Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ruth's Chris

A Restaurant Review

Ruth's Chris has a new place outside Ocean City, Maryland. Store No 95 they call it. I am quite sure it is just as nice as Stores 1 through 94. The enterprise went public this year.

It looks like a deluxe paddock inside, or maybe a ski lodge, with a loft and an open floor plan. Let's go with paddock, because ski lodge implies there is a mountain outside, and this place does not have one. It is flat out there, flat as a pancake, except for the manufactured lumps that grace the golf course, a golf course that stretches as far as the eye can see, over the filled-in wetlands leading out to the Bay. Turning right from the highway on Maid at Arms Way (across from the Home Depot and the Wal Mart), the expanse reminds one of an enormous cat box, with ribbons of asphalt threaded through it. Or a landfill.

While we were waiting for our table at the restaurant an impossibly long stretch limo drove up, and it was black with decorative red and yellow flames air brushed down the side of it. Several people weaing laminated name tags got out and were escorted immediately to somewhere we could not see.

The restaurant is luxurious, and the people are so very nice!

Our waiter, for example, was very knowledgable about the menu. With the cheerful persuasive skills of a man who most likely sells time shares (to married couples only!) in rural Virginia during the day, he told us with great care about the enormous lumps of corn-fed beef that you could purchase, a la carte, along with large platters of a la carte mashed potatoes, potatoes which sit in about a half a pound of melted garlic butter. Mmmm. And you can start with their signature a la carte "chop" salad, which has a vertical structure and as far as we can tell, is comprised principally of mayonnaise, with a lovely chiffonade of french-fried onions on top.

On this occasion my father had a gift card worth $80 to spend, which bought us two of those luscious a la carte steaks, oh boy! We chose the petit filets, the smallest on the menu. We could have split one between us, actually. My daughter, who is ten years old, ordered the boned chicken, which was a whole poussin with all of the bones removed except for its cute little drumsticks, and it came wrapped around about ten ounces of melted Boursin "cheese." Our meat came out on plates we were told were five hundred degrees so don't touch them! To be fair our server then made a big deal about transferring my daughter's chicken to a cooler plate without even being asked to do so, but I suspect he was engaging in a bit of performance art at this point on behalf of his tip.

I should tell you that we went there under false pretenses. My father made the reservation under the name Jones, because he is 81 years old and is getting tired of having to spell S--------- every time he calls someone on the phone who wants to write down his name. This resulted in our being called Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Jones all evening, and my daughter kept asking things like, "Why do they keep calling us Jones?" or "Why do they have to call us anything?" or "Why didn't you just say Bob if you didn't want to spell S---------?" or "What are you going to do when the check comes and you are trying to pay the bill with a credit card with the name of this guy S--------- on it?"

The Mrs. Jones part was pretty funny though. I guess we made an interesting couple, Dad and me.

So my dad, who was getting a bit grumpy at all of the name business, said, "Why do they need to call you by name in the first place? It's not really a country club." It's a gated community without a real gate. It's called Glen Riddle, but it's not really a glen either. It's named after the guy who used to train those famous race horses. Actually his name was Sam Riddle, a textile millionaire, and he named the place Glen Riddle after the town he came from in Pennsylvania. Which in turn is a famous old name in Scotland that has something to do with winnowing wheat and rye. Indeed much of the physical structure of the once-great stable was used in the design of the restaurant. There are delightful touches like old stall doors that have been polished and turned into tables in the bar and grill.

If you buy one of the $600,000-plus houses constructed by the Centex Corporation on the Glen Riddle Fairway site, you can choose from two popular models, the Man O'War and the War Admiral. Don't worry if you can't qualify for a bank mortgage, because Centex provides that, too! And don't forget Centex's HomeTeam Pest Defense. Should undesirable vermin invade the homeland, these houses are designed with a built-in system to facilitate their extermination! Unfortunately we haven't met any of the people who live in these warring houses, nor are we likely ever to meet them, since we don't play golf. But at dinner they seemed nice. In fact, my daughter was so impressed with their grooming, she said at one point, "Mom, why do all of the women in here look like they come from soap operas?"

While waiting for our meal we noticed that an awful lot of the men wore tennis shoes and leather jackets and displayed beepers or cell phones on their waists while eating their supper. Truly we don’t belong to any real country clubs, and with a name like S--------- it was highly unlikely that my parents would ever have been invited to join any when I was a kid, but now I know what you are supposed to wear.

When the check came we were given a gargantuan plastic carry-on bag bearing the famous Ruth's Chris logo (in red, black and white) to transport home our enormous uneaten lumps of leftover red meat, which had been cooked to absolute perfection and the bits we were able to eat had practically melted in our mouths. Before being placed in the bag, they also had been carefully wrapped, separately, in generously-sized No. 6 black plastic clamshells.

When we got ready to leave, I noticed a young woman in the unheated entryway. She had long chestnut hair and long, muscular legs, which were bare, although it was about 38 degrees at that point. She was wearing one of those miniscule lacy black acetate slips, with a black push up bra underneath. The bra straps were just a bit shorter than the spaghetti straps on the dress. Focusing on her legs again, I noted this dress could not possibly have been any shorter. On her feet were enormous black platform shoