Every town in every state in America has them. And everyone and his or her mother goes to them, often regularly, for one simple reason: consistency. There is great comfort in the fact that the food will taste the same wherever they go.
Normally I avoid chain restaurants for that same reason. I want to be surprised—hopefully, pleasantly—by a good meal. I enjoy dining for the experience of it, as much for the food, and I feel that chains lose something in personality, just for the sake of their precious uniformity.
But here’s the part where I eat my words.
Ruth’s Chris makes a damn fine steak. We all know it. Tourists, locals—it makes no difference. It’s in the quality of their meat and the preparation. The finest custom-aged, corn-fed Midwestern beef is broiled to your specification at 1,800 degrees and served sizzling hot with butter on a heated plate. Who would refuse anything served on a heated plate with sizzling butter?
As for that consistency thing, you’ll be happy to know that when you order a medium-rare steak, it does indeed come out medium-rare. But slow eaters, be warned: your steak will continue cooking on that heated plate if you dilly-dally—which you won’t, because you will want to keep shoveling succulent bites of tender meat into your mouth as you moan with pleasure. Mmm…
Another standard of Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses across America—and it’s especially true here on Maui—is their level of service. Every member of the wait staff has been properly schooled on the menu, from knowing the difference between cuts of meat, to which glass or bottle of wine on their impressively extensive wine list will complement your entree.
Instead of being overly attentive, servers are accommodating, knowledgeable, friendly, yet always with a professional countenance. Also, consistently. But let’s get back to the food.
Ruth’s Chris also does a damn fine salad. Their famous original Chop Salad is a favorite amongst my friends and I. Julienne iceberg lettuce, spinach and radicchio are tossed with sliced red onions and mushrooms, chopped green olives, bacon, eggs, hearts of palm, croutons, Bleu Cheese and lemon basil dressing, with cherry tomatoes and crispy fried onions. Crispy and delicious!
We also tend to go crazy over the Barbequed Shrimp, which are sauteed New Orleans style in reduced white wine, butter, garlic and spices—a sauce that we dip our bread into until the plate is wiped clean. Ruth’s Chris does a rich crabmeat-stuffed mushroom, as well as delectable crab cakes and Veal Osso Buco Ravioli.
Now, Ruth’s Chris’ entrees come a la carte, and believe me, the portions are substantial on their own. But once you get a taste of their roasted garlic mashed or au gratin potatoes, fresh asparagus with Hollandaise, creamed spinach, you’re gonna want to order a side or three.
But Ruthie’s—as my friends and I lovingly refer to it—also has a new addition to their menu, called Entree Complements. Along with your filet, rib eye or veal chop, you can order the Blue Cheese Crust, or Oscar Style with crab cake, asparagus and bearnaise sauce, Lobster Tail or six additional jumbo shrimp.
Did I mention the dining room in every Ruth’s Chris tends to be sexy—what with their low-lighting, tables and booths in dark mahogany hues and crisp white linens? Okay, sexy in a Republican way, but it’s still pretty sweet.
As for dessert, the Creme Brulee and the Carmelized Banana Cream Pie are to die for, but I simply can’t pass up the more than appropriately named Sin Cake. If it’s wrong to eat this rich espresso and chocolate layered delicacy, then I don’t want to be right. MTW