Today the Oklahoma Sooners will take on the Georgia Bulldogs at Pasadena’s iconic Rose Bowl Stadium, with plenty of larger college football playoff implications at stake. But first, before the widely-televised national event watched in-person by almost 100,000 screaming fans, there was beef.
Every year since 1956, the prime rib fanatics at Lawry’s have been throwing their annual pre-Rose Bowl dinners (lovingly titled The Beef Bowl) at their restaurant on La Cienega. The red carpeted event actually takes place over two afternoons (one for each team), and acts as a sort of welcoming committee to incoming football players, athletic directors, and coaching staff, many of whom may have never been to Los Angeles before.
This year, Eater tagged along as the Georgia Bulldogs took to Lawry’s to carve up and enjoy some 500 pounds of prime rib. It’s a massive effort by the restaurant just to accommodate such a large, fast dinner experience — complete with police escort, live marching band, video presentations, speeches, and tableside salad spinning — let alone two in two days, with a full service schedule beyond. Here’s what all that carefully-controlled chaos really looks like.
To keep up with the fast-paced Beef Bowl schedule, the restaurant pulls in nearly all of its servers and carvers for the event. That means there’s a lined red carpet entrance for the football team when it exits the buses, complete with clapping waitstaff and a live marching band from a nearby high school, as well as an entire crew inside ready to push carving carts and spin salads. Before the feast though, the Georgia team must first sit through a few presentations of Rose Bowl highlights past, and on-the-field glories from the college football year that was.
Eventually, organizers pull out two different players to help do the opening dinner honors for the evening. The first gets to hit the stage in the front of the room for a chance to spin a famous Lawry’s tableside salad, followed by the other player doling out the ceremonial first carving and handing the finished plate (complete with corner and mashed potatoes) to a Georgia team member of their choosing.
After all the theatrics, the Georgia football team gets down to its main mission: devouring hundreds of pounds of prime rib in near-record time, or at least eating more than the Oklahoma Sooners team. Staff at Lawry’s says that often the Beef Bowl is the first time coaches and players have actually had prime rib, and the number of requests for well-done cuts is far higher than a usual dinner service at the restaurant.
The entire Lawry’s carving table fleet is put to quick use out on the carpeted dining room floor, serving up hundreds in a matter of minutes. Each plate comes with a cut of prime rib, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, gravy, and jus, with apple pie a la mode for dessert.
Amazingly enough, the Beef Bowl won’t even be the last service of the day for the Lawry’s team. By 6:15 regulars are already lining up for a complete 6:30 dinner seating in the main and ancillary dining rooms. Full to the brim, players and staff file out and back on to the waiting buses to begin the preparation for the actual Rose Bowl in Pasadena. There are real college football playoff stakes for that game, but for the annual Lawry’s Beef Bowl on La Cienega, the pride of eating more than the competition matters almost as much.