Ruth’s Chris is the largest steakhouse chain in the United States. As such, it was the first major restaurant of that type to give the Portland institution Ringside Steakhouse any real competition. After it opened, I used to go now and then to experience something a bit more upscale. I enjoyed the cleanly modern, yet clubby feel. However, as I’ve gotten older, I have tended to eschew steakhouses in general, and hadn’t been to any in quite some time. Now with my steakhouse review project, that has all changed.
Ambiance: The first thing I noticed about Ruth’s Chris hit me before I had even opened the door. The entry seemed a bit worse for wear. Inside, it was more of the same. This is a restaurant that is clearly in need of a bit of fixing up; it is not nearly as impressive as it was 10 years ago. Neither is the crowd. As I walked to my table, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of people in sandals and casual wear. We felt like we were in the suburbs, rather than in a downtown steakhouse.
As we sat down, I took in the surroundings. The inside is a bit dated and in need of a refresh. It is more brightly lit than it used to be, and with the rays of the long summer day streaming through the windows, it all felt a bit cheap. The long tacky mural painted across the back wall doesn’t help. The clubby feel found in many steakhouses is gone. This place has seen better days. Grade C-
Service: Overall, the service was excellent. The waiter was clear and concise, though it was a bit annoying to hear the table next to us being told about specials that were never mentioned to us. Another gripe, the water up-sell was worse than most: “Would you like sparkling, bottle flat, or JUST TAP WATER”, the last delivered with scorn that made us spontaneously roll our eyes as he walked away. A floor manager frequently scanned the room, always ready to step in to make sure guests were happy. I have some stock questions I ask the server at every location; this one answered every one correctly. Overall, the service was excellent and attentive. A- (marked-down for the obnoxious water up-sell)
Salads: As per all these steakhouse reviews, we all had Caesar salads. This is of a fairly traditional middle-America nature, though somewhat small compared to other steakhouses. It is not made at the table as some are, but is brought out on a plate, fairly small leaves, surrounded by four tiny tomatoes. The romaine was dressed properly, a decent shaved Parmesan cheese over the top. The dressing was better than I expected, with a nice burst of anchovy. Grade C+
The steaks were less impressive. We ordered them medium rare, but a New York (16 ounces) came medium well. The meat was not as high quality as some other steakhouses in town, and, combined with a steak knife that looked right out of a dollar store, was tough to cut. Unfortunately, the characteristics of a Porterhouse (28 oz) were similar, cooked medium instead of medium-rare, and a bit tough. The flavor of both steaks was pretty good, but they were both over-seasoned to the point where we kept the staff busy refilling our water glasses. For a restaurant that specializes in steak, if they do one thing right, this should be it. Grade C-
Sides: Every steakhouse has different side dishes, but you can generally find similar offerings between restaurants. At this time of year asparagus is at its peak, but here it was thick and a bit woody. An accompanying hollandaise was broken and didn’t have much flavor. A second dish, potatoes au gratin in cream sauce was topped with melted cheddar. The potatoes were not under or over cooked, and the cheese was a bit sharp. No complaints if you are into that sort of thing. Bread and butter are served with every meal, and is of better quality than most steakhouses. Grade C
Other factors: Wines by the glass ranged from $9.50 to $34 for a Caymus cab. They also have a better than average selection of splits, which is nice if you are dining alone. The entire wine list is of moderate size, and leans heavily towards California wineries. Only a few Oregon selections were available. The server seemed to have a good grasp of all the glass pours, and steered us to cheaper priced offerings rather than the most expensive – points in my book. Overall, the selection by bottle and glass was pretty good, with average restaurant markup. Stemware was of good quality. Corkage is $15.00.
I realize the steak plates are small to keep you from burning your fingers as they come to the table sizzling, but then you have to deal with a second plate for the side dishes. This would normally not be much of a problem, but those plates are tiny! Trying to fit a couple of items was more of a chore than it should be. Asparagus was so long it flopped over the edges. It was annoying.
This is the only steakhouse in my survey where I didn’t have dessert. From looking at the menu, and then watching them pass by all evening, there was nothing that made me the slightest bit interested. They all had that shipped frozen look to them, and I just couldn’t make myself taken in additional calories. That being said, desserts at many of the other steakhouses werent’ exactly winners.
My whole experience at Ruth’s Chris bothered me, because nothing about it was as good as I remembered from years ago. Since then, I have come up with a theory. When they first opened, Ruth’s was the classiest steakhouse in town. Then Morton’s and El Gaucho arrived. Their business must have been diluted by the arrival of these competitors. I believe Ruth’s has purposely positioned themselves a little lower than the two other chains to differentiate themselves. Judging from the crowded dining room, they have done a good job drawing a less upscale crowd. Their only real competition is Ringside, though one of my companions suggested we add Stanford’s to the list, because she felt it was comparable and somewhat less expensive. I may do that.
The total cost of my average meal for two, consisting of two cocktails, two Caesars, two steaks, two sides, and two glasses of wine, priced in the center of the wine list, was $157.00.
This is the summary of a group of four steakhouse reviews. You can see the:
- Introduction to the review project here,
- El Gaucho review,
- Morton’s review,
- Ringside Steakhouse review
- You can see the score and cost comparison between all four steakhouses in this roundup here.
- Address: 309 SW 3rd, Portland OR. 97204
- Phone:(503) 221-4518
- Website: Ruths Chris.com
- Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm-10pm, Sun 4pm-9pm. Bar opens daily at 4pm