People speak with their feet.
— Ruth Fertel
It was not without a pang of guilt that we entered a Ruth's Chris steak house
for the sixth time recently. It had been a while since we'd been there; too
long, in fact. Worse,
the guilt had nothing to do with dieting nor the
treatment of helpless animals, no. Would we indulge ourselves yet again in the consistently superb
dining experience we've come to love? Or would we think it over and walk back to
the car; thereby showing solidarity with the folks who're boycotting the chain, because of the
chain's post-Katrina announcement that it would not re-open
the original store in New Orleans, and the permanent move of its headquarters from
near New Orleans, Louisiana to Orlando, Florida?
We decided to speak with our feet. We wiped them on the mat outside the door and
walked inside. Two hours and fifteen minutes later, slightly intoxicated
and stomachs painfully filled, we decided we'd done the right thing. But
first let's address the issue at hand which caused our conundrum.
A Hypothetical Scenario
Talk-radio Conservative Sean Hannity has said on-air that Ruth's Chris is
his favorite restaurant. He's fond of things that have been found to elevate
one's "bad" cholesterol, lobster being the other "heart-smart"
no-no he's been known to tout as a favorite.*
Let's imagine, for a moment, that Hannity has on the phone one of his
Socialist foes, and they dialectically duke out the political correctness of a
meal at today's Ruth's Chris:
You know, the hurricane hit and the Chairman and all the managers got out
of Metairie, Louisiana and fled to Florida. Later they announced that they
didn't have plans to come back to Louisiana and they'd not re-open a
restaurant in Orleans Parish. Typical capitalist bullshit; leaving their
employees jobless and many homeless while they live it up high and dry at
Disney World's door!
Hey! You gotta realize that in the days before Katrina struck, Ruth's
Chris was a very large, arguably the largest, upscale-dining franchises in
the world, with 88 stores. The company went
public just a week before the hurricane hit. And Craig Miller, chairman
and CEO of Ruth's Chris, offered every employee who could communicate with
them hand-written checks and other assistance. And a job offer (at another
Ruth's Chris location) so long as they were willing to relocate.
Who wants to move?! Morton's re-opened their New Orleans location.
They're just filthy capitalists lining their pockets at the expense of those
HOW CAN YOU "OPRESS" SOMEONE WHO'S CHOSEN TO WORK FOR YOU? What
you gotta understand here is that the CEO was merely doing his best to
protect the shareholders to whom he's
beholden. Heck, the company's stock took a major hit and insurance doesn't
pay for that.
They work in menial jobs and then get fucked by the man, who's enjoying
his new life in sunny Florida meanwhile. I mean, don't you have a heart?
Now wait just a minute. Of course I feel bad for the people of New
Orleans but heck, life goes on. The founder of Ruth's Chris, Ruth Fertel,
copyrighted the phrase "life's too short to eat anywhere else."
Well, er, what about the poor cows and lambs and
Awww, I've had enough of this. G'bye! (loud click as phone disconnects)
*Sean Hannity is paid to endorse Ruth's Chris steak houses, though he
insists that it's his favorite restaurant. I don't doubt it. Read on:
Why Ruth's Chris is a Great Place to Eat
Enter any of their locations and one is treated as if you're visiting the
home of old friends. If you made reservations (and it's strongly suggested that
you do) they'll call you by name for the rest of the evening. It's a take-off on
a similar address-the-customer-by-name policy of the Ritz Carlton hotel chain
(which becomes downright spooky for a while).
The review portion of this article, which follows, is based on the writer's
experience with the Ruth's Chris unit in Newington, Connecticut.
The outside of the Ruth's Chris unit in Newington is decidedly
dull. The sign is a mere light-box; not the neon-enhanced,
architecturally-integrated trademark that many of the other facilities display.
The entry-hallway seemed long, and is very boring. The surprise is when one
comes around the corner into the restaurant's arrival area.
Approach the podium where the host/hostess is stationed and give your name
and you're ushered into the delightful world of fine dining created by Ruth
Fertel back in 1965, when she mortgaged her home and bought the Chris Steak
House in New Orleans, Louisiana. Not having been to the original Chris's, I'd
hazard a guess that the lovely decor in the Newington store is perhaps a bit
different than the original.
