“What keeps me motivated is not the food itself
but all the bonds and memories the food represents.”
Many of my most cherished memories involve the act of eating and quite often those memories don’t involve the food itself. The memories which sweeten most over time invariably involve the people with whom those meals were shared. The act of degustation is infinitely more satisfying and the meals so much more pleasing when shared with loved ones. In part because of the memories it evokes, one restaurant which will always hold a special place in my heart is Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Every visit rekindles memories of my first visit and creates new memories to be revisited and cherished thereafter.
My inaugural visit to Lawry’s occurred on August 31st, 1985 in Chicago, Illinois. I was five hours removed from landing at O’Hare Airport after an exhausting flight from London. Jet lag had set in and neither my thoughts or speech were as coherent as one would want for meeting future in-laws for the first time. The jet lag apparently trumped any nervousness I may have had because my in-laws found me perfectly charming, a worthy catch for their daughter. Over the years, my father-in-law and I grew very close, sharing great conversation, great wine, wonderful food and many loving memories. Lawry’s The Prime Rib deserves some credit.
Fourteen years later–on December 29th, 1999–the entire family gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday at Lawry’s. For a man who had seen and accomplished virtually all he ever set out to do, the outpouring of love came as a very touching and memorable surprise. Four years later, we gathered at Lawry’s once again only this time without him. We were there to celebrate his life, cut short prematurely. Of all the many lessons he taught us, perhaps the most important was that families who share meals together share love.
Lawry’s has been carving out places in the heart and impressing itself upon the memories of countless diners since launching its flagship Beverly Hills restaurant in 1938. Because of its unique ability to create memories, it has spanned generations and survived the onslaught of rigorous competition despite virtually not changing a thing in more than seventy years. If ever there was a “one trick pony” it would be Lawry’s, but this is one pony who does that one thing exceedingly well–better than anyone else has ever done it.
What Lawry’s does–as the name clearly indicates–is serve the very best roasted prime rib of beef conceivable. Sure, it’s an anachronism, but it’s a throwback in the best sense of the word–the sense that implies exceptional service and warm hospitality, a lavish dinner experience, an art deco ambiance and a unique menu so good, it hasn’t had to change much with the times. Lawry’s is about memories and it’s about tradition. It’s about parents and in-laws introducing their children and grandchildren to the sharing of great food and the creation of new memories.
Lawry’s is also about making its guests feel special, as if they all deserve an exceptional dining experience–one that comes to you. Not long after your drink order is taken, an expert carver nattily attired entirely in virginal white wheels a stainless-steel cart to your table where you can select the cut of roast prime rib of beef you want. The prime rib is carved tableside before your very eyes and to your exacting specifications. It’s food porn, a tantalizing visual show that will make your mouth water and arouse your olfactory senses. The beef is dry-aged and roasted with the famous Lawry’s seasoning blend. There is no better beef anywhere!
There’s a prime rib of beef cut for every appetite. They range from the “California Cut,” a smaller cut for lighter appetites, which at about eight-ounces, is still an intimidating hunk of beef to the “Beef Bowl Cut,” a double-sized cut with the rib bone as served annually to the Roast…er, Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl football teams. It’s roughly the size of an air conditioner. The most popular cut is the Lawry cut which probably tips the scales at about twenty-four ounces. As with any prime rib, there’s a bit of marbling here and there, but it only lends to the flawless flavor profile. Lawry’s whipped cream horseradish is as powerful as tear gas so unless you’re into shedding tears with every bite, it may not be for you.
The prime rib dinner includes Lawry’s famous original spinning bowl salad with mixed greens, shredded beets, chopped egg, croutons and a unique dressing you won’t find anywhere else. The salad preparation is unique. Waitresses–attired in an old-fashioned outfit complete with a Nurse Ratchet type hat (cap?)–don’t toss salads; they spin them in a stainless-steel bowl atop a bed of ice. Then with the pomp and ceremony of a knighting, the waitress will present a chilled salad fork so you can apportion the salad onto your plate.
Lawry’s Idaho mashed potatoes are superb–whole potatoes whipped with milk and butter to give them the creaminess diners crave! You can have the mashed potatoes with or without gravy. In either case, they’re standard with your prime rib as is Yorkshire Pudding (not actually a pudding by American standards) which is baked in small skillets until puffy and golden brown. A number of a la carte dinner accompaniments are available: jumbo shrimp cocktail, sizzling skillet of mushrooms, a baked Idaho potato, fresh asparagus, buttered peas, creamed spinach and creamed corn.
The latter two are absolute must haves, reasons by themselves to visit Lawry’s! The creamed spinach (subtly seasoned with spices, bacon, scallion, onion and more than a hint of garlic) might explain Popeye’s affinity for spinach (didn’t Gilligan love it, too?). It is simply outstanding, a buttery-rich tangle of beauteous greens. Be ever vigilant and don’t leave the table or you’ll be risking your dining companion reaching over and taking some. The creamed corn will inspire similar covetousness. It’s sweet, buttery and delicious to the nth degree.
There are other options on the menu including ribeye steak, fresh fish of the day and Atlantic lobster tails, but when in Rome, most do as the Romans do. That means a prime rib of beef dinner you’ll long remember. Now, if you’re thinking that in Las Vegas you can have a prime rib dinner for a pittance at any number of casinos, remember you get what you pay for. In most cases that’s a fatty slab of tough beef prepared by a nameless, faceless cook in the confines of a hectic kitchen. If there are any memories to be gleaned from this experience, they’re bound to be memorable for the wrong reasons.
There are seven items on the dessert, but most diners don’t have room for a post-prandial sweet treat unless they ask the wait staff to box remaining items. The coconut banana cream pie has a rich, butter crust, an old-fashioned vanilla cream center and is loaded with ripe banana slices and topped with a generous amount of toasted coconut. The fact that I’d prefer a second serving of creamed spinach is certainly no indictment of the pie, but a testament as to just how good the creamed spinach is.
Today aside from its Las Vegas, Chicago and Beverly Hills locations, Lawry’s The Prime Rib is creating new memories in Dallas, Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei. Dear memories of my father-in-law revisit me every time we dine at Lawry’s. They’re fond memories of great times we shared at a restaurant we considered our special place.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib
4043 Howard Hughes Parkway
Las Vegas, NV
LATEST VISIT: 9 November 2011
1st VISIT: 31 August 1985
# OF VISITS: 4
BEST BET: Prime Rib, Lobster Tail, Spinning Salad Bowl, Yorkshire Pudding, Idaho Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, Creamed Corn, Banana-Coconut Cream Pie