Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ruth's Chris Steak House, New Orleans

     It was only a matter of time before Ruth's Chris Steak House arrived in Charleston.  As our lovely city became nationally known for fine dining, and of course the good manners and hospitable welcome of Charlestonians, the establishment of a chain steakhouse in the midst of our locally owned and operated farm-to-table gems was inevitable.  What was not inevitable was that locals would give Ruth's Chris a chance.  Isn't there room for everyone at the Lowcountry table?
     After all, we here in Charleston are spoiled by our wide variety of James Beard Award nominated (and winning) chefs who prepare creative and delicious meals at some of my favorite restaurants.  But while Charleston diners are discerning, we are also creatures of habit.  Why try a chain restaurant downtown when there are innumerable other fine restaurants offering locally sourced produce, Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, meats from Keegan-Filion Farm and drinks from Cannonborough Bev. Co. and High Wire Distillery?  Because it's fun to try something new.

     Originating in New Orleans over four decades ago, Ruth's Chris Steak House offers thick-cut USDA Prime steaks on superheated plates (plates warmed to 500 degrees, meat cooked at 1800 degrees) and lumberjack-sized side dishes and desserts.  The dining room and bar are popular with those who travel for a living because they know their expectations for good quality beef, hearty portions and attentive service will be met.
     On my first visit to Ruth's Chris all of the guests at my table ordered steak with a shrimp cocktail  appetizer.  The jumbo shrimp were as good or better than any I have eaten anywhere in Charleston. The steaks arrived in a timely manner, prepared exactly as we had requested.  Our filets were tender, our rib eyes juicy and the plates were hot enough to fry an egg on.  All of the family style side dishes were generous enough to serve at least three diners.
     My favorite side dish was the asparagus, which was prepared in the way God intended, lightly seasoned and slightly crisp.  (There is nothing worse than limp asparagus - well, I'm sure there's something worse but I can't think of it right now. ) The scalloped potatoes were thick and buttery. (Every dish is buttery, from the rib-eye dripping in it to the bread budding.)   The best word to describe my first Ruth Chris meal is hearty (almost Mid-Western or Pennsylvania Dutch hearty).
     On my second visit to Ruth Chris Steakhouse, we took the waitstaff's advice and ordered the stuffed chicken breasts which were butterflied and filled with garlic herb cheese (not overpowering) and lemon butter (very light lemon flavor).  I can honestly say that I enjoyed this chicken dish more than the steak.  The skin on my chicken breast was bubbling and crispy, the breast moist and flavorful and it was, of course, served piping hot.
     Our waitress on both occasions was Janea, a polite and helpful professional who kept our bread basket and water glasses filled, was friendly but not overly so, and even hung my coat up for me.  The rest of the waitstaff (who were very busy on a mid-week evening) were equally efficient and genial, even granting our request for a table adjacent to the fireplace.
     For a comfortable evening and a substantial meal, I recommend giving Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, the new gal in town, a chance.