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Friday, May 3, 2013

The House of Prime Rib

I don't do restaurant reviews, it's not my gig. And I don't happen to think that the House of Prime Rib is in any way related to Pacific Rim BBQ. But, this is more about the reviewer.

When my mom and dad got married, back in the 1950's, they had little in the way of money, but, friends and family came together and gave them a night or two of living extravagantly. A night at the Claremont Hotel, and dinner at the House of Prime Rib. Through the years, especially during the very lean years, my mom would recall the dinner at that restaurant and how luxurious and elegant it was, how everything was so special. She would describe in detail how the meal unfolded and how it felt so special, she would talk about the 'someday' that we would all go there again. That day never came, it seemed that it was always just outside of our grasp, and what little money that did not go to day to day, went to enriching our minds. It remained a gap in my dining card, in some ways, because it was not meant to be my experience alone.

Yesterday, I got a call, around 5pm, that a couple of dining friends had decided that they had to go to the House of Prime Rib. And that I had to go with them. It seemed to be the time. My dining credentials do not want, if it is San Francisco or the East Bay, I am not short on the great food I have eaten, but, this was the hole in my cred. So, I was in, time to see what the experience would be, although, how could it be the same. Modern dining is not the same.

I was wrong. It was as if I had dined there all my life, each phase of the evening unfolded as if I had been there dozens of times, it was as familiar as hearing my mom's voice walking me through the room. From the cocktail mixed and served in the mixing glass, the shaker top still in place, to the salad spun table side and all the way through, each experience was totally familiar. And clearly elevated, in a classic manner, it was beautiful women and handsome men in jackets and trousers, old men in tuxedoes and suits, each catering to the table. The trolley is old, and the design hearkens to mid-Century Art Deco, it might well date to the 1940's. Beautifully cooked Prime Rib, a huge and blemish free baked potato, and an iceberg, beet and egg salad, nothing daring, nothing farm to table, nothing but a classic dinner. I should have worn a suit.

I can imagine how this must have felt to my mom and dad, who grew up on dirt roads in Richmond, California. One day married, eating in this classic dining room, catered to with table side service. The best dining is when you can connect, whether it is with the people you share the table with, or the ghosts of your youth, when the experience feeds your being, and not just your appetite, it becomes something you never forget. I get it now mom.


  1. When i was there, I enjoyed it for the company more than the food (although the food was nice), but connecting with the company in the present certainly is not at all comparable to connecting with the company in the past. And then the nicest thing about your post is that you made me feel like I could see your mom as she dined there.