Review: House of Prime Rib in SF

My time in America so far has been well spent not only with some great company but also over some great food and I'm quite certain I'm currently pushing my weight to the most it's ever been...

But! It's ok. I'll work it off once I return to Korea (so I've been telling myself) and in the meantime, I'm really relishing the glorious dishes I've been happily stuffing myself with.

Early on in my trip my roommate, his sister and I all converged in San Francisco (they direct from Korea, me from Portland) where we began the first leg of our so-called "west coast" tour.

On our first night there, our brudda from anotha motha, Mr. Sam (who was also graciously hosting us in SF) made advanced reservations to the famous House of Prime Rib where we gorged ourselves on some no frill and shrills but quality cuts of beef and fixings which I'm happily recalling and writing about in this post.

Here, for years, HOPR has been serving aged and marbled cuts of the best prime rib (they even proclaim on their site it's the top 2% beef available) done simply in a traditional English style and the place is a happening establishment for dinner on any night of the week.

Located in Nob Hill, just looking on the ho-hum exterior of the place one might even pass by thinking it's a tavern..

HOPR in SF and... some silly tourist who got in the picture? :P

Inside you'll immediately hear a roar of chatter all around and the smell of beef wafting about unpretentiously in the air as waiters zip by. A full-serviced bar is also located here and I've heard good stuff about the martini here but I didn't get to try it out. 

Look in one of the rooms

The waiters were quite busy, each having quite a few tables to manage so if you're a stickler on that (or just plain needy) you should know beforehand of this but that the waiters are doing the best they can. Our waiter, as busy as he was, was very friendly and did his best to be informative and pleasant throughout the meal. 

Our menu


Prime rib cuts

And all the included fixings

So as you can see, the prime rib not only can be ordered how you want it cooked but also in the manner you want your cut. No matter which cut you order though, it comes with a generous array of accompaniments with the salad and baked potato even prepared at the table. 

In addition to a wine list and other drinks, you can also choose between regular water or seltzer water at no extra charge. 

The serious-looking knife for your beef

The first accompaniment that came out was the salad held within a huge metal salad bowl inside a bigger bowl of ice. Included in the salad were greens, shredded beets, carrots, hard boiled eggs and other goods. The waiter then took a container of dressing and then proceeded to pour it into the salad bowl right after giving the salad bowl a spin, in true dramatic fashion, so everything was coated evenly, before tossing. He then took each of our salad plates and gave heaping servings to everyone. 

Salad before dressing and tossing

Salad after

The house dressing is akin to a thousand island dressing and was delish. Definitely not a diet salad and the dressing was rich but still good. If you're looking to lighten your salad up though, you may want to tell your waiter beforehand to go a bit easy on the dressing. Personally, I think even half the huge bowl of salad dressing would have been more than plenty for the salad.

Up next came the warm cornbread stick. Delicious, as cornbread always is, but just your standard cornbread.


Each patron can choose between a mash with gravy or baked potato and I chose the baked potato which I was happy I did. The steaming hot potato was cut and prepared at the table once more by our waiter with toppings you can choose from including butter, sour cream, chives, bacon bits, etc. 

Now that's a true loaded potato

Finally arriving was the true star of the meal- the prime rib. 

The various cuts available here are: 
The city cut- basically a "smaller" (still huge) cut for those with a lighter appetite
The English cut- for those who prefer thinner sliced cuts
House of Prime Rib cut- Those who like the thicker slices and bigger portion
King Henry VIII cut- for those who would basically like to eat a small calf

My friends and I all basically got different cuts (except for the Henry VIII but we weren't looking to wheel one of us out on a stretcher that night, that's fo sho) and here they are presented in pictures...

City Cut

House of Prime Rib Cut

English Cut

Closeup of my English cut and all the delicious juices...

Another city cut but more rare

All the meats come from these huge carts with stainless steel covers in each room/section of the restaurant. The carts houses the huge chunks of meat that have been cooked to perfection (and varying levels of done-ness). 

Cutting into my prime rib was an experience in itself; virtually no work is needed on your part as your knife simply glides through the succulent beef and the pools of rich, beefy broth do a swirl of juicy goodness around your beef. 

And the taste? Ohhhhh... the taste.... The moment that first bit of prime rib touched my tongue I'm sure my taste receptors had an initial few seconds of sensory breakdown from the sheer overload of happiness. Such a juicy, tender and fresh tasting bit of beef. Each bite seemed juicier than before and I swear my teeth had minimal work to do as the prime rib practically melted in your mouth.

With the beef came a trio of horseradishes as condiments with three varying levels of heat. With just a dab of horseradish on the side, HOPR is one of those places where one simply cannot deny what one is eating is some good quality stuff.


You're also given options between creamed spinach, creamed corn or even ask for a combination of the two as one of the accompaniments. I can't say either of these sides really worked for me. Even though I'm a fan of spinach, the creamed spinach especially wasn't my cup of tea as it just tasted overwhelmingly like wilty, soggy spinach.

The Yorkshire pudding was also nothing I found spectacular but then again, I'm no Brit so I can't really compare them with the real deal. But they worked just fine to sop up the beef juices.

Yorkshire pudding

I should say for those are ever planning a visit, I think knowing what sort of cut you want in advance can really make a difference for your meal here. I'm a big fan of beef but I'm not as carnivorous as my other friends so my thinner-sliced English cuts worked real well for me and gave me a perfect way to balance out the rich meat with the sharp horseradish for each bite.

Sampling my friend's thicker House of Prime Rib cut, the meat was just as excellent but I know if I had ordered such a thick slab the prime rib would have been less enjoyable as time went on with my satisfaction going down and my level of queasiness going up with each bite. For my meat-loving friend however, he was more than pleased with his big ol' HOPR cut.  

If I am to come around next time, I think I may opt for the smaller city cut as my appetite (sadly) isn't what it used to be in its prime. Nowadays what I think I can handle in terms of amount of eating is actually a lot less than what my stomach is now capable of. The city cut, despite being the smallest cut for adults, is by no means a "small" cut and I think would have still left me stuffed but not to the point I needed to loosen my belt a buckle like my English cut did. 

You can also order fish here (but you must be crazy to order fish at a prime rib house) and dessert. Absolutely no room for any of us for dessert however so I can't comment on them. 

Food talk aside, noise levels can be quite deafening so I wouldn't recommend you take a first date here or your grandparents in town. But a nice group dinner with friends, a birthday dinner, etc would probably be a more fitting setting... provided none of your party members are vegetarians/vegans.

For the quality in beef and everything else you get, I think it's easily worth its price and I can see why HOPR has long been a happening place. Now how can I convince them to open a branch in Seoul? 

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Address: 1906 Van Ness Avenue (between Washington and Jackson) in Nob Hill

Phone Number: 415-885-4605 (they accept reservations by phone and online)

Parking: Valet

Alcohol: Served including wine, cocktails, etc. Apparently the martinis here are quite the bees knees.

Informative tip: For those that are really hungry (or just really wanting to get their money's worth) if you finish your prime rib and find you've still got some more room for the beef, you can let your waiter know and they'll bring another (albeit smaller) cut. 

My hat is off to those of you who can do this because all four of us at dinner that night definitely were not able to do so!