By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
The Birmingham location of Ruth’s Chris Steak House is situated in the lobby of the Embassy Suites hotel. The restaurant serves a mixed audience of travelers and locals both lunch 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and dinner 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The restaurant also offers a happy hour, Ruth’s Hour, from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. daily.
In 1965, Ruth Fertel saw a steak house for sale in the classified ads in New Orleans. She was a single mother who did not know a lot about restaurants or steak, but she took a risk and mortgaged her home to buy Chris Steak House. Fertel then learned the art of butchering meat and broiling steaks. The restaurant was a success from opening day until a kitchen fire destroyed the building in 1976. Fertel had to relocate the restaurant to stay in business. The Chris Steak House name wasn’t allowed to move with it, so Fertel added her own name to the restaurant, “Ruth’s Chris Steak House.” Birmingham’s Ruth’s Chris is one of more than 140 locations across the world. It is located in the open atrium on the main floor of the Embassy Suites in Homewood. The restaurant also offers private dining rooms, which can accommodate 10 to 300 guests. Tonight we are seated in a semi-private alcove overlooking the dining
We are greeted by executive chef Chad Schofield. In the kitchen with Schofield is executive sous chef Les Lee. Tom Young serves as general manager of the restaurant, and other local leadership includes Lanie Burbach as assistant general manager, Kevin Moore as restaurant manager, and Jessica Kuklo as catering sales manager.
Ruth’s Chris serves USDA prime Midwestern beef, broiled to your desired degree of doneness, seared, and finished with butter and freshly chopped parsley. It’s served sizzling on a 500-degree plate. But you don’t have to be a carnivore to enjoy Ruth’s Chris with an array of options other than beef. Handcrafted cocktails are made from freshly squeezed juices and premium spirits, and a wine list features 200 bottles.
Tonight we begin with two serious cocktails, Founder’s Old Fashioned and Smoke on the Water. The old fashioned includes Irishman Founder’s Reserve whiskey stirred with angostura bitters. The deep and dark drink is served on the rocks and garnished with an orange slice and Amarena black cherry. Smoke On The Water is a golden and luscious mix of Mount Gay Silver Rum and Del Maguey Vida Mezcal with freshly squeezed lime juice and simple syrup. We order Shrimp Cocktail as an appetizer. Four large succulent shrimp are served with a cheesecloth-covered lemon half and cocktail sauce. The cocktails and shrimp cocktail take the edge off what has been a long day as we settle in for entrees.
We ordered the small Seafood Tower and the 22-ounce Cowboy Rib Eye. As the seafood tower makes its way across the dining room towards our table, it captures the attention of everyone it passes, and we quickly become the envy of the dining room. I was not expecting it to be so large, so I almost took nearby diners up on their offer of “Need help?” The incredible icy tower boasts Maine lobster, king crab legs and knuckles, colossal lump crab meat, and jumbo cocktail shrimp, accompanied by Sriracha-lime seafood sauce and cocktail sauce. Each bite is cold, crisp, and refreshing. The USDA prime steak is perfectly cooked to order. Ordering it bone-in adds an additional layer of flavor to this well marbled, tender, and juicy rib eye.
Our sides include mac and cheese, Brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes. The Lobster Mac and Cheese arrives in a pewter colored gratin dish and is piping hot and golden. Tender lobster bites are generously mixed with the three cheese macaroni. Roasted Brussels Sprouts added a touch of green and texture to the meal with honey butter, caramel color, and bits of bacon. We pair the meal with glasses of Hedges Red Mountain 2011, and for dessert, we enjoy Moet and Chandon’s Imperial non-vintage Champagne with a decadent duo of Cheesecake and White Chocolate Bread Pudding.