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Ruth's Chris

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Ruth's Chris

Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:03 am

We'll keep this short. The food is overpriced and purchased a la carte. I ordered a ribeye, it was 37 dollars. Salad extra. Potato extra. I skipped the potato.

The steak was very flavorful, but I swear to God it was a chuck roast. It looked like a chuck roast. I got stringy sinew in my teeth like a chuck roast. I'm pretty sure it *was* a chuck roast, albeit a very flavorful and cleverly disguised one.

The service was annoying to the point of wanting to say to the waiter, "Could you please go the fuck away so we can talk?"

Drinks were 9 bucks a piece.

$140 later, the two of us left. My initial take on Ruth's Chris was that it was probably a place that people who live in states where no one knows how to cook a fucking steak would enjoy. I was pretty much on the money there. I don't think they'll make it here, unless their business model is such that they can survive on business travellers in Middleton alone.

Any native of Wisconsin will go there once, as I did. There are dozens of places within 30 miles of this Ruth's Chris that serve a better steak for a hell of a lot less, and include the sides with it.

It's not a matter of me being cheap, either. I just don't care to spend 37 bucks on a chuck roast and be told it's a ribeye. Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.

And in case you were wondering about the goofy name, our waiter gave us the whole story (not that we asked him to...). Sometime in the early 60's a woman named Ruth mortgaged her home and bought a place in New Orleans called Chris Steak House. She kept the name but added hers to it.

There ya go. I just saved you a bunch of money. Fire up your grill, buy a chuck roast, slather it in coarsely ground pepper and sea salt, rub it down with olive oil and put it on a very hot grill to sear both sides. Make as big of a salad as you like. Buy a whole bag of potatoes if you want, it's only a couple bucks. Or, visit one of the local, non chain steak houses or supper clubs and let them do it for you. You can probably have a meal and drinks for 2 for what I paid for my glorified chuck roast.
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Postby fisticuffs » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:50 am

Good to know. I didn't have any direct plans to go there but probably would have eventually. I had a similar experience at Johnny's Italian Steak House last weekend. Although my 17$ steak included the sides.
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Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:43 am

fisticuffs wrote:Good to know. I didn't have any direct plans to go there but probably would have eventually. I had a similar experience at Johnny's Italian Steak House last weekend. Although my 17$ steak included the sides.


My dining partner had eaten at Johnny's a couple weeks ago and said that the steak there was superior to that at Ruth's Chris. Looks like it's about half the price, too.

Ruth's Chris' appeal may be to that type of person who feels that because they paid a lot for it, it must be good.
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Postby fisticuffs » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:48 am

Sorry I meant $27 and the steak at Applebee's was better. Maybe I got a bad one. The dinner also lasted about 2 and half hours and they tossed half my steak without asking if I wanted to take it home. That being said I went there for lunch once and the menu was much smaller and cheaper and I had a much better experience.
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Postby supaunknown » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:17 am

Hey MikeyK! Good to see you again.

Gotta disagree with your review of Ruth's Cris though. Me & the wifey had a great dinner there. Sort of pricey but the food was great. She had the ribeye and I had the sirloin. Delicious cheddar potatoes and asparagus on the side plus caesar salads and a stuffed mushroom appetizer. It was one of those "treat ourselves" kind of meals and they didn't let us down.

*meatrelatedGOOD*
This last Friday we went to Samba Grill for the first time. Man, that place is the bomb diggity. Especially if you feel like loosening the belt and eating large for an evening. Definitely a meatified joint, but the "salad bar" was incredible too. Lots of fresh greens, cheeses, olives, nuts, etc.

*meatrelatedBAD*
After a particularly creepy first time venture to the House on the Rock we went to Thym's Supper Club outside Dodgeville. That place gives supper clubs a bad name. My prime rib was a terrible, overly chewy cut of meat and the au gratin potatoes were unbearably salty - probably cuz they were loaded with facon. My wife had to send her steak back because it was red raw in the middle and she'd ordered it done medium. A lady sitting close by had to do the same thing with hers. The salads were yellowing iceburg lettuce. There were missing ceiling tiles and Christmas decorations everywhere. As a dining experience it was just slightly less creepy than the House we'd just visited.
Last edited by supaunknown on Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:29 am

supaunknown wrote:Hey MikeyK! Good to see you again.

