.By Joe O’Donnell // Photography by Beau Gustafson
A restaurant owner I know told me once that he could tell how the evening was going in the dining room without even leaving the kitchen. He just had to listen and he could tell by the sounds (he called it the music of dinner) emanating from the dining room, the conversations, laughter, interplay, etc. whether he was going to have a good night or a not so good one.
In an alcove off the main dining room at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, I do a bit of listening on my own. There is the movement of wait staff but it is so subtle it is extraordinarily noiseless. There are pockets of conversation, a little laughter, a slip of a funny story a diner is telling a waiter that I can just barely make out. Then there is the sizzle. The sizzle of the steak coming to your table. Call it the music of dinner at Ruth’s Chris.
Ruth’s Chris has a fascinating history. The Ruth’s Chris Steak House legacy began when a single mother, Ruth Fertel, mortgaged her home for $22,000 to purchase the “Chris Steak House,” a 60-seat restaurant in New Orleans. More than 40 years later, the restaurant’s success continues to be driven by an adherence to Ruth’s core values, which are to deliver the highest quality food, beverages and service in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Today, there are more than 150 Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses, including 20 international franchisee-owned restaurants in Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo, Aruba, Canada and Dubai.
The Birmingham restaurant tucked into the atrium of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Homewood has been charming diners for more than two decades. On this night, the charm factor was high.
Our waiter was helpful and friendly as he explained the choices and outlined an appropriate strategy for navigating the alacarte menu, which is really very helpful and makes the ordering experience seamless.
For starters we shared the shrimp remoulade, which came to the table as four large shrimp over a salad with the remoulade sauce on the side. That was followed by a salad, the lettuce wedge with an abundance of blue cheese and sprinkles of bacon. It was just the right touch to lead in to dinner.
The steaks chosen were a New York Strip and the filet, both done just perfectly. The steaks were accompanied by asparagus, grilled, and a cone of shoestring fries that we shared. The meal was topped off with desserts, the creme brulee and a New Orleans-style cheesecake. Both were perfect endings to a great meal.
One of the exciting things about dining at Ruth’s Chris is the variety of food available within the classic steakhouse format. Sizzling blue crabcakes and the barbecued shrimp make excellent choices for appetizers. The lobster bisque or the fresh mozzarella and Kumato tomato salad are equally enticing for the soup and salad course. And if steak is not your forte for the evening, you could go with the entree option of a center-cut pork chop served with slices of cinnamon apples or the shrimp and grits served over jalapeno-cheese grit cakes.
All in all you can find one of the city’s best dining experiences during an evening at Ruth’s Chris. •