Prime Cut Cafe & Wine Bar

Prime Cut Cafe & Wine Bar
1547 W Katella Ave STE 101
Orange, California 92867

I’ve been meaning to stop in at this restaurant for awhile. The Prime Cut Cafe & Wine Bar is right next to the Century Movie Theaters on Katella and Main. We stopped by after a movie on Saturday. It was a holiday weekend, and the place was empty; not a good sign. However, it was around 2PM when we arrived, so I thought the time might be an issue.

The inside of the Prime Cut Cafe is beautifully appointed. The design is rather masculine: brown, beige, and chrome. Sitting at the table, I kept looking around feeling that something was missing. Beautiful hardwood floors, dark wood tables, sound dampening design on the ceiling, mirrors and photos on the wall… in sienna tones. The thing that was missing? Color. Everything in the restaurant is done in shades of brown, beige, and chrome, and there is no color to liven it up. It comes across as a little sterile, even thought there are all sorts of warm woods in the restaurant. Some color in their photos would have helped enormously, lacking that, they could also have added color with flowers, and colored napkins. Three to Six large bouquets on their room divider would be beautiful and liven the room up enormously.

The Prime Cut Cafe & Wine Bar is centered around their bar, and yet we were not offered a wine menu. We asked to start with water, and the waitress apparently decided that meant we did want anything else to drink.

There were three of us for lunch. I ordered their Prime Cut Beef Dip ($13.95) (minus the horseradish), Rory ordered the Clam Chowder ($5.95) (which was something between a New England and a Manhattan style), and Nora ordered two starters: the Cheese Fondue ($6.96), and a Granny Smith Apple Salad ($5.95). It took over 20 minutes to get our meal, which was amazing since there was only one other party in the restaurant, and none of our meals really had to be “cooked.” They “don’t have bread service,” according to the manager, so although we were pretty hungry, there was absolutely nothing to nibble on. I might have ordered a nibble, but we had an absentee waitress. We never saw her until the meal was served.

My Prime Beef Dip was delicious. It was served with au jus, but they put in just enough for the first half off the sandwich. Oops. The Clam Chowder was also very tasty, but it was left out before it was served and it had a skin on it when it arrived. Yuck! I would have sent it back, but Rory thought it was okay. Unfortunately the chowder was cold by the time he finished eating it. Nora’s salad was tasty, but could have been excellent with a couple of changes. She liked the fondue, but Rory and I thought it tasted funky.

The manager checked in on us as we were finishing the meal, and I mentioned that he had some problems. We pointed out the skin on the soup, the lack of au jus for my sandwich, the lack of pre-meal bread, and our absentee waitress. His responses were basically that we could have sent back the soup, or asked for more au jus; both were rather difficult without a waitress. With regards to the waitress, he said he would “note it.” Amazingly, he didn’t even offer us a cup of coffee in response to the lackluster service. Really a shame. That might have been enough to get us back in for a second try another day. Somehow, I doubt the manager has an ownership state in the cafe.

The Prime Cut Cafe & Wine Bar is a classic case of almost getting it right. The problem with getting it almost right is that you usually go out of business, if you don’t fix the problems. Based on the Prime Cut’s lack of customers, while Bob’s Big Boy across the way was hopping, this restaurant may be headed that direction, which is really a travesty. The price on our meal was only $31 excluding tip, which is actually less that we probably would have spent at Bob’s Big Boy. The meal’s were beautifully prepared, very tasty, and good sized portions… not too big and not too small. Food and price is not their problem.

Prime Cut Cafe’s problems are almost totally server/manager problems. The restaurant need some sort of nibble on the table prior to the meal. Whether they choose bread, breadsticks, or some other sort of nibble is up to them, but without it, the customer starts counting the minutes to the arrival of their meal, and that is never good. If they have to add a dollar or two to the cost serving a table to cover the cost of the bread, they should do it. It would only be $0.25- $0.50 per person, and none of us would have blinked at that. That little nibble would have deterred our hunger just enough that we would have enjoyed our conversation more and we wouldn’t have started clock-watching.

The cafe lost out on my bar business, because the waitress decided not to bother with the wine menu. Although I don’t often drink because I am usually the driver, both my daughter and I would have had a glass of wine with lunch because we had an alternate driver. More lost revenue for a restaurant that probably can’t afford it. The management also should really take a look at adding a touch of color. Dark red napkins would help, but some large floral arrangements would be especially helpful. If they don’t feel up to handling real flowers, they should take a look at a few top quality silk arrangements. Good ones can fool almost everyone, and they would bring some much needed color and warmth to the establishment.

“Almost” is the same as a miss. There are plenty of great restaurants in the area. If you don’t watch the details, you won’t get the customer back for a second visit. Hopefully, the owners of the Prime Cut Cafe will make the necessary changes. As for us, we probably won’t go back for a second try.

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