Wednesday, March 31, 2010
'Ruth Chris Steakhouses...they ain't cheap'
To be honest I don't normally eat at many chain restaurants. I count myself lucky to live in a city where there are many locally owned and independently operated places to eat - and I really enjoy supporting local businesses (that is - as long as they are good). So you typically wouldn't find me at a place like the Ruth Chris Steakhouse but my mom happened to send me a gift card to Ruth Chris for my birthday and I'm never one to turn down free food (I think this goes back to my days as a starving graduate student and sometimes it's hard to break life-long habits, like say, devouring a free buffet of food when you think no one is looking....but I digress).
The first Ruth Chris I've ever been to was the local downtown Salt Lake City location. The space was formerly occupied by the Gastronomy run restaurant Baci; Ruth Chris had converted the space giving it a great ambience, complete with an elegant "business-casual" feel and beautiful decor. Right from the start you could tell that the servers were well trained and that this was a tip-top production, a tightly run ship. Our server had a great knowledge of wine, our steaks were perfectly cooked, came out in a timely (but not too quick) fashion and were delicious, and everything added up to a great evening. That is until we were told that the gift card given to me by my mom was invalid. Well actually it's a longer story than that, but suffice it to say - we thought we were getting a free dinner and we wound up having to pay an almost $200 bill for two people. Yikes; this is something you should know about all Ruth Chris Steakhouses...they ain't cheap. A steak alone (literally alone, you don't get anything with your steak except steak - it's served a la carte) is a minimum of like $25; add in drinks and side dishes and/or salads and you're easily close to $100 for a single person.
Obviously there was a mistake somewhere along the convoluted path from my mom's original purchase to the issuing of the gift card, and like any person on a mission to get my free food back, I had many very productive (and I might add enjoyable) conversations with general managers both in Salt Lake and in California (where my mom is from and where she purchased the card for me) to try to fix what was broken. In the end, Ruth Chris not only sent me a gift card for the original purchase made by my mother, but they also doubled the amount for all of the trouble that was caused on their end. Very classy indeed. This chain was starting to win me over.
Due to mis-management (unrelated to my own gift card debacle), the Salt Lake Ruth Chris ended up closing for good (incidentally, the space is currently occupied by another high end steakhouse chain called Donovan's). So in order to take advantage of this newly issued gift card, we headed up to Park City where the only other Ruth Chris in the state of Utah is located. The Park City Ruth Chris is housed within the Hotel Park City. The space is equally as lovely as the Salt Lake venue was, with a smaller, more ski-lodge feel...appropriate for a hotel restaurant residing in a ski town....and thankfully the interior was not an exact replica of the downtown Salt Lake location. The service again was excellent, they had a great wine list, and a very nice ambience. And what about the food? Just like my first experience, the food was awesome.
We started with a very large Caesar salad, not too heavily dressed, served with big slivers of Parmigiano Reggiano. The salad was quite satisfying with a tart citrus flavor curbed by the nice saltiness of the cheese and anchovies. This could have been a meal unto itself and in fact when we got the main course, I wish I hadn't eaten all my salad - I almost had no more room for the main event. I had the New York strip, medium-rare; it landed right in front of me sizzling on a hot plate laden with melted butter. Our table shared two side dishes - the whipped potatoes and the sauteed wild mushrooms. Each dish was magnificent in their own right but the steak was the definite star. The steak, perfectly cooked, was tender and moist, harboring a robust, deep flavor just enriched by the puddle of butter it rested on. The potatoes were smooth, velvety and creamy - and the mushrooms were delicious with a nutty, earthy, flavor. Both of these sides complimented the steak giving the meal different textures and flavors...add in great service and ambience....and again Ruth Chris serves up a lovely evening. And better yet, they accepted the gift card this time around no questions asked. Thanks mom!
Certainly there are high end chains out there that do really great food and strive to excel at customer service - and the Ruth Chris Steakhouse definitely falls into this category. The fact of the matter is that good food is good food, no matter if it's from a chain or a local place, or from a hot dog stand or your grandma's kitchen. But even given the great experiences I've had at Ruth Chris, these still haven't changed my fundamental philosophy about supporting local restaurants. Sure that means you won't find me eating every week at the Ruth Chris (I couldn't afford it anyway!) but if I had to recommend a great steakhouse in Utah....solely based on the food...Ruth Chris would definitely be in my top three.
Ruth Chris Steakhouse ~ Park City, Utah
Hotel Park City
-new SLC location under construction