/whine on: With all due respect to those who believe that the taps from which
"bottled water" come are different from taps in both suburb and city, I am sick
and tired of the upsell beginning before there's bread or water on the table.
There are plenty of restaurants that get away with this. Someday, perhaps, this
writer will respond with a threat: "what would you rather I stick up your ass, a
bottle or a tap?!" The Ruth's Chris "script" has busboys and servers
going around asking if one wants water (I'd hazard a guess the answer would
overwhelmingly be "yes"). The response to this is the question "Bottled or tap?"
Speaking of wine, this particular Ruth's Chris has an enormous wine list with
some excellent selections. Many of the wines were available by the glass; but
get ready to pay. The pour is the usual paltry fifth of a bottle and they're all
overpriced by the glass. This is the only complaint I had about the restaurant.
By the bottle, some selections were overpriced, others were not. Of note is the
availability of Champagne and prosecco by the glass; the prosecco is a good
foil for the escargot dish we had. A Pinot Noir that we'd not tried took itself
too seriously. Go with the recommended Cabernet with the steak. I'm not
including names of vintners because they differ slightly from store to store. If
you want to try something a little off-the-beaten-track this is the place to do
The sophistication of the wine list is remarkable in that there's a great
line of dessert wines, ports and Cognacs, as well. An Iniskillin Ice Wine was a
delectable treat with our Creme Brulee for dessert on one visit. It became clear
that the small pours by the glass are, ostensibly, to encourage sampling and
The hot sourdough bread was a harbinger of the superb meal to come. The bread
not only had a marvelous crispy crust and robust, fluffy inside; it had
flavor. Discounting the fact that we
were quite hungry upon arrival, the bread was still a home-run.
Appetizers are the usual steak-house style culprits, only done with a delightful difference. Escargots
in a cream sauce with artichoke hearts and mushrooms were decadently rich. The
richness was cut by a generous use of parsley; good, fresh parsley coarsely
chopped. The yin and yang of rich and fresh were a perfect foil for the
ingredients. There was a lot of sauce in the gratin dish they came in;
Emily Post be damned, I used a soup spoon to scoop up every drop. Again, the
overall flavor was delightful; the kind that explodes in one's mouth. The
Japanese word umami comes to mind.
Caesar salad came with greaseless croutons and a bonus cheddar-cheese cracker
that was, again, perfectly flavored. The olive oil used was very, very good.
What set this Caesar apart was that the flavors were so well-balanced. The
kitchen didn't skimp on anchovy paste, and there was just enough garlic there
not to over-power the fine quality cheeses used (we suspected good Gorgonzola
with a balance of Asiago - no cheap pre-grated Pecorino nor Parmesan here.
Fried oysters were pristinely fresh and delectable on their own. Two sauces, a remoulade and a
chili sauce, were presented underneath with a fancy detailing that made the dish
as appealing to the eye as it is appealing to the palate. This combination sauce
must be tried to be believed. Horseradish used in moderation and a tomato-based,
tabasco-laced chili sauce added a good kick. I wouldn't let the busboy take away
the plate until I'd mopped up the rest of this delectable, decadent sauce with
various other items on our now-groaning board. (Really, keep the sauce around
after you're done with the oysters; I dipped some of my steak in it and the
superb combination was similar to that of a Filet Mignon served with Bearnaise Sauce.)
The little bit of prosecco I had left after the Escargots went down perfectly
with the oysters and their sauce as well.
The Rib-Eye steak was done perfectly and covered with buttery goodness. This
is superb, prime, aged meat at its finest. There's the colossal "Cowboy" Ribeye
with bone in for big eaters who want to literally take home a doggie bag.
Nothing more to say except that we haven't tried the "delicious" Gorgonzola
crust that's an option the server touted. Why mess with simplicity? A nice idea,
however, is that they give diners a variety of enhancements ranging from added
seafood for a "surf 'n turf" meal, to various sauces. We didn't go there.
An important reminder, though; everything is a la carte here. That's par for
the course in the stratosphere of the steak house business. Although some view strict
a la carte service as an attempt to hide the true cost of taking a square meal,
it's also cool to be able to customize one's meal to one's own taste without being admonished by a server not to make "substitutions."
