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The Gatekeepers: Bernd Gerwig, House of Prime Rib

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This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite dining destinations.
Jennifer Yin, 6/13/08

In the Venn diagram of San Francisco restaurants, not many cross into the territory of the House of Prime Rib: institution, red meat haven, special occasion destination, and hotspot. To get an idea of the conviviality and camaraderie that keeps the regulars coming back, consider that the powers that be at House of Prime Rib thought it only fair that the entire front of house staff be included in our photo. That there's old school family hospitality. Anyway, alongside his colleagues, here's what manager Bernd Gerwig had to say:

Let's start with the basics. How many seats are at the restaurant? And which are your favorites? 260 seats, all of them are great, many have a special atmosphere. 8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? Without a reservation, two hours Is there anything I can say or offer to make my wait shorter? While we won't accept gifts, we are happy to take a tip from you on your way out, after you had a great experience.

Tell us about your favorite customers. Any celebs been by recently? We have many regulars, who have become friends over the course of the years and who are very special to us. As far as celebs go: Bryant Young, Alex Smith, Brian Giles, Eric Heitman, Josh Banks, Ron Owens, John York, Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, Carson Daly, Jeremy Newberry, Willie Brown, and so on, and so on, and so on.

How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? We seat them in our new wine room. ...the owner's friends? Every customer is the owner's friend!

What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? We put a diamond ring in the dessert for a proposal. ...that you couldn't accommodate? Unfortunately we can't bake cakes for special occasions.

With a such a classic menu and vibe, does the House of Prime Rib ever make any changes in the kitchen? While our menu stays essentially the same, we are always looking to improve our product. What do you love most about working here? The people, the family feel of our restaurant, my co-workers and the relationships I have developed with the guests.

What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? A genuine and warm smile.

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