If you’ve ever dined at an organic, vegetarian restaurant, think of the L.A. institution called Lawry’s the Prime Rib as the exact opposite. Thousands of the faithful who couldn’t care less about organic, vegetarian, carrot juice, cholesterol levels, portion size or PETA, pay regular homage at this ultimate shrine to carnivores. As a nonmeat eater, invited there to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I was determined to approach the place with an open mind, in much the same slightly guilt-ridden way that a monk who’s decided to give up his vow of chastity might accept an invitation to Paris Hilton’s Valentine’s Day bash.

The place is truly awe inspiring, the Disneyland of restaurants. But unlike that ride at Disneyland, when you’re at Lawry’s It’s a Large World After All. The dining rooms are huge and ornate, done up in the traditional English Georgian and Edwardian styles, which is a welcome change of pace from the traditional Denny’s and Coco’s styles to which I’d grown accustomed. Giant, expensive, classic oil paintings adorn the walls. Actually, the paintings are just hanging on the walls, but when the art is that old and costly, one is required by law to use the word “adorn.”

Lawry’s the Prime Rib was founded in 1938 by Lawrence L. Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, who dreamed of creating a restaurant that would specialize in serving only one dinner entree. Wisely deciding that squid tartare would probably not capture the hearts and stomachs of California, they settled on the standing ribs of beef they’d been served Sundays in their boyhood homes. Not the exact ribs, of course, since those had already been served and eaten decades earlier. It was plain to these men of vision that new ribs would have to be cooked and served.

Careful selection

Every standing rib roast is carefully selected by Lawry’s meat experts. The roasts not chosen are then farmed out to lesser restaurants, with many of those roasts requiring therapy to deal with the rejection. The chosen roasts are dry-aged 14 to 21 days for natural tenderness, then roasted to perfection on a bed of rock salt. After a dip in the Jacuzzi and a pedicure, the roasts are ready to be presented in Lawry’s specially designed “silver” serving carts. The carts are actually hammered out of stainless steel, but are referred to as “silver,” in much the same way that McDonald’s refers to its hamburgers as “meat.”


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