Mixed Grill here is a bargain: chicken, pork, and filet tips grilled
together. This is what to order if you can't make up your mind what to have.
It's a great value that we'll be coming back for often. We offset the bargain
with a big Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa that
was pricey but even by the glass was delicious and had been kept perfectly.
The usual steak house culprits abound: New York Strip, Filet Mignon in two
sizes, Lamb Chops and a smattering of seafood items; apparently their Ahi Tuna
"Stack" with lump crabmeat is a popular choice. The lovely crabmeat can be
ordered as a crab cake as well, with which to top your steak or seafood, or as
an appetizer. Normally we don't dare go for an item in a steak-house setting that
involves sauces or stuffings of any kind, however, given the appealing flavor
of the appetizers, we plan to sample specials, and their Bordelaise sauce,
sometime soon. Unusual was the fact that vegetarians have an option here, too; a
gigantic grilled Portobello mushroom dish! The fried onion rings are made from
onions the size of basketballs; the baked potatoes are the size of footballs;
I'd hazard a guess they source these vegetables from a farmer who gives them
steroids or the like.
Mashed potatoes come with garlic insinuated into them whether you like it or
not. That's fine for most. This writer gets enough garlic elsewhere and prefers
his spuds simple. Your mileage may vary. Creamed spinach, on the other hand, was
rich, perfectly prepared and couldn't have been better. Asparagus, string beans
and potatoes au gratin are fine sides that are a good value because all of the
sides are served up in massive portions. You'll be taking a doggie bag home and
you won't be able to resist it so worry not about waste.
The End is Not Bitter
A good cup of coffee is the barometer we use by which to determine whether or
not we'll invest in dessert. We breathed a sigh of relief; the coffee was
excellent. Pecan pie, Bread Pudding with Whiskey sauce and Caramelized Banana
Cream Pie all evoke the flavors of the deep South, Creole cooking in
particular. The chocolate cake was divine. The home run is their Cream Brulee.
I've paid twice as much for that dessert and it wasn't as good as the one we had
at Ruth's Chris.
At the prices they charge, everything ought to be perfect, and it is, without
a doubt. That makes the experience a great value overall. I'm glad to pay more
for something that a) I can't get anywhere else nor make for myself and b) is
dependably consistent in quality. Mind you that these reflections are on a
single store. Your experience may be different, because to keep up all of this
excellence it takes a superlative manager. Suffice it to say that the manager(s)
of the Newington, Connecticut store are doing it right. Evidence of this is the
restaurant's longevity and the tremendous amount of positive word-of-mouth buzz
it gets all over the state.
C-Dawg says re Ruth's Chris Steak House: Experience may differ? I'll say. I've only been to R's C once, after years of hearing how great it is. Mine was in Bellevue, Washington, about six months ago. Even on an expense account, I was disgusted by the prices; I had the second-cheapest beef dish, at $45, which comes with nothing. You didn't mention in your writeup that *everything* is separate. The asparagus side was $9. My companion and I split a salad. All the food wsa completely pedestrian. I hoped that the bread pudding might at least let me leave on a happy note, having become a big fan of such over the last 10 years, but, put plainly, it sucked. What a disappointment.
Supporting Information Garnered From:
CitySearch.com (Entertainment/Dining Website)
http://hartford.citysearch.com/profile/2010678/ (Accessed April 7, 2008)
"Ruth Built the Steakhouse, Katrina Intervened," by Eric Dash, The New
York Times September 9, 2005 here
on the web (Accessed April 7, 2008)
"Ruth's Chris Steak House Announces Hurricane Update; Metairie, Louisiana
Headquarters to Relocate to Orlando, Florida; Restaurant Support Operations to
Resume as Soon as Possible," Business Wire August 30, 2005
(Accessed April 7, 2008)
Ruth's Chris Newington Connecticut Website:
http://www.ruthschris.com/locations/hartfordsteakhouse.html (Accessed April
"Ruth's Chris Returns to New Orleans," by Brett Anderson, The
Times-Picayune (New Orleans) March 16, 2008
(Accessed April 7, 2008)