framed with rustic wood and chunky stucco walls.  It was dominated by a bulbous shiny metal cart near the entrance.  I was on the far end of our long table against the wall and wasn’t able to see any of the legendary tableside service, but I did manage to capture a little bit of action in the picture below.  Way behind the cart on the right side, you can see a vested waiter pouring the salad dressing into the bowl with theatrical flair.

The Salad Bowl.  Apparently they spin the bowl and do some other tableside abracadabra, but then, it’s basically an iceberg lettuce salad with sliced beets and some cheese tossed with the house vinaigrette.

The prime rib is cooked using an old English method of blanketing the rib in coarse rock salt. This insures that the roast comes from the oven with all of its fragrant natural essences sealed in.  Apparently, the roasts are carved to each individual order from the carts and served tableside, but  the meat cart in our room stayed by the doorway during the course of our meal.  I walked over to check it out and there was quite a variety of prime rib.  Some had bones, one looked very rare and it looked like the chef was cooking some pieces for those who like theirs well done.  The menu offers four types of carving ranging from:  Henry VIII – an extra-generous, thick cut  for king-size appetites (about $40), the House of Prime Rib, the English Cut – thinner slices, but more of them, and the City Cut – the smallest for around $35.   Now, the thing about this place is you can ask for seconds, it really is all you can eat.

I ordered The City Cut $34.45, described as a smaller cut for the lighter appetite, medium rare.  Here is my plate with a serving of Creamed Spinach, swimming in beefy au jus.  The meat was tender and cooked just how I liked it with a nice rosy pink glow.

I was greatly anticipating the Yorkshire Pudding, which is buttery, flaky and crusty and soaks up the au jus to be transformed into a rich and savory pudding.  It reminds me a bit of soggy stuffing and I love it.  The  House of Prime Rib does a fine job of getting these heavenly puffs to the table in the perfect state to be dunked into the au jus…

Here is the baked potato spread, it’s a good one. Notice the two bowls next to the potato fixings of green onion, sour cream and bacon.  Those two bowls are the horseradish sauces, the left one is mostly horseradish and will singe your nostril hairs.  The right one is mellower and blended with more sour cream.  I got a bit of both, which mixed up perfectly.

I sat next to Amelia, who doesn’t eat red meat.  I believe that she had grilled sea bass, which came drenched in a creamy sauce over mashed potatoes.  She said it wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned. Well, the menu does state that they only do one thing very well.  It actually looked pretty good, but I was focused on my own plate of food for once.

No one really was interested in dessert, but our serving crew came by with a parfait glass piled high with mango sorbet and topped with a twinkling candle to serenade JT for her b-day.  We all joined in for a rousing and slightly off key chorus, happy birthday JT!

The atmosphere of the place is hectic and clamorous, I noticed that the restaurant was packed when I wandered off to find the restroom, which was down a hall and at the end of yet another dining room. I had a near miss head butt face smash with a waitress who came whirling around a blind corner and then almost backed up into yet another meat cart.  The $35-40 for all you can eat prime rib is clearly a crowd pleasing San Francisco favorite and meat lovers mecca.

The service, while friendly, was rushed and a bit rough.  While I wouldn’t consider this a fine dining experience, the entire package was very satisfying.  And best of all, I can check off another one off the list of 100 things to eat before you die….

House of Prime Rib on Urbanspoon

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Cookie June 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Your plate looks so massively delicious! I LOVE creamed spinach and soggy stuffing reminds me of my favorite parts of the holidays! I’ve only been to The House of Prime Rib once and don’t remember having such great food but maybe I just didn’t order the right stuff.


Carolyn Jung June 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I have fond memories of this place. I remember my family going there when my parents were still alive. They LOVED it! And you know how elderly Chinese folks can be — picky! But this place was a crowd-pleaser all around. My Dad loved the prime rib, of course, but enjoyed the salad almost as much. My Mom kept marveling at how huge the portions were, especially those baked potatoes that are the size of your head. Tasty! 😉
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foodhoe June 11, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Cookie, just looking at that plate makes me happy! I grew up on soggy stuffing too. The menu is pretty small so stick with the baked potato and you should be good.
Carolyn, lucky you! we went to sizzler for special occasions…


cocochanelella June 11, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I REALLY love this place, I’m like to use their horseradish as butter for my bread. The yorkshire pudding is really flaky here.
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grace June 12, 2009 at 4:13 am

although i prefer to keep my nostril hairs unsinged, this looks like a really appealing place to dine. i’ve always wanted to try real yorkshire pudding.
[rq=5241,0,blog][/rq]i put it off as long as i could


rowena June 12, 2009 at 7:54 am

I’m sorry, but between the last post and this one, you’re only going to get sloppy happy food sounds coming from this side of the monitor. Yeah, where did those 5 dollah meals go? Hold on there, gotta wipe the drool off of the keyboard [……………..]

I want, want, want some of that City Cut (more slobbering, slurping sounds). You go, Foodhoe!


The Single Guy June 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

My mouth is watering so much! I’m not a big meat eater, but it’s like an event going to House of Prime Ribs. Went there a few years back for a bachelor party. The bar is great and the food fit the theme!
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mark June 13, 2009 at 8:36 pm

HOPR was good but not great, I think I liked the creamy horseradish sauce almost as much as the steak!
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foodhoe June 15, 2009 at 9:31 am

cocochanelella, yes my two favorite things were the horseradish and that pudding!
Grace, LOL! There aren’t many places serving yorkshire pudding, but I’ve had it when it was cooked in the pan drippings and that’s even better than au jus
Rowena, I have a few of those $5 posts on the way…
Single guy, yeah I like that they specialize in it. Although I’m still thinking that the prime rib at Morton’s was better.
Mark, I agree and if it weren’t for horseradish, I wouldn’t be very big on prime rib at all. But for the price it’s pretty good.


joe October 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

i dont know, what this reviewer was on, but this place is GREAT….plain and simple. weve been going for 20 years, whenever were in the city, NEVER a bad meal.


Ray December 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

When I visit from Thailand The House of Prime Rib is the first place that I go to for dinner. Great place and it is always an event for me when I eat there.


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