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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Highland Tap

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Welcome to meat-lovers Friday here on Food & More.

For today’s installment of 30 Restaurants in 30 Days I decided to revisit an old-time favorite to try a specific dish that I often recommend but have never tried.

Let me explain.

In my job as a restaurant writer I get certain emails over and over again:

  • “Help, it’s my wife’s 40th birthday.”
  • “What restaurants are open on Christmas?”
  • “What’s a good quiet restaurant where we can dine without screaming?”
  • “Where can I go for prime rib in Atlanta?”

For that last one, I’ve always had a stock answer: Highland Tap. As once-ubiquitous prime rib has become less popular over the years, this basement-level bar and tavern in Virginia-Highland has been going strong — feeding Atlantans slabs of rosy beef since the 1980’s.

Have I tried it? No, which I’m sure to explain as I tell readers of Highland Tap’s reputation. I don’t think I’ve eaten prime rib in 20 years myself.

So the time had come, and here it is: the 14-ounce “King Cut” because if I’m going to break a 20-year drought, I’m not settling for no 10-ounce “Queen Cut.”

I loved the spicy rub, and the first few tender bites. I got a little bored with it after sawing off a few pieces of the ribeye proper and the chewier but more flavorful ribeye cap (spinalis dorsi, as you might sometimes see it on menus). I’m not a huge roast beef fiend. I’d rather have a charred steak, but that’s me.

Or maybe a lot of us, judging by how few restaurants now serve roast beef or prime rib. In a restaurant setting, the kitchen must invest in an expensive combitherm oven (The Alto Shaam is the classic brand) that cooks then holds the beef at the right temperature to keep it pink, rare and juicy.

Are you a roast beef fiend? Where do you go? I’d love to hear.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

40 comments Add your comment

Lorenzo

July 26th, 2013
12:29 pm

Highland Tap is EXACTLY where I would go for prime rib in Atlanta. I enjoy prime rib at least as much as I enjoy steak, maybe because the traditional horseradish cream sauce and au jus make it a unique meat experience. I probably treat myself to prime rib once a year or so. Highland Tap makes a good burger, too.

Steve

July 26th, 2013
1:03 pm

Last time I went I thought the place was dumpy and dirty.

East Lake Ira

July 26th, 2013
1:10 pm

The Tap is good but I prefer Houston’s for Prime Rib.

Don’t get me wrong, the Tap rocks – especially the bar on a Sunday for brunch – but Houston’s is better for the Prime Rib IMHO.

Random Wine Geek

July 26th, 2013
1:15 pm

The ribeye cap is the spinalis dorsi, not the teres major, which is a shoulder tender or petit tender.

John

July 26th, 2013
1:19 pm

I would go to ATL, catch BA to LHR, and head for Simpson’s-in-the Strand.

John Kessler

July 26th, 2013
1:28 pm

Thanks, Wine Geek! My random access memory had a cross circuit. It’s fixed. Happy weekend!

Joyce Ann

July 26th, 2013
2:05 pm

The best prime rib I’ve had in recent memory was at Stoney River in Duluth. Cooked perfectly, wonderfully seasoned.

Eric

July 26th, 2013
2:13 pm

This restaurant is awesome. The steak medallions with a shrimp and mushroom caps is great. The Warm Honey Bacon Dressing is Awesome. Never have had a bad meal there.

Grasshopper

July 26th, 2013
2:47 pm

Will they throw it on the grill for you for a few minutes? I’ve had prime rib that way before. I love the char too.

Baltisraul....

July 26th, 2013
5:17 pm

My vote for best PR in and around Atl. Have not tried Stony River PR but Joyce Ann painted a nice picture.

Art

July 26th, 2013
5:22 pm

JK, when you’ve made the recommendation in the past, did you tell the inquiring person that you’d never been but had heard it was good? Just curious. I’ve found good prime rib at Village Tavern in Alpharetta and at my dining room table at Christmastime.

