In the mid-1980s, Boston Chicken was a fledgling chain out of Massachusetts that took the rotisserie chicken—back then, a dish mostly reserved for upscale restaurants and Sunday roasts—and turned it into a carry-out dinner staple. It’s easy to forget that only in the last few decades did rotisserie chickens achieve supermarket-ubiquity, packaged in domed Tetra Paks and sold for under $10.
Boston Chicken was renamed Boston Market in 1995, and these days the chain is attempting to take another consigned-to-fancy-restaurants entrée and make it takeout food: the prime rib.
The prime rib of beef has long been a mainstay of casino buffets, banquets, and Upper Midwest supper clubs. Cooked to a sumptuous deep-pink, a proper prime rib is marked by its tenderness—achieved by a long, slow roast—something that a ribeye steak seared four minutes a side can’t achieve.
My first thought was a fast-casual restaurant would have to compromise somewhere to serve a halfway decent prime rib. There’s that issue of timing. It turns out, though, Boston Market is only offering the prime rib in limited quantities Wednesdays through Saturdays after 5 p.m. and Sundays after 12 p.m. Small batches will always trump mass production.
What arrived on my plastic tray (an 8-to-9 oz. serving with two sides for $15.99) certainly resembled a slab cut from a mid-tier casino buffet. There was decent marbling. The USDA choice beef had no overcooked gray patches; the beef closer to medium than medium-rare. I would’ve hoped the outer periphery had a crustier exterior, but my piece had that appealing roasted texture steamed out.
Upon first bite, my first impression was: Hey, it’s prime rib! Well-seasoned, slightly peppery, appropriately tender, nowhere on the slab was it dried-out. If this was served to me at a three-star hotel on TripAdvisor—more Hyatt Regency than The Conrad—I would be perfectly satisfied.
A few criticisms: If you order mashed potatoes as a side, the default gravy is chicken gravy, which is the wrong accompaniment for this prime rib. The beef gravy is the superior version. I also wished this came with horseradish, maybe a cup of jus at minimum, just to complete the prime rib aesthetic.
(UPDATE: On its website, Boston Market says horseradish and jus does come with an order. I never got mine.)
I’ve long been a fan of Boston Market’s rotisserie chicken, and its prime rib is a more-than-serviceable entry into the beef game (the chain is also offering rotisserie brisket on Mondays and Tuesdays). More importantly, if this can kickstart a revolution of supermarket takeout prime rib—like it did with rotisserie chicken—then Boston Market will have done a better public service than offering a Grade-B dish. It will have changed the way we eat dinner.