1120 Shapiro Dr.www.rubytuesday.com
This option pretty much chose itself. We’d been to Ruby’s a couple of times during the quest, but it had been awhile. It probably wouldn’t have been the choice had it not been for an email I received from the chain. “25% off your entire food purchase.” It said. That’s hard to pass up. I gave Ruby’s my (alternate) email address a few years back. I feel no conflict about this I’m not asking for any advantage at any restaurant that isn’t also offered to the public at large. Some places send out deals like this from time to time. I don’t always accept the offer, but it’s available to everyone.
Above I-55, just below Lowes and the Waffle House. It had changed on the inside. Gone were all the sports-related knick-knacks, sleds, jerseys, oars, hockey sticks. The walls were painted a muted neutral color and a few, and only a few generic art prints were scattered about. The Large TV’s were limited to the area around the bar and muted. The background music was soft, and forgettable. The place was still dark, even with the large shaded lamps hanging from the ceiling. So dark that I immediately realized that any attempt at photographing the food with my flimsy phone would prove to be a disappointment. I could take my good camera, but in this place that would still require me to use a flash, and I don’t imagine those around me would appreciate that.
The wait staff was still ninja-like, black pants and shirts, though a couple of the young ladies had hems of bright red peeking out from beneath their overshirts. Our hostess reminded me a great deal of the Actress Stana Katic, who plays Kate Beckett on the TV series “Castle”. She had those same slightly exotic Balkan features that are not Hollywood-template-pretty, more eastern-European pretty. (Katic’s parents, Serbian father and Croat mother immigrated to Canada and later Illinois, from Yugoslavia.) I do not know if our hostess was of similar lineage, I thought it would be rude to ask. I did note that the hostess carried more meat on her bones than Katic does. The actress can’t weigh more than seventy five pounds dripping wet and if you ask me is way TOO skinny, unattractively so.
We were seated in a distant booth pretty quickly though the place was filling up fast. Among the patrons were a dozen or so young ladies in prom-style dresses. Evening or party dresses I guess, I was not aware of a homecoming or prom in the area, though there was obviously something like that going on. I watched as small clutches of them would venture to the restroom together. Why girls want company in restrooms is of course, a complete mystery to me. When I go to a restroom I really am not about to do anything I wish to share with even my closest friends.
We read through our menus though I’d previewed it online earlier and was all but decided. We asked for drinks, tea, sweet tea and Coke.
Ruby’s best feature is its salad bar. I’ve spoken of this before and it bears repeating. It is far and above the best salad bar I’ve come across anywhere. Well stocked, well managed, diverse and fresh. I knew this going in and planned accordingly. It’s very easy to overdo the salad and not have room for a big steak and potato meal. So I ordered from the salad/meal combination section. ‘Mini’s and Garden Bar’. Angel ordered form the same section, obviously aping my cleverness. Her choice was the Lobster Mac and Cheese & Garden Bar. Adam, continuing and completing the aping ordered the Mini’s and Garden Bar as well. We were directed to the salad bar and Angel already had her plate half-filled before the various papers and napkins stopped fluttering in her wake. She loves this salad bar.
Three kinds of lettuce, spinach, peppers, onions mushrooms, cheeses, peas, bacon bits, potato salad, fruit salad, on and on and on. At least ten different dressings, I like to mix them up. A little blue cheese, some Thousand Island, a drizzle of Italian. . .
My little plate was packed, but I was okay with that knowing that the follow up, the little burgers, would still fit into my gullet quite nicely. Returning to the table we sat our plates down and began the pseudo-vegetarian carnage. The drinks had arrived, the tea was actually quite good. Ruby’s is kind of hit and miss on the tea, it was a good night though. And the biscuits. Ruby Tuesday’s luscious cheesy biscuits. Those little delights and a big sloppy salad are enough for a meal in themselves, All-you-can-eat, yummy goodness.
The arrival, a bit premature, of the main courses was almost a non-event. Adam and I were given our small plates with two sliders, a small dose of fries and a small tin bowl of ketchup each. Angel’s mac and cheese was cheesy, steamy, drippy served in a small, half-inch tall rectangular stoneware bowl. Chunks of lobster were prevalent. I almost hated pushing my awesome salad aside, but I was hankering for some meat.
The sliders were about the size and shape of White Castle’s but were a bit meatier and didn’t have whatever WC puts in theirs to make them both insanely addictive and violently diarrhetic at the same time. The tiny burgers were cooked medium well, no small feat as the patties were quite small. There was ketchup and a pickle on the top side, and the bottom of the small bun was coated with mayonnaise. Why mayonnaise? I have no idea. I think it’s a Canadian thing.
“Where do you get such small buns?” Adam asked, staring at his slider.
“Treadmill, lots of time on a treadmill.” I answered, adding: "and better DNA"
Angel oohed and ahhed over her chunky cheesy dish. “Lots of lobster.” She said with strings of melted cheese hanging from her chin.
As we slowed down for the final stretch the topic of haircuts came up, as I was going to get one the next day.
“I just grab a pair of scissors and head to the bathroom and start chopping off the parts I don’t like.” She boasted.
“I have to have mine done by professionals to maintain a professional appearance.”
“Are you saying I don’t look professional?” She accused.
“You’re a dog trainer, the frontier look works just fine for your profession.”
Oddly enough Angel took exception to this innocent and flattering comment. I spent the next few minutes trying to get her to understand that it was a compliment. She remained stubbornly unconvinced. I tried to steer the conversation to neutral ground by bringing up the Super Bowl. This didn’t work well since none of us are the least bit interested in football, we couldn’t even agree on who would be playing in it. Finally we started discussing evening entertainment and decided to stop at Blockbuster after our meal. Bullet dodged.
All good. Ruby’s has disappointed us before, and yet they have been quite exceptional at many other times. This was a good night indeed. The coup de gras of course was that not only did we have a 25% off coupon, we, for once, actually remembered to bring it with us. Thus this great and satisfying meal only cost us about thirty five dollars. Sure we didn’t have big steaks or appetizers, but the meal was excellent. The portions were intelligently chosen to accentuate the place’s strong suit, the salad bar. The main courses were small yet satisfying. Adam even mentioned that the fries were among his favorite. Angel’s dish over time seemed very rich, but since the portion was small, it was great. I found no fault in the food or the service and the price? Wow!
Highly recommended, but read the menu ahead of time and for the love of all that may or may not be holy or even just coincidental, get a coupon!