Jerry

July 26th, 2013
7:44 pm

For the good prime rib – certainly not to Tap. It is obvious from the picture that the “roast” is pre-cooked crayovaced product, just heated in the oven to serving temperature. Same color from end to end?

Got the same kind at Chicago Restaurant (East Cobb) Coming back there few years later, remembering the great prime rib they used to serve, what a bummer!

Unfortunately, more and more places resort to this junk. It may be more economical, but to me it’s a sham.

Does anyone remember old-fashioned real roast, jus from actual drippings, with or no bone? That used to be the standard at any semi-decent steak house.

Soupy Sales

July 27th, 2013
12:54 pm

To me, Highland Tap represents an endangered species of restaurant – - the local steak/chops/lobster joint. There are still plenty of those places around, but they seem to mostly be part of national chains these days, and expense account occasions to boot. The other good local examples (Bones, Chops) specialize in steaks, and are also prohibitively pricy. Tap is one of the few less-expensive alternatives available (though it’s not cheap). On a side note, Tap has – - to me – - THE best martini in Atlanta. They serve it to you with a side beaker of the drink nestled in ice, so it’s really two for the price of one. Extra olives to boot.

Lane Wells

July 27th, 2013
1:26 pm

Meat much too raw for family and me ~

Baltisraul....

July 27th, 2013
1:41 pm

Lane Wells……I believe that is what PR is supposed to look like when cooked properly.

Baltisraul....

July 27th, 2013
1:44 pm

Jerry…..I agree but to get PR like you suggest we will have to make it in our own kitchens.

Rick

July 27th, 2013
8:27 pm

Cherokee Cattle has a great prime rib and there house dressing is wonderful.

Dan

July 27th, 2013
8:35 pm

Jerry, the same color end-to-end is indicative of perfectly slow-cooked beef. Sous-vide ends up the same way. If your prime rib has gray edges, you’ve cranked the heat up too much. I always do my Christmas standing rib roast at 200 degrees until 120 internal. Then crank up the heat to 550 to sear the roast for 8 minutes.

Jerry

July 27th, 2013
10:55 pm

Sorry Dan, I don’t want sous-vide or slow-cooked roast. One wants to keep the juices inside, with a good sear to start with. That’s why the best PR is done by using USDA choice #107 cut, with bones and “deckel”. All the seasonig and rub goes under the deckel and the layer of fat and bones protects the meat from overcooking, nice brown edges around notwithstanding. If you give it 20 min. rest before carving (keeps cooking while “resting”), it’s a joy…Oh, did I forget popovers…

Trust me, the stuff on the picture and what you get in most places nowadays is what I described previously. Very chewy, too.

Marvin

July 28th, 2013
12:16 am

Tell me you are kidding… Otherwise, you are a paid food wank. This place is a filthy dump that is at best, comparable to the offerings found barrios in third world nations.

Glenn

July 28th, 2013
1:11 pm

Highland Tap has a unique character that has no rival in Atlanta, and the menu, in many respects, is a step back in time. For example, my wife and I enjoy sitting at the bar for a apetizer of Escargot and Carpaccio, both of which appear on fewer menus these days. I have had a decent Prime Rib at Hightland Tap, but I would not recommend it as the best in the metro. Houston’s (West Paces) and Aspen’s (East Cobb), for example, both deliver a far superior Prime Rib.

crackbaby

July 28th, 2013
2:24 pm

JK – Last prime rib for me was at Cabernet. Real jus, pretty decent. Probably geographically unacceptable for you ITP folks.

Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of PR – interesting and flavorful around the edges but nothing thrilling in vast middle.

WDE

July 28th, 2013
3:10 pm

Had a lot of good times and good RB at the Tap…Marvin you need to unkink your panties.

Byron

July 28th, 2013
3:14 pm

Isn’t the cap on a rib eye also called the “Deckle” cut? It was on an episode of Chopped and is on several menus, including Macintosh in Charleston.

Jack P

July 28th, 2013
5:00 pm

UGH! I prefer my prime cooked. This isn’t even appetizing to look at. No thanks.

