At Ruth’s Chris Steak House, there’s the sizzle. And then, there’s “The Sizzle.”
The first sizzle is the one that accompanies every steak served at the more than 100 locations of this upscale chain, the most recent of which opened in January at Tulsa’s River Spirit Casino Resort.
The plate on which the steak is served is heated to 500 degrees, then doused with a good amount of butter right before it is brought to the table.
“It’s just one of those things that makes Ruth’s Ruth’s,” said Barrett Byrd, general manager of the Tulsa location.
Another of those things that makes Ruth’s Chris Steak House what it is, Byrd said, is “The Sizzle,” a multipage, highly detailed mission statement that Byrd said “is something we use and refer to every day.”
“It’s really kind of a manifesto,” he said. “It lays out how things are supposed to work, how all the relationships within the organizations are handled — if there’s a problem, it’s not a matter of finding someone to blame but of working together to solve the problem.
“It’s all about achieving our goal, which is to provide our guests with the best American steakhouse experience they have ever had,” Byrd said.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House got its start in 1965, when Ruth Fertel bought a long-lived New Orleans restaurant called Chris Steak House. The current tongue-twister of a name was the result of a fire that destroyed the original building. Because Fertel was legally barred from using the Chris Steak House name at any other address, she added the “Ruth’s” to provide some sense of continuity.
Continuity is another hallmark of this chain, which according to Byrd has made major changes to its menu only twice in its 52-year history. The centerpiece of the menu is its array of 12 steaks, ranging from an eight-ounce petite filet ($41) to the 40-ounce Tomahawk Rib-eye ($115), which is served still attached to a significant length of rib bone. Other choices include a pan-roasted Chilean sea bass ($42), a chicken breast stuffed with a garlic, herb and cheese mixture ($29), even a vegetarian plate.
Diners can also choose from an array of appetizers, from crab-stuffed mushrooms ($15) to the chilled seafood tower with lobster, crab legs, crab meat and shrimp that can run up to $118. Sides range from the traditional, including six potato preparations, to lobster mac and cheese ($19.50) and roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon and honey butter ($12).
Chef Caleb Sparks came to Ruth’s Chris after three years at Osage Casino.
“This is my first experience in fine dining, and you’re held to a different standard here,” he said. “Yes, the menu is pretty set, but you’re working with high quality, extremely fresh products, much of which we source locally. A lot of pride goes out with every plate from this kitchen.”
My wife and I visited on a recent Monday evening; reservations are a necessity on weekends and when the casino is hosting concerts, but the restaurant will accommodate walk-ins when possible. This evening, only a half-dozen or so tables in the main dining area were occupied; the lounge and bar areas were a bit more filled. Because of this, we were seated at one of the tables overlooking the Arkansas River.
This was our first visit to a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, so we stuck with the basics. We considered the “Ruth’s Specials,” a prie fixe menu that gives one an appetizer, entree with side, and dessert for $44.95 to $55.95. But in the end, we each ordered a steak — the eight-ounce filet for her, the 12-ounce rib-eye ($47) for me — and shared dishes of creamed spinach ($10) au gratin potatoes ($11) and the barbecue shrimp appetizer ($17).
The shrimp was a twist on a New Orleans staple with sauce made of butter, dry white wine, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, garlic, scallions and the barest hint of cayenne poured over five plump, perfectly cooked large shrimp. A triangular chunk of bread at the end of the plate was an excellent vehicle for swiping up any leftover sauce.
The steaks arrived hissing and spitting with rapidly browning butter — not an unpleasant experience by any stretch. Both arrived at the table at the perfect temperature — medium for the rib-eye, medium rare for the filet — but one might consider ordering one’s steak a little rarer than wanted, as the meat continues to cook on the plate.
Ruth’s Chris uses USDA Prime for its steaks, seasons them with salt (somewhat aggressively on the rib-eye we had) and pepper, then cooks them on a special broiler at 1,800 degrees. The results, at least in our case, were incredibly tender and flavorful. This was one of the few filets I’ve tried that deserved the descriptor “buttery,” while the rib-eye had no trace of the liveriness this cut can take on when not properly cooked. The browned butter mingled with the steak’s natural juices into a tantalizing sauce.
The creamed spinach was almost like a mousse, it was so airy and light in texture, with no bitterness or stringiness. The fork-tender potatoes were baked in a bechamel sauce and topped with crispy cheese crust.
For dessert, we ordered the New York cheesecake ($9), a circular plate full of thick crust and fluffy filling topped with a tangy sour cream sauce and raspberry coulis, and the creme brulee ($10), rich vanilla custard beneath crunchy caramelized demerara sugar.
Our server, Todd, handled our needs, as well as those of the boisterous party of 12 seated nearby, effortlessly and cheerfully.
Ruth’s Chris offers more than 30 wines by the glass; its wine cellar holds more than 200 different labels. The full bar serves up an array of signature cocktails. During “Happy Hour” from 4-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, a select number of cocktails and bar food such as burgers and sandwiches are available for $9 each.
Ruth’s Chris is located on the north end of River Spirit Casino Resort. Complimentary valet parking is provided.