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Prime Quarter

Update: Prime Quarter is closed.

In a word: Better and more fun than you'd think.

The specs: #0498  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, Prime Quarter Steak House on Urbanspoon, kudzu, The Madison Packard; listing at EatDrinkMadison; official web site.

JM and Nichole ate the filet mignon "split-a-steak."
John ate the top sirloin.
We split a piece of pie and had a soft drink.
The bill was $52, or $17.33/person, plus tip.
JM, John and Nichole gave Prime Quarter a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Prime Quarter news and reviews

Prime Quarter is a mini-chain of grill-it-yourself steak joints with locations in Wisconsin and Illinois. The exterior pastel color scheme screams "80's Miami Beach" (thanks for helping us pinpoint the feel, Kyle!) and inside whispers "70's Catholic funeral home," but is decently kept up. John had been to one before, and Nichole was especially skeptical of the whole idea, but we ended up having a decently good time.

Dinners are fixed price: $20 for a steak or piece of fish, baked potato, Texas toast, and salad bar. There's also a "split-a-steak" option for basically $26, a pretty good deal in which two diners get one steak to share and the same unlimited extras as a regular meal. The steaks get bigger as the cuts get cheaper, so each diner can find their own point on the value/quality spectrum. The potatoes and salad bar are slightly less creative than the average supper club, with whipped butter and sour cream for topping the one, and spring greens mix plus a dozen toppings for the other.  Don't expect anything other than the most obvious choices here.

We were huge suckers for the Texas toast, though. Man. Grilled white bread with drawn butter and garlic powder is hard to resist. However, why the bread wasn't Gardner's, which is just down the block, made us Wonder.

But diners aren't here for the frills. Bottom line, the steaks are OK and it's a plus if you like the DIY aspect. We saw one couple taking great care to find a good cut, while most people just grabbed something from the cooler and slapped it down over the coals. It was also quite pleasant to toast our faces when we knew it was 12 degrees outside - had it been July, we'd likely have been grousing about how it would have been easier to grill at home. 

JM and Nichole split a filet mignon, which was kind of high-maintenance on the grill and probably wasn't big enough for the two of us. John's sirloin was more satisfying.

Steak dinnerSteak dinner

We tried the peanut butter cup pie and got deja vu all over again. The pie was as good as it was when we had it at Green Acres (below left). We thought dressing up the mass-produced dessert with an extra squirt of whipped cream was kind of silly, but at least the server hadn't lied about making the pie "from a mix."

Peanut butter cup piePeanut butter cup pie

For ravenous meat eaters or snowbound grill heads, Prime Quarter provides the winter Composite Half of the annual diet. And don't try to go on Father's Day. We bet it's packed.


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I went there for a company party a few years back and really enjoyed the experience and the food. Glad to read you guys enjoyed it as well.

I wasn't at all impressed when I went here. The selection of cuts seemed paltry and the charcoal grill heat didn't jibe with my expectations, leading to a steak nicely charred but way too rare for my liking. The salad bar was weak. Maybe it was due to how busy the place was that night, but the iceberg lettuce was picked over and the toppings weren't much to speak of. I don't like steak that much to begin with, rarely if ever ordering it when dining out, so this place was never close to my wheelhouse from the start.

I was there a couple of months ago on a Saturday night. The heat was broken, so even with all grills going it was freezing back at the table. The fish all looked to be a strange shade of grey, not worth the $20. I opted for the cold salad bar, which at that point matched my disposition, and warmed up to a plain baked potato and a piece of texas toast snatched from a dining companion. It's probably a great dining experience for red-meat eaters. But it left me chilly and hungry.

I remember Prime Quarter being much the same as you described. The rib-eye cuts, IMO, are the best of the cuts they have to offer (or maybe I just lucked out with a good cut - I'd be eager to hear if other rib-eye eaters also had the same good experience with the steak).

A complement on this line:"However, why the bread wasn't Gardner's, which is just down the block, made us Wonder."

The puns you come up with never fail to get me to grin!

My dad used to love this place, but I never understood the appeal (although I'll agree about the Texas toast!). Frankly, it's about the most brilliant restaurant concept I've heard of - people pay you for the privilege of cooking their own food.

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