By Cathy Frisinger
Special to
Posted 1:14pm on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

There’s a new Grille in town, and, boy howdy, is she worth checking out.

The Prime Grille & Sidebar, which opened Oct. 28 in Mansfield, had been the subject of grumbling from certain quarters about prices; management listened and made a few adjustments, lowering the prices on all desserts by a buck and tweaking other items here and there.

In the revamped Prime, we found city-sophisticated plates in an accessible Hill Country-style setting. Let’s hope the suburbanites in Mansfield will appreciate and take advantage of this little gem in their midst.

Outside, a mix of Austin stone and wood telegraphs Prime Grille’s rustic elegance. Inside, the restaurant is a study in brown, including brown leather placemats. The main dining areas — the space is divided into several rooms — are tastefully understated, maybe even a bit too understated.

We preferred the ambiance of the bar, which the restaurant has dubbed “the Sidebar.” Here a glittering bar, a mix of high and low tables, trophies on the wall, and even the colorful water glasses create a warm and lively atmosphere.

With three menus to order from, the menu options can be a bit confusing. Lunch, which includes items like a buttermilk fried quail Cobb salad, a flat-iron steak sandwich and a 12-hour red-wine pot roast, is offered 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily. The dinner menu, offering a selection of appetizers and soups in addition to hearty entrees like barbecued beef short rib, jumbo shrimp and grits, grilled steaks, and grilled swordfish, is available 5-10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. And then there’s the sidebar menu, featuring nibbles like grilled elk sausage and fried Judith Point calamari, as well as an Angus burger, available daily from 2 p.m. to closing.

We checked out Prime during Icemaggedon, and during this challenging occasion were more than pleased with our meals.

The elk sausage appetizer ($12) was three slices of a dense, hearty sausage. Flavor was meaty but in no way gamey. It was accompanied with a mild mustard that complemented but didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the sausage and pickled red onion that played particularly well. In fact, we would have welcomed a few more of the pickled onion slices.

Our other appetizer selection, fried green tomatoes with Texas goat cheese and sweet red pepper coulis ($12), was equally well-executed. Tomato slices were firm, and the crisp bread coating stuck tight. The four slices floated on a generous pool of liquefied sweet red pepper, all of which was topped with crumbled goat cheese and fried chives. A vegetarian delight.

The flat-iron steak ($25) was another example of vertical architecture, beginning with a puddle of green onion hot-sauce gravy, then a layer of cheese grits, the flat-iron steak and, finally, a gorgeous garnish of green onions. It would be tempting to say the hot-sauce gravy stole the show, but the cheese grits, creamy and rich, were a real contender for top billing. We’ll call it a draw.

Pan-seared rainbow trout ($22) — a whole fish, not the single side most restaurants serve — lay atop a bed of succotash. This was the only dish that was less than outstanding in our meal. We liked the roasted corn and the chunks of orange squash in the succotash, but found it annoying that the lima beans fought back every time we bit into one. And, while the fat slice of grilled lemon made a beautiful garnish for the trout, it wasn’t practical to squeeze over the fish, which really needed that dash of flavor.

Best for last: The Angus cowboy rib-eye ($37) was a lovely cut of steak, the long bone curving off like a handle for the 16 ounces of prime, oh-so-tender beef. Dabs of strawberry butter and fried chives topped the steak, adding another fillip of flavor. The steak was accompanied by a hearty serving of garlic mashed potatoes, some token green beans and a whole roasted head of garlic. Good thing we’d left a few rolls so we had something to smear that golden garlicky goodness onto.

You’d think we wouldn’t have had room for another morsel, but somehow — somehow — we managed to put away a Mason jar banana cream pie ($7). Layered in the jar were a brown sugar sauce, banana cake and banana pudding/pie. The trick, we discovered, was getting some of each layer in each bite, no easy task.

So, no grumbles from our table at Prime; only happy little gurgles from overstuffed bellies.
American bison sirloin at Prime Grill & Sidebar in Mansfield

Prime Grille and Sidebar
2300 Matlock Road
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday & Saturday