A cold and foggy night took us to one last meal with our visitors at a location tucked away beside Highway 172 on Oneida Street, Prime Quarter Steakhouse. I’ve been living in Green Bay for a whole year now and never once heard of the location until our visitors mentioned it in passing. A relative of theirs visits every year and reported on a meal where he cooked the steak himself over a fire pit surrounded by community, and at any other time in my life, I would have been very excited to eat there.
Prime Quarter Steakhouse offers a grill your own steak experience with an all you can eat salad bar, texas toast, and baked potatoes. There are many different cuts you can choose from when you get ready to grill, all of which come in at the exact same price. This can be very valuable depending on what kind of steak you choose. Beef prices are on the rise all across the country, and this method can provide an experience for the same price you’d pay on a steak at the grocery store. I, for example, decided to grill my own T-bone steak. A steak that size would have cost me the twenty-seven dollars charged by the restaurant, and it would have only been the steak.
My husband, our friends, and myself took up a little corner at the least populated grill to cook our own steaks over a hot fire, and we had the chance to talk and do what humans do. We’ve long been a species that communes at the fire pit, and the pandemic has robbed us of a great amount of that community. Prime Quarter was comforting in that sense. I can barely remember the last time I had a conversation with a total stranger, much less over food.
The meat was bright pink and of quality even if you turned it over to inspect the other side for oxidization. Plates were provided for your raw meat and your cooked, and any tongs available to you were sanitized at the station. The meal is what you would expect of any standard American Steakhouse. Meat and carbs and a salad drowned in dressing to try to make you feel better about the whole pound of meat you are about to consume. And it was delicious.
Still, the meal itself feels like the least valuable part of the experience even during the pandemic. I won’t remember my steak or how fast my husband ate his own. I’ll remember watching my husband fumble with his tongs and question what he was doing. I’ll remember teaching him to feel for doneness, how to make cross hatches on his meat over the grill. I’ll remember making meat comparisons and size jokes with people I’ll never see again.
And yet, because this is the format that the restaurant is built upon, the meal and the experience are not without their risks. You can of course wear your mask to the grill. Many people other than myself did so-- but not everyone. Restaurant transmission rates of COVID-19 are reported to be very low in actuality, but that doesn’t stop people from being afraid. Being in close proximity around a fifteen foot firepit with a bunch of people you don’t know may not be the best option for people who still want to eat out and yet want to put themselves at as little risk as possible.
You can, of course, pay two extra dollars to have a staff member do it for you. Some of those staff members are around the same fire, so if you aren’t willing to put yourself at that risk, would you ask a staff member to do it instead? I certainly wouldn’t.
I wish that the vaccine were more widely available so that experiences like these could be valued and enjoyed to their fullest again with much less fear and concern on behalf of any participant or hopeful participant. I hope that places like Prime Quarter can survive long enough so that I can share that experience with every serious carnivore that I know. While I am concerned about potential COVID-19 risk in a place where you cook your own steak and serve yourself from an endless salad bar, I do not believe that risk outweighs the value.
If you are a person who wishes to minimize their own risk in every way possible, Prime Quarter isn’t for you-- yet. But it will be. I like to hope the light is at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine being administered all over the country. I like to think that everyone can enjoy themselves at a place like this again.
Prime Quarter has three locations, their Green Bay location being the one that we visited New Years Weekend. If a future visit interests you, consider investing in a gift card to visit after you have been vaccinated, or whenever you feel most comfortable doing so. There is something special about that experience of standing next to a fire with your loved ones, even in a restaurant. Check out their facebook page for more info.