She had the ribeye and I had the sirloin. Delicious cheddar potatoes and asparagus on the side plus caesar salads and a stuffed mushroom appetizer. It was one of those "treat ourselves" kind of meals and they didn't let us down.


Thanks! It's good to be here again. I'm working in Madison two days a week and spending the rest of my time up in Tomahawk, WI working from home. Haven't been on here much since I moved north 3 years ago, but working here changes that.

I think that part of my problem with Ruth's Chris may be that I'm so incredibly spoiled with the wealth of fine supper clubs in the Northwoods. I remember that even when I lived down here, I'd often wonder why we couldn't get supper clubs/steak joints here like they had up north.

If anyone is ever traveling Hwy 51 North, passing the Tomahawk area, it is absolutely worth your while to take a short detour to the Silver Birch Supper Club on County U. Fantastic drinks with homemade pickled mushrooms. Spectacular view from the bar, al fresco dining in season on their back deck. Wonderful salads. And an awesome Porterhouse for $25. I'm told everything on the menu is fantastic, but I can't get past the Porterhouse. To get there, take the County A exit at Tomahawk. Take A left towards town, to the stop sign. Turn right. Go about a half mile to County U. Turn left on U. Go a mile or two, Silver Birch is on your right.
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Postby boston_jeff » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:01 am

Samba is the real deal, and on top of the great meat, coldbar and drinks, the live music and decor are some of the best in Madison.

Yet to try Ruth's Chris here, but I have to think that their standard of excellence is on a par with most similar establishments. High end steakhouses have consistently delivered the goods for me, yet I often encounter diners who are disappointed, complain about the price, and claim that they get a better steak elsewhere or can grill a better one on their own.

My thoughts:
1. It wasn't chuck roast, these places have the best cuts of aged beef.

2. All high end steakhouses have a la carte sides. Often the claimed secondary complaint but really the primary source of annoyance for many diners. My advice, go with it, try a bunch of apps and sides and enjoy--a visit to a Ruth's Chris is supposed to be a treat!

3. Drinks are 9 bucks a piece at nice restaurants, its the same as L'Etoile or Harvest. Not sure why one would go to a joint like this and expect anything else.

4. I'm a fan of impeccable service. This can be a fine line, but I'd rather have an attentive waiter who sometimes borders on annoying. As long as he/she cleans the table, replaces the plates and silver, and checks on my order, I can deal with that trade-off.

5. "People who live in states where no one knows how to cook a steak" and "any native of Wisconsin." I can't even begin. Wisconsin, where people know how to cook a steak. If you can cook a steak better than Ruth's Chris, more power to you, but I'm skeptical.

6. Fleming's has a prime rib special every Sunday. You get...wait for it...salad and side free!!! Its around 35 bucks I think.

7. Why order a $37 ribeye? For that price, go straight for the filet, KC strip or my favorite, the porterhouse. Those are the ones that you probably can't reproduce at home.

8. Other stuff to try at a high end steak place. The oysters and shrimp cocktail--always huge and flavorful, the salads--love the crumbled bleu cheese and tomato, fancy potatoes--one place I used to go to had truffled tater tots, the souffles and individually baked cakes, and the overpriced but high quality liquor and wine. Ruth's Chris, Morton's, Fleming's, Capital Grille, Smith and Wollensky, etc. have versions of these items.

9. The good "local" steak places that I've tried are Capitol Chophouse, Tornado, and Johnny Delmonico's. I liked the Tornado best, but they all did great red meat, and better than I could do with my own grill, but thats just me.

10. I enjoyed my Fleming's experience, but had the prime rib special with a group, so I have yet to try a real steak there. I look forward to treating my wife to a second visit there and our first to RC. I'm salivating right now...
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Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:11 am

boston_jeff wrote:Samba is the real deal, and on top of the great meat, coldbar and drinks, the live music and decor are some of the best in Madison.

