Twenty nine days from now is Valentine's Day. I tried Maestro and was told they have been booked up for quite a while, in fact Friday and Saturdays now are booked up three to four weeks in advance. I called Obelisk which has 36 seats and historically has been a difficult reservation. No luck. Then I called the Prime Rib.
The Prime Rib is arguably D. C.'s "swankiest" restaurant-coat and tie for men have been mandatory since it opened in 1976 when I first went, having averaged at least one if not two visits per year since. It's bar is famous for Congressmen and their "younger constituents" (even of not so neighboring states). But overall it is a real production and a genuine special occasion restaurant which ranks among D. C.'s best and most enduring.
I will never go there again.
I was told that for Valentine's Day they need a credit card to guarantee the reservation. That, of course, is not a problem. Then I was told they have three seatings: 5:00PM, 7:00PM and 9:00PM. Does this mean that they are staggering the seatings so that people don't arrive all at once? No, it means that you come at 5, 7 or 9 and get out, one hundred dollars plus per person later, after two hours because someone else is waiting for your table.
Two hour limit. A two hour limit to dine and spend $100 plus per person at the Prime Rib on Valentine's Day.
Usually when my wife and I go to dinner we are gone within two hours; in fact often if it's just the two of us we'll be gone in an hour and a half. But KNOWING that we HAVE to be gone no longer than two hours after we sit down, on Valentine's Day, is for me just too much. It is the absolute pinnacle of greed that I think is a terribly poor business decision that will hurt this restaurant for a long time to come. A group of six or eight will NOT be gone in two hours. Two couples dining together, depending on service, may stay somewhat longer. Those expecting a table at their appointed time will be forced to wait as a result. I don't know if they've done this in the past but it's an outrage that they think they can treat people like this. Three turnovers at one hundred dollars plus per person with a two hour limit and then, you're gone. Are they going to walk up to the table and ask you to leave? A table for eight which could have a bill for $1,000 plus for the group... and they should be gone aftr two hours? Really. I'd like to be there when they ask them to leave because they have another party waiting.
Two turnovers are understandable. Perhaps 6:00 and 9:00, even 6:30 and 9:00. But to expect guests in an expensive upscale restaurant, celebrating a special "swanky" occasion, to be mindful of the clock and leave in an artificially shorted time just to accomodate the restaurant and allow three turnovers-that's too much.
I won't go back. If I can't go to a restaurant (regardless of whether it was my first choice or not) on Valentine's Day and not feel pressured to leave then I don't feel that any other day is appropriate either. Again I'm not talking about three or four hours at the table. I'm talking about a LIMIT of two hours and then...be gone!
In a slowing econcoy there are many places in this city to spend $200 plus for two people at dinner. Because of greed on the Prime Rib's part I have just eliminated one.