Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ruby Tuesday's

I’ve mentioned before that this whole exercise, to find different places to eat came about after experiences at Ruby Tuesday’s. Our first meal there was phenomenal, but three attempts to recapture that excellence each ended in frustration.
On Saturday we had planned to try an Italian place a client of Angel’s had recommended, not only did he offer a recommendation; he backed it up with a gift certificate. The accompanying card advised to call ahead for reservations. When Angel did so on Saturday afternoon, she was told that the place was not taking reservations for the times we requested five to six PM. They suggested either four PM (too early) or seven PM (too late).
This left us blank, none of us could come up with an alternative. So we did what we had done so many times in the past, we defaulted to an old familiar. This is one of the problems with a household made up completely of introverts.* This is how we ended up at RT’s.

The Place:
Between Lowes and Intestate 55 in Festus, the large parking lot on this very chilly evening** was nearly but not completely full. We were ushered immediately to a table, past the very item that Angel likes the most about this place, the salad bar. I have to admit it’s a pretty darn good one.
We were seated and handed our menus in a booth along the drafty windows. We were directly beneath a speaker that was belting out just a little too loudly seventies and eighties mild rock. Some of the songs were okay, some were Disco. At a distance there was a professional football game playing on TV screens but not close enough to maintain an interest or cause frustration or distress.
Along the walls were Sports-Americana items, oars, skates, sleds, framed jerseys and posters and photos of sports-related people. The lighting was provided by suspended lamps with dim bulbs hanging over the tables.
The Food:

The menus had changed a little in the months since we last ventured there. We noted the addition of lobster in various configurations. This was very tempting, we lunged at it.
Angel and I both ordered the sirloin and lobster with the salad bar of course. We also asked for the creamy mashed potatoes and the sautéed green beans with onion straws.
The disappointment began exactly at this point. We were informed that they no longer served the sautéed green beans with onion straws, a side I absolutely loved. This sent our faces back into the menu where Angel came out first calling out ‘snap peas’. In my mind they were the same color as green beans generally the same shape so I too requested them.
Adam ordered the buffalo chicken mini sandwiches with fries, no salad bar.
Of course tea, tea and Coke. The tea was fresh, bright and excellent. I suspect it is something other that Lipton, though I do not know for sure.
The salad bar as I said is among the best I’ve come across anywhere. The selection is all fresh and plentiful. There is some iceberg lettuce but it is just one form of leafy green among many. I chose the other stuff; I don’t know what it’s called, romaine etc. and plenty of spinach. As for toppings there are many. I tonged up about twenty grape tomatoes, bacon chunks, cucumbers, bell peppers, mushrooms, two types of shredded cheese, a spoonful each of dirty potato salad and apple salad. This was topped by a small dose my favorite two-dressing combo, Thousand Island and Bleu Cheese.
Angel timidly picked through her preferences then went nasty on the croutons. Her and Adam rave about the croutons there, I don’t care for them. They are very dark and to me seem to have the consistency of small chunks of a radial tire. She doubled, tripled up on those since she knew Adam would pluck most of them. She insists the croutons are the best anywhere, I recognize and respect her inalienable right to be completely wrong about certain things.
I tried to not eat my entire salad, saving room for the steak and lobster, but I failed miserably. Everything was so fresh and so good that it was not possible to leave much on the plate. As predicted Adam took about half of the croutons off Angel’s salad.
The wait for our meals was longer than usual. The music slid unmercifully into a meandering, mind bruising Whitney Houston ballad followed by an equally grating, sappy love song from Peter Cetera.
When the main courses finally arrived the salad was a barely remembered thing of the past. The first thing I did after checking for the rareness of my steak was to try the peas. They were in a word, awful. Green peas are potentially overpowering among more subtle flavors. It only takes a few in a stir fry or stew to completely take over the dish. Here on my plate, still in the pods were a big pile of them, and there they stayed. Too sweet, too strong and the texture was that of parboiled slugs.
The creamy mashed potatoes at RT’s are the absolute best I recall having anywhere; very smooth and creamy, slightly, only slightly herbed, simply dreamy. Had they taken them off the menu I would have stormed out and burned the place down.
The steak was cooked perfectly; unfortunately the beef itself was quite less than first rate. I’ve had worse to be sure (Cracker Barrel), but this one was just a little too tough; not enough marbling, the obvious sign of significantly less than grade AAA beef. It was far from awful though.
The lobster was surprising in more than one way. First there were three lobster tails in shells. Don’t be alarmed, they were tiny; only about three to four inches long and only about a half inch in diameter. I’ve had crawdads this size. The other surprise was that they were fantastic! Perfectly cooked, subtly seasoned and generously buttered. They complemented the so-so steak exactly as some high god or another intended the notion of surf and turf to do.
Angel’s delight and surprise was the same as mine. We wolfed it all down rather quickly leaving behind entire portions of the peas and desperate fingernail and tooth marks on the tiny lobster shells. Adam left nothing behind; the small spicy chicken sandwiches suited him just fine.

Summary:
All in all it was a pretty good meal; less so for the price. This is among the pricier of the chain restaurants/sports bars. Ruby Tuesday’s is currently under an up-scaling mission reaching out to the upper-upper middle class a little more. In my mind they are pennies away from pricing themselves out of the local market. With tip the meal for three totaled nearly seventy dollars. At that price range, the steaks need to be better quality and the lobster needs to be closer to actual size. The salad bar is beyond compare though, even with the Goodyear croutons.
I will score this experience, primarily against itself. I have had a perfect meal at RT’s, once. This visit would rate at best an eighty five. The snap peas, the lesser quality of the meat and the overall expense weighed heavily.
We will probably go back, the salad bar calls to us. As for recommending to others, yeah, sure, maybe. By that I mean that if someone were to suggest taking me there, I’d accept.


* Introverts: Based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment tests.

** “Very chilly” is an understatement. At the time of this outing the area had been suffering through more than a week of brutal, soul-sucking cold temperatures. Only once in the previous six to eight days had the thermometer ventured near twenty degrees and on that day it was blustery and it dropped more than three inches of dry thin snow, the consistency of shredded ice. Most days topped out in the low teens. At these temperatures even a mild breeze turns the air into razorblades. The draftiness of the windows mentioned later in the review was more a result of the extreme outside temperature than the quality of windows.

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