Yet to try Ruth's Chris here, but I have to think that their standard of excellence is on a par with most similar establishments. High end steakhouses have consistently delivered the goods for me, yet I often encounter diners who are disappointed, complain about the price, and claim that they get a better steak elsewhere or can grill a better one on their own.

My thoughts:
1. It wasn't chuck roast, these places have the best cuts of aged beef.

2. All high end steakhouses have a la carte sides. Often the claimed secondary complaint but really the primary source of annoyance for many diners. My advice, go with it, try a bunch of apps and sides and enjoy--a visit to a Ruth's Chris is supposed to be a treat!

3. Drinks are 9 bucks a piece at nice restaurants, its the same as L'Etoile or Harvest. Not sure why one would go to a joint like this and expect anything else.

4. I'm a fan of impeccable service. This can be a fine line, but I'd rather have an attentive waiter who sometimes borders on annoying. As long as he/she cleans the table, replaces the plates and silver, and checks on my order, I can deal with that trade-off.

5. "People who live in states where no one knows how to cook a steak" and "any native of Wisconsin." I can't even begin. Wisconsin, where people know how to cook a steak. If you can cook a steak better than Ruth's Chris, more power to you, but I'm skeptical.

6. Fleming's has a prime rib special every Sunday. You get...wait for it...salad and side free!!! Its around 35 bucks I think.

7. Why order a $37 ribeye? For that price, go straight for the filet, KC strip or my favorite, the porterhouse. Those are the ones that you probably can't reproduce at home.

8. Other stuff to try at a high end steak place. The oysters and shrimp cocktail--always huge and flavorful, the salads--love the crumbled bleu cheese and tomato, fancy potatoes--one place I used to go to had truffled tater tots, the souffles and individually baked cakes, and the overpriced but high quality liquor and wine. Ruth's Chris, Morton's, Fleming's, Capital Grille, Smith and Wollensky, etc. have versions of these items.

9. The good "local" steak places that I've tried are Capitol Chophouse, Tornado, and Johnny Delmonico's. I liked the Tornado best, but they all did great red meat, and better than I could do with my own grill, but thats just me.

10. I enjoyed my Fleming's experience, but had the prime rib special with a group, so I have yet to try a real steak there. I look forward to treating my wife to a second visit there and our first to RC. I'm salivating right now...


Your subtle insinuation that I'm some sort of northwoods rube who doesn't understand 'fine dining establishments' holds no water. I spend a lot of time grilling steaks and I know my cuts of beef. I also know that a ribeye is not a cut of beef that I should be picking gristle out of my teeth over. I also know how to make a chuck steak or chuck roast taste and melt in your mouth like a ribeye...except that you can't do much with the gristle. And, if I wanted to go to a 'fine dining establishment', it would not be to a chain restaurant that's plopped down in suburbia next to a Quaker Steak n Lube and a Abulelos and across the street from a Country Inn & Suites. I'm guilty of not doing my homework, apparently. I didn't expect an Applebees, but I didn't expect what I got, either. And what I got was an Applebees with leather seats, linen napkins and a padded tabletop for the price of a 'fine dining establishment'. I'm sorry, but you just can't mass-market atmosphere. That phony friendly manufactured personality thing doesn't work at McDonalds, TGIFridays, or Ruth's Chris. I hope at least they pay their staff well, seeing as they have to memorize and recite the history of the company and oven statistics on demand. And the meal was good, but it wasn't 37 dollars good.

I ordered a ribeye because I wasn't hungry enough for a "Porterhouse for Two" which was the only Porterhouse I saw on the menu...I may have overlooked it?

I like good service, but part of good service is to leave me the hell alone so I can enjoy my meal and conversation without being constantly interrupted to hear wonderful anecdotes about the history of the restaurant or how the steaks are made or what kind of ovens they use, etc. I want to be seated, have drinks delivered promptly and accurately, order when I'm ready, be served timely, have my water refilled and questioned once about the quality of the meal, and then have the check delivered. I don't need a tour guide.

Also, your statements that all high end steakhouses are a la carte and that all nice places have 9 dollar drinks only reveals to me that you are one of those people who doesn't feel comfortable with the quality of the experience unless you empty your wallet. Whatever makes you happy, it's your money.

