We wanted to treat a friend to a birthday dinner and she selected the Ruth Chris Steak House in Pikesville. Though situated in a modern business office complex, the five dining rooms have a posh traditional feel with lots of dark wood, muted colors and tables decked out in heavy white linens spaced nicely part. While we’re used to upscale restaurants, Ruth Chris’ menu prices raised our eyebrows. With most entrées priced $35 to $50 (and “veggies” not included and each costing $8+), the menu induced acute “sticker shock”. (FYI – there are no prices on their online menu nor does the actual menu provide the weight for the pricey steaks…) “Starter” soups and side salads ranging $8-$11 and a handful of appetizers ranging $13-$18 added to our “sticker shock”.
Marty and our friend split a Caesar salad while John had a Spinach salad. Our friend order the “Petite Filet” ($36), John opted for the New York Strip Steak ($42), and Marty decided on a special “Mahi Mahi with Shrimp ($37). We decided to share an order of Asparagus with Hollandaise ($9) and Garlic Mashed Potatoes ($8). The salads were good with large portions allowing for sharing; Marty liked the anchovies “on the side” that he had requested. Oddly, the staff started placing the entrees and veggies on the table without first clearing off the salad plates. The entrées arrived on unusually small, un-garnished plates with no room for our vegetables. Our friend was pleased with her filet but John was less than pleased that his steak arrived closer to “medium well” than the “medium rare” that he requested (he’s also bought $10 supermarket steaks that were tenderer and were better than his $42 Ruth Chris steak). Marty’s special was visually attractive with a comparatively large portion of fish and shrimp and it proved as good as it looked. A dozen stalks of asparagus were cooked nicely “al dente” but came with very small container of Hollandaise (For $9, why skimp?). The mashed potatoes were at best “average”; neither arrived with serving spoons. An empty bread basket was never re-filled. Curiously for such an upscale place, our waiter slipped the contents into boxes in front of us and left them awkwardly un-bagged on the table. After we turned down the offer of the $5 “French press” per person coffee service…), the waiter brought a complementary piece of chocolate cake for our friend’s birthday (but the waiter never asked her preferences and she never eats chocolate cake). The waiter also never asked us whether we wanted dessert and instead just brought us the bill.
Despite appreciating the casually elegant dining rooms, ultra high prices for a meal which seemed more average than outstanding and the dubious service left us wondering why Ruth Chris seemed so popular. Afterwards, we concluded that there were other restaurants with better food and service and offering better value for the dollar which we would likely consider first for our next special occasion dinner.
FACTS: Ruth Chris (Pikesville); 1777 Reisterstown Rd; 410-837-0033; www.ruthchris.com; Open 7 days a week for dinner; Full bar; Not good for vegetarians; adjacent parking lot plus valet parking option. (DiningOUT Visit: 2012/March)