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Apr 30, 2009 12:37 PM

Prime Rib in Baltimore

It's difficult to think of a reason why one should review a restaurant that's been essentially the same since 1965. Iif Chowhound had existed since the 60s I'm sure the reviews wouldn't vary that much. But my girlfriend and I had such a fine time at The Prime Rib last Friday that it deserves mention. Both of us have been under some stress lately, and needed an experience that could whisk us away for a few hours. This place delivered, and then some.

Dressed in our best clothing (she looked stunning, I looked presentable, but met their jackets required dress code), we took a cab from Federal Hill to the restaurant. Our cab showed up a bit earlier than we'd called for, so we ended up arriving about 40 minutes ahead of our reservation, since we'd already planned time for a drink at the bar.

Arriving, we stepped from the waning light outside into the dark interior. The maitre'd was on the phone, and as we walked by I accidentally stepped on his foot. Taking our places at the bar, we ordered two Sapphire martinis straight up. I left my girlfriend with our drinks while I went to both notify the maitre'd of our arrival and apologize for stepping on his foot. He actually tried to apologize to me for the incident, and said that our table would be ready for us at our convenience. It set the stage for the service over the course of the evening -- friendly but not familiar, attentive to our needs almost before we became aware of them, and professional in every aspect. I wouldn't hesitate to choose this for special occasions in the future solely based on the attentions of the staff -- they go out of their way to guarantee that your evening goes well.

I'm a Sapphire martini fan, and the drinks we had were absolutely perfect. I'm not sure I've ever had a better example of this old school drink -- in fact I'd go back just for that. The evening was starting off in style.

After finishing our drinks I notified the maitre'd that we were ready for our table. We were escorted into the back room and given menus and water. The place is charming -- all black and gold and leopard skin carpet, with a three piece combo (piano, bass and saxophone) providing dinner music, amazingly at a volume that still encouraged conversation.

The Prime Rib is not the place for locally sourced, seasonal ingredients presented in creative fashion. It's a place for beef and seafood perfectly cooked and served in a traditional manner.

We started by sharing an escargot appetizer, which the waiter very kindly spit for us. Perfect snails in a garlicky butter sauce that was so tasty that once we finished the snails we sopped up the rest of it in the very good house bread.

I chose the crab cakes as my entree, while my girlfriend went with the signature prime rib. The crab cakes deserve a spot on any list of Baltimore's best -- jumbo lump cakes broiled to a perfect golden brown that let the sweetness of the crab shine. While they don't follow the new practice of listing their sources on the menu, it's obvious that they take care in the ingredients, and it was most definitely not Asian crab.

Her prime rib was an amazing piece of meat -- roasted medium rare, it was peppery and delicious. It was also huge -- nearly 2" thick and covering the plate. It's something everyone who likes good beef needs to try at least once in their life.

Sides are extra. We choose beautifully grilled artichoke hearts and potatoes au gratin -- the only dish of the evening that wasn't absolutely fantastic. It was good, but not amazing.

We shared a bottle of a quite good malbec -- unfortunately I can't remember what it was and it doesn't appear on their online wine list.

For dessert we shared a piece of key lime pie, while my girlfriend had a glass of Fonesca 20 yr. Tawny port. Our waiter also brought us more water while he called us a cab for the ride home. A perfect end to a spectacular meal.

When one is spending around $250 on a meal, you expect to be treated like royalty. The Prime Rib delivers. Their staff and chefs are old hands at making a special occasion truly special.

Your food may not be plated creatively or drizzled with innovative sauces, but it's solid food cooked perfectly and served with style. It's the perfect place to take that special someone when you want them to be treated as special indeed. It's like stepping into another time, a time you never want to end.

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  1. Great review Jon, thats a place I have been meaning to get back to for years now!

    1. Great review. I was there a couple of years ago and loved it. It is such a cozy, dark and intimate space. I too had the prime rib and crab cakes. Nothing edgy but spot on, just about perfect for what it is. There are reasons, both good and bad, that places become institutions and survive for years. I think the Prime Rib survives for the right reasons and I hope it continues to flourish. It reminds me a little of Keen's Steak House in NYC which has been around for 100 years or more and is still great.

      1. Jon,
        There is a reason for longevity!!!! Great potato skins????

        1. Jon, I love this place and so glad you were able to go there for some pampering with C.!

          I love it in DC and I love it in Philadelphia, and I love it in Baltimore. You picked my two favorite entrees too. Those crabcakes are amazing. Their potato skins are divine too; if you go back again, try them. (As you said, things don't change much so they're likely to be on the menu forever.) You didn't mention it, but the seating is ultra-comfy, deep leather seats, and they've been known to bring a soft pillow for your back if you need one.

          1. Really enjoyed your review. I first went to the Prime Rib in the early '70's with my girl friend at the time who lived near Moravia and Sinclair. She had insisted that it was either there or Danny's or Tio Pepe for her Birthday and, I thought the Prime Rib was the best choice. (Another alternative was the Pimlico Hotel where she had "hung out" before meeting me but, for those reading this, that is a whole different story for another time!!!) I should also mention that it was also one of the first places that I ever wore a tie to! Still, tie or not, we absolutely loved it!!!

            Great to know that in thirty + years it still delivers a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing. A pleasure to read.