Sarasota never met a steak house it couldn’t love. Maybe it’s the impact of so many Midwesterners. People in this city will support those budget chain places with their skimpy $15 steak dinners, and they’ll flock to chic cow palaces where wine pairings can surpass the beef tab, which is astronomical on its own.
The new Prime Serious Steak isn’t at either end of the spectrum. Pricewise, it’s right in the middle, just right for people who care about quality but don’t want to raid the rainy-day change jar just to order a sirloin and have a pleasant evening out.
The ambiance aims for middle-class comfort, too. The big room, divided into two dining areas (one with a long granite bar for eating and drinking, either or both), skews mostly masculine with lots of wood, brick, roomy booths and tables, an attractive wine wall and reliance on the color red. The tabletops are metal and the floors are wood. Your placemat is a thick wooden cutting board. The restaurant logo is a blood-red sharp knife. You get the same weapon with dinner, heavy and no-nonsense. You could carve a Thanksgiving turkey with it or kill a wild boar just as easily as slice into your 14-ounce ribeye, priced at $29.
Steak dinners range from an eight-ounce sirloin for $17 up to a 24-ounce porterhouse for $39. The suggested beverage pairing options for the porterhouse are 1554 Black Lager, a Trapiche malbec or an Antique Old Fashioned. A Prime Serious steak burger is $12, and the server will suggest a Jai Alai IPA to complement the hand-held beef.
With your steak you get salad—composed tableside—and one side dish. For an upcharge you have a choice of 10 sauces, including the traditional Béarnaise or sautéed mushrooms. If you want aged bleu cheese, plan to spend an additional $5. Plenty of side dish options can enhance your steak. Some of the choices: wild rice, mac n’ cheese, creamed spinach, garlic-Parmesan mashed potatoes, steak fries, steamed broccoli and Hasselback baked potatoes—which are baked, then scored and deep-fried, making the skin potato-chip crunchy.
Besides steaks, the menu comes through with chops (pork, lamb and veal), surf-and-turf specialties such as filet mignon and Maine lobster tail for $44, baked stuffed chicken at $18 or six different seafood dishes. Appetizers range from $6 for pub-style onion soup to Ocean City crab cakes ($14) to crispy calamari at $9.50.The kitchen does a lovely job with prime rib; it’s rich and beefy-flavorful, with enough fat to announce what you’re eating. A 12-ounce prime rib dinner is $24, but there’s limited daily availability, so it pays to be an early bird eater when you crave prime rib. And chef does beef Wellington. It’s nice to see a place other than haute gourmet kitchens feature this classic presentation of pastry-wrapped filet mignon with a layer of mushroom duxelle. It’s $35 and worth it.
Popovers come with your dinner—a genius idea. You don’t see them on many menus here, and they looked high, proud and beautiful in the muffin pan. But they need to arrive hot from the oven, or they taste like soggy cardboard, which unfortunately ours, which were cold by the time they arrived, did.
There’s a lot of hard surface in the building, and at peak hours Prime Serious Steak is noisy. But it’s a good kind of noisy, with people enjoying each other’s company and the food in front of them. There’s even a butcher shop located in the entrance foyer. You can request your own custom cut, but only for steaks over 16 ounces.
Prime Serious Steak is on its way to being a chain. The original restaurant is in Port Charlotte, and this one at Westfield Sarasota Square follows the formula in both design and menu.
Desserts average $7 and feature familiar sweets such as bread pudding, chocolate lava cake, ice cream and sorbet.
If you eat what you order from the main menu, it’s hard to imagine having room for dessert; but if you do, you’ll be satisfied because the food at Prime Serious in all categories, from lobster bisque to salted caramel cheesecake, is good and priced right for the experience you’re buying.