And, I can guarantee you that I *can* make a steak better than Ruth's Chris.

Thank you for the other suggestions for dining in the area, I look forward to trying them out.
Last edited by mikeyk on Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby fisticuffs » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:22 am

This is just horrible stuff to be writing about this close to lunch.
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Postby boston_jeff » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:23 am

Yes, I like nice places. I like dives too. There is no insinuation here, you shouldn't go to steakhouses like RC and expect them to be less than very very expensive. When most of your complaints have to do with price, I start to wonder.

On the other hand, you seem to be making insinuations about anyone who enjoys places like these. "Morons like these places because they don't know any better whereas people from Wisconsin (your words) are better off grilling at home." I think those generalizations are bunk. It wasn't chuck roast, now get back to your Weber.
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Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:31 am

boston_jeff wrote:

On the other hand, you seem to be making insinuations about anyone who enjoys places like these. "Morons like these places because they don't know any better whereas people from Wisconsin (your words) are better off grilling at home." I think those generalizations are bunk. It wasn't chuck roast, now get back to your Weber.


Not my words. Your interpretation of them. Please remove the quotes.

I've been to various places around the country where it is damned hard to find a decent, non-chain restaurant. Ruth's Chris, though it is a chain, must seem like a breath of fresh air to people who live there. I'm sure they're very successful in those places, and their reputation probably stems from those places. When your other choices are the usual mall-parking-lot chains and there's not what we might call a 'supper club' to be found, RC is probably the bomb. We have so many other choices here. We're very fortunate in that respect. That's my point...what I call "The Wisconsin Classic"* is such a part of our culture here. I don't think Madisonians are going to embrace RC the way people might in, say, Rockford or Des Moines or Dayton.

*The Wisconsin Classic - Going out to eat to a Supper Club... Brandy Old Fashioneds before dinner, then the presentation of a menu with nothing on it but steaks and maybe a little seafood or duck, dinner served with salad, soup, and rolls. Then afterward, a Grasshopper or Brandy Alexander.
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Postby lysander » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:40 am

FLAME WAR!!

A red-meat one at that.

Isn't there basically a really simple formula for doing the white-linen steakhouse thing? I mean that both for operating one and eating at one.

I do certainly dislike the overpresent service though. I'm more a fan of what Dan Savage called 'invisible service'.

Anyhow, let's get back to belittling one another for being from flyover country/East Coast money etc.
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Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:55 am

lysander wrote:Isn't there basically a really simple formula for doing the white-linen steakhouse thing? I mean that both for operating one and eating at one.

I do certainly dislike the overpresent service though. I'm more a fan of what Dan Savage called 'invisible service


I like that. Invisible Service. Perfect. I'm interested in what you're referring to as a 'formula'...can you expound?
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Postby boston_jeff » Wed Apr 23, 2008 12:06 pm

I have yet to try RC, but like I said, 99% of the time I love those type of places. Btw, Tornado is very supper club style and is my favorite of the non-chain steakplaces I've tried here. Great vibe and decor, would def. go back and bring out of towners to get that WI vibe.

Although the white table cloth steakhouse chain style is not unique, its not the same as a "chain" if you know what I mean. Legal Seafoods is technically a chain, but we're not talking Olive Garden here. When the quality exceeds to that level it trancends the category.

This is what sounds snarky to me--"My initial take on Ruth's Chris was that it was probably a place that people who live in states where no one knows how to cook a fucking steak would enjoy." I enjoy places like this, but I also enjoy a good steak on the grill, the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
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Postby mikeyk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 1:22 pm

boston_jeff wrote:
This is what sounds snarky to me--"My initial take on Ruth's Chris was that it was probably a place that people who live in states where no one knows how to cook a fucking steak would enjoy." I enjoy places like this, but I also enjoy a good steak on the grill, the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.


I guess that does sound snarky, doesn't it. I was needlessly incindiery there. Lack of coffee, probably. To clarify, what I meant was not that people who don't know how to operate a grill at home would like such a place, but that people who live in places where the supper club is not prevalent would enjoy such a place.
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