Trish

July 28th, 2013
5:55 pm

Don’t laugh but we love the prime rib at The Colonnade

123steve

July 28th, 2013
9:52 pm

The Highland Tap took a hard left in the wrong direction a long time ago. I used to live walking distance from it. The staff, particularly behind the bar, is rude, and they’re stupid enough to think their obnoxious behavior lends charm to the place. I had a good experience with prime rib there one time. I made the mistake of trying to repeat that experience two more times, to no avail. The second time I had to send my meal back. That’s not something I do lightly. I spent over thirty years in the hotel/restaurant business and I can tell you that the tap is seedy, dirty and long past it’s prime.

Baltisraul....

July 29th, 2013
9:59 am

Trish…….almost forgot about the Colonnade. Thanks for the reminder.

(the other) Rodney

July 29th, 2013
10:06 am

@Trish – I have a friend from Chattanooga that comes into town on Sunday nights for work periodically and she makes me take her to Colonnade for prime rib each time. :)

As for Highland Tap, I like it. I’ve always liked it. Maybe because it’s dark and I can’t see what’s around me, I don’t know. But that corner (with La Tavola) gets a lot of my dollars.

toybuilt

July 29th, 2013
12:30 pm

It’s like a wine sommelier not having any cabernet sauvignon for 20 years, but gets paid to critique and talk about all wine. What a job!

Bacchus

July 29th, 2013
1:15 pm

HT is always good for a burger or steak, or salmon, but never had their PR. Looks good, but I don’t want to turn my dining experience into a bloody beef-induced catatonia. I eat there a couple of times a year. Bar staff can be “brisk” or downright rude – go for the martini with a sidecar, but anything else, I’d go upstairs to Fontaine’s.

pilgreen

July 29th, 2013
1:24 pm

The best prime rib in this area can be found on Thursday nights at Crossroads Grille in Flowery Branch.
Jim N Nicks also has simply awesome smoked prime rib on Friday and Saturday nights, (at least at their Cumming location). Both of these are priced below $20 for a 12 ounce cut.

Mark

July 29th, 2013
4:20 pm

Chicago’s – in East Cobb at Johnson Ferry at Shallowford. Certainly best OTP Prime Rib in the metro area.

Jerry

July 30th, 2013
12:03 pm

Sorry Mark, back in late nineties they served real PR. But if you like pre-cooked, cryovaced, loaded with additives for the color PR, knock yourself out. And let’s not forget tenderlizer to make it at least chewable.

Daisy

July 30th, 2013
1:22 pm

Joey D’s Oak Room has very good prime rib, with a nice sear on it. I am not a huge fan of most of their menu, but the prime rib is a good choice.

arlene

July 30th, 2013
5:31 pm

I love prime rib; used to like it at Steak and Ale. But you do have a choice of doneness; I don’t like rare and I don’t want it well done. It doesn’t have to be almost raw to be enjoyable. Oh, Mortons has a good prime rib also.

Real Meat Man

July 30th, 2013
6:03 pm

Accusing the Tap of using pre-cooked, cryovac beef is an offense that cannot stand! Happy to see the work of refuting this slander and exposing the prime rib ignorance of the offender has already done.

Jerry

July 31st, 2013
12:45 pm

Real Meat Head – ignorance be with you. It’s either the cryovac or Tap does not know how to cook a real roast. Why don’t you ask them? Peace be with you…

Real Meat Man

July 31st, 2013
3:51 pm

The Tap is cooking a “real” roast, and they are doing it perfectly. The roast is kept as close to 120 degrees as possible. At 120 degrees, enzymes in the meat break down and tenderize the roast. Cooked at that low temperature, the roast has an even, rose hue from end to end. It takes a specialized oven and a long time (up to 18 hours). It’s not precooked. It’s not cryovac.

Jerry

August 2nd, 2013
3:43 pm

Obviously, this “roasting” method gives you inferior PR – see JK comment. I rest my case.