By Jim Tabilio –

A couple of things. I’m not a big beef guy. Hardly ever cook it at home, order it out even less and then mostly in burger form. But every once in awhile, I want a big hunk of rare, top-quality beef cooked by someone who knows what they’re doing.

So I went back to the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco recently, mostly out of nostalgia for the days when I watched Congressman Phil Burton there night after night. It was his unofficial headquarters as he gerrymandered the heck out of California on the back of a starched white napkin, while waving a Flintstones-size prime rib bone as he reassured nervous elected officials that they were “in your father’s arms.”

The look of the HOPR has changed a lot. The dark British men’s club ambience has given way to a more couple-friendly light atmosphere that doesn’t quite match the food. Because the food hasn’t changed at all.

Waitresses still spin the salad and it’s still cold and excellent despite the hokey presentation. They still include beets whether you want them or not. The main course is still prime slow-cooked standing ribs of beef, wheeled to your table in a Goodyear blimp cart and carved to your specifications by a guy in a toque. Small, medium and large on the bone are the choices.

There are, incredibly, complimentary seconds on the beef. Yorkshire pudding on the side, with au jus. You can replace the standard mashed potatoes with an enormous baked version with butter/sour cream/chives if you’re afraid you haven’t quite hit calorie overload. Add a couple of martinis or Jack Daniel’s on the rocks, skip the creamed spinach and mundane desserts and you’ve had a perfect old-time beef experience.

And the weird part is it’s still great. So bring the Lipitor and take the seconds.

House of Prime Rib is located at 1906 Van Ness Ave., in San Francisco. Phone number is (415) 885-4605. Web site is

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