Not Ready for Prime Time

Newcomer G.F. Prime Steakhouse promises a lot but doesn’t deliver.

Early into our dinner at G.F. Prime Steakhouse, a question arose. My inquisitive dining buddy took one look at a plate of peel-and-eat shrimp, surveyed the dining room, and asked me why a person would spend money to convert space, hire staff, buy inventory, acquire a liquor license, and then pile six fishy “jumbo” shrimp on a plate and garnish it with a lemon wedge that was obviously cut days before. How could that person expect to make money?

I don’t know the answer to that very good question. But I do know that chef-owned-and-operated restaurants stand a better chance because you know the owner is going to control the food coming in and out of the kitchen. And I don’t care how good the service or atmosphere is, if you can’t deliver what you promise, you’re done.

The folks at G.F. Prime Steakhouse not only need to pay attention to the little details like the telltale lemon wedge, but they also need to deliver what the name implies. Silly me for thinking I was entering a steakhouse devoted to Prime beef. No, the steaks are Choice—like the meat sold at Tom Thumb across the street. The name comes from their five signature styles of prime rib.
The décor is as confusing as the name. Think ’80s gay bar gone bad: thick plaster walls bear a copper faux finish over blue paint. Ornate glass vases abound. Squiggling blue halogen track lights hang from the ceiling to accent weird, mismatched contemporary “art.”

On our first visit, our waitress was extremely knowledgeable about the menu. She knew the cuts of meat, the style of cooking, and the sauce details. She urged us to try the prime rib sampler appetizer, which turned out to be the highlight of all of our dining experiences at the restaurant. The perfectly pink meat came with different toppings: classic (horseradish), Southwestern (corn-and-bean relish with chipotle sauce), Cajun (shrimp and Cajun seasoning), tropical (pineapple and coconut), and Asian (soy and ginger with orange marmalade). I couldn’t imagine eating more than one bite of the pineapple and coconut, but the bite of Southwestern whet my appetite, and I ordered a larger piece for an entrée. Ordered medium-rare, it was served medium-well, and there was a pool of chipotle sauce choking the meat. A 14-ounce strip steak was average as expected. A little seasoned salt would have helped the tired beef, but nothing could have saved the dry spinach casserole that scratched its way down our throats.

We saved room for what our waitress claimed was the “best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.” We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt because she is young and we’ve had more time to eat cake, but the bundt cake she delivered, although chocolaty and moist, didn’t come close to qualifying as the “best.”

On our follow-up visit, we asked our new waitress the same questions about the menu we’d asked the first waitress. This time,  we got different answers. She told us all the steaks were Prime. The prime rib sampler still provided a nice start, but the aforementioned peel-and-eat shrimp were fishy, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many plates that dry lemon wedge had already garnished. The Caesar salad was limp with sour dressing. The barbecue pork ribs were an enormous portion—a full rack—and were actually quite good.

The Preston Royal neighborhood is a prime location for a medium-priced steakhouse. Owner Tim Georgeff, who also owns Le Rendezvous, has invested heavily in the area. But he had better get his act together or else he’ll have to figure out how he’s going to sell off those light fixtures to recover his losses. 5950-A Royal Ln. 214-750-4520. $$-$$$.

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