Mark's Prime Steakhouse - A Local Review

Sadly, my wife and I currently find ourselves in a bit of a lull between trips. It's been nearly a month since our Spring Break trip to Disney, and yet we have over a month to go before our next adventure to Austin, Texas. There are two big downsides to such a long gap between trips. First, it means I'm working way too much, and second, being home means no fantastic meals out like we experience on vacation. Thankfully, Ocala has had a few upscale dining options open in the last few years, which can help fill the void between trips. Last night, our desire for fine dining reached a peak, so we decided to pay a visit to Mark's Prime Steakhouse.

Located on Ocala's Downtown Square, Mark's fills what was once a big void in local dining options, which was the need for a high-end steakhouse. This was our third visit to Mark's, however it was our first experience with the two of us dining alone. Both of our prior visits had been exceptional, but they were also celebrations, where the food was almost secondary to the company. With the focus this time soley on the food, I was curious to see if Mark's performance held to form.

As we made our way to a comfy banquette, my immediate impression of the decor was it screamed "steakhouse." Dim lighting, white table cloths, and rich burgandy walls and carpeting, all reminicent of what one would find in a Morton's or Ruth's Chris. Yet it was very understated, and with the exception of the sailfish above the entry, steered clear of the tackiness that some restaurants fall into when attempting to create a theme. At Mark's, as well as most other great restaurants, the food tells the story, not the decor.

Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala
While I sipped on a Manhattan, and my wife a glass of wine, a funny thing happened as we perused the menu....neither of us wanted steak. There were so many great appetizer options, that we decided to try several of those, and forgo Mark's signature beef. I can attest from our past experiences that the steaks are, in a word, phenomenal. But tonight would be about the rest of the menu, and it was definitely a shellfish overload...

We started with my traditional favorite, the crab cakes. The portion was two medium sized cakes, served with a lemon buerre blanc and peppercorn sauce. The cakes were very good, however there was more filler than I tend to prefer, which always takes away from what should be the focus...the crab.
Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala Next we moved on to the "Colossal Shrimp Cocktail." This classic always delivers, as the shrimp were enormous, and were paired with a spicy cocktail sauce. I actually preferred the shrimp with the mustard sauce that accompanied our next dish... Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala The "Crabtini" featured lump crab meat, which was served in a chilled martini glass, alongside a dijon mustard sauce. The crab and presentation was excellent, and the sauce reminded me of that found at the legendary Joe's Stone Crab in Miami. The only downside....I now have a craving for Joe's.Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala
The featured appetizer special for the evening was "Lobster Escargot." Take a traditional escargot serving, but replace snails with lobster, and you have this incredibly rich dish. It knocked my socks off, and was without a doubt my favorite of the night. Our server said it would be making a more permanent appearance on the menu, and I sure hope he's right.
Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala
Finally, I finished off with the bacon wrapped scallops, and my wife the tomato and mozzeralla salad. We ordered these in the middle of the meal, somewhat as an afterthought, as both of us assumed we would not be full after the initial round of plates....We were both proven wrong. Somehow, we found the will to continue..

My wifes salad was absolutely gorgeous, and she confirmed it tasted just as good as it looked. The scallops were served with a mango salsa, and a chipotle honey sauce. I enjoyed the dish, however the mix of juice from the salsa and greasy runoff from the bacon left something to be desired. On the other hand, the portion was great, and would rival some entrees in terms of size.Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala
Alas, we were on to dessert. We wasted little time in ordering the Key Lime Cheesecake, and it delivered a great close to the meal. The cake was creamy and delicious, but to me, the crust was definitely the best part. It was an excellent cap to a great evening of food.
Marks Prime Steakhouse Ocala
As for the service, well I must say it was the one blemish that could have been better. Our server was very nice, but I definitely felt a lack of attention to us. When I ordered our first batch of appetizers, I felt I had made it clear we wanted them two at a time. On the contrary, all four came out at the same time, and complicated the logistics of enjoying them. In addition, as I took my last bite of the final dish before dessert, he came by and asked if we wanted any bread. Certainly bread would have been a welcome start to the meal, but not so much when the meal was over. I would not go so far as to say the service was bad, just clearly not focused.

For future visits, it's likely we will try and dine in the bar area, as we didn't feel as a two-top we were given the same level of service as other parties. Every other table in the restaurant was a party of 4 or more, and we were also the youngest by a number of years. I hate to think that the service lacked because of our age or size of party, but that could easily have been the perception, and as the saying goes..."perception is reality."

All that said, the food is fantastic, and more than made up for the short comings of service. We will most certainly return, and I hope that it's sooner rather than later.

Maybe next time, we'll actually be in the mood for steak.

Enjoy Your Stay

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