STAFFORD — Bob and Noreen Moore like to call their restaurant “The Prime Rib Capital of New York.” But the roast beef dinner has not always been the signature dish of the eatery.
Red Osier, 6492 Main St., opened in 1939 as an ice cream parlor and later expanded to a full restaurant. When the Moores purchased it in 1979, they quickly shifted the focus away from chicken pot pie and creamed cod to prime rib. And they’ve been living off of it ever since.
“I didn’t want to be known for chicken pot pie,” said Bob Moore over lunch last week.
He then decided to focus on prime rib after seeing how two other restaurants, one local and one in Florida, featured the dish. It was the Florida restaurant that he visited on a trip to see his parents in 1980 that charted a new course for Red Osier.
“I told my father that I wanted to go out to the most unusual restaurant, so he took me to a place where they were carving prime rib tableside,” Moore said. “My wife was working the front end here, and I went to a pay phone in the restaurant. I said ‘My love, I have the idea. This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to take this other restaurant’s theme of prime rib, and we’re going to do it tableside.’”
That launched a tradition at Red Osier that carries on to this day. Whenever a customer orders prime rib, a carver — called a Prime Minister — wheels a cart to the table and lops off a thick slice from a roast.
The 15-pound roasts are slow-cooked for four to six hours, depending on the level of doneness, in special ovens. The restaurant has one oven for rare, one for medium, and one for well-done.
“Prime rib is not like filet mignon or a strip steak,” Moore said. “It takes hours to cook. Slow roasting is the key.”
The other key, according to Moore, is the au jus, which has a heavily guarded recipe that was a gift from a chef in the Florida restaurant. After Moore ordered his prime rib, the man who carved it for him, wrote down the recipe on a napkin. That recipe has been used at Red Osier for 35 years, and only a handful of people know how to make it.
“In order for anybody to get (the recipe), he must sign a confidentiality agreement,” Moore said. “It’s a simple recipe, but it’s so consistent. That’s what makes our flavor.”
Red Osier will sell 100-120 prime rib dishes in a week and has four different cuts. Diners can choose from the petite cut (10 ounces), the queen cut (16 ounces), king cut (24 ounces), and the Call cut (4.5-5 pounds). The Call cut is named for the family behind the A.D. Call & Sons trucking company located near the restaurant.
“No matter what size I cut, these big guys — they’re husky, rugged guys — wanted bigger,” Moore explained. “I couldn’t cut them big enough. So finally, we put one on the menu called the Call cut. It’s a big boy.”
Red Osier also offers an all-you-can-eat option. When ordered, a diner will receive a 2-pound cut. Once that is finished, the Prime Ministers will keep carving 1-pound cuts until the customer has had enough. While the average is 3-4 pounds, Moore said he had two gentlemen eat more than 7 pounds apiece recently.
The prime rib at Red Osier ranges from $19.75 for the 10-ounce petite cut, to $59.90 for the 5-pound Call cut.