Ruth’s Chris Steak House in West Des Moines is the biggest in the franchise, with indoor seating for 450. Photo: Christopher Maharry
Writer: Wini Moranville
The sheer size of the new Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a franchise restaurant that opened Monday on Jordan Creek Parkway in West Des Moines, makes every other large-scale restaurant in town — Centro, Fresko, Americana, you name it — seem downright cozy. With 50,000 square feet of indoor dining that includes three bars, three large dining rooms and quite a few private party rooms spread across two stories, Ruth’s is massive. The place seats 450 indoors alone, and there are three outdoor patios that seat even more.
That’s all to say: Ruth’s isn’t the spot for a cuddly romantic dinner. Indeed, sitting in our spacious and highly energetic dining room felt a little like being at a grand dinner in a hotel ballroom. The upstairs dining room, with a more clubby atmosphere, would be my choice.
The soft opening Saturday night was a gas. There was excitement and a happy groove all over the place, even when the lights in the restrooms and the servers’ hallway went dark, thanks to a blown fuse, and the electronic ordering system took a nap in the middle of it all.
At that point, the less experienced food runners and table clearers seemed sweetly nervous (which showed they cared), while the servers kicked into gear in a way that made me certain they’d all seen this kind of thing before. Looking around, I saw no server who looked younger than 30, and many looked over 40. This wasn’t their first rodeo. Our server, in particular, was pure pro, and while he liked to joke around as much as we did, I have a hunch he’d know to tamp it down if he had a less fun table.
The food? The crab cakes appetizer ($29) wowed with generous chunks of firm and buttery crab and nothing noticeable by way of breading. Ten-plus ingredients sculpted into a high and mighty tower made the Chop Salad ($14) look like a clear winner. But of the two salads we ordered, I’d sooner go back for the less showy Harvest Salad ($16), which stood out with bacon, Cajun pecans, creamy goat cheese and roasted corn.
As for the steaks, let’s just say I’ve eaten my own personal quota of corn-fed beef for the rest of the year, and I savored every single bite. Both the well-marbled 22-ounce “cowboy” ribeye filet ($76) and the lusty 8-ounce filet ($64, with shrimp) arrived perfectly cooked to the medium-rare temperature we requested. The pureed potatoes tasted like a 50-50 ratio of potatoes to butter, and I mean that as the highest praise. They were heavenly. (However, I wouldn’t bother with the shrimp option on the filet. The seafood tasted surprisingly ordinary compared to everything else at the table.)
The white chocolate bread pudding is a delightfully soft, spongy and delicate version with a choice of sauce — in our case, a lovely Frangelico crème anglaise. I’ve never described bread pudding as “elegant” in my life, but this was just that.
I should mention that it’s hard not to have a fine old time when you’re getting $300 worth of food and drinks for free as part of a pre-opening event. So it would be fair to ask if I’d go back on my own dime.
The answer: Yes, I would, but I most certainly will not spend nearly $300 (plus tax and tip) for two of us. There’s no need. The portions are purposefully excessive, and it’s perfectly OK to split the large steaks and sides. (I confirmed this with general manager Todd Zietlow). Even so, it’s going to be a once-in-a-great-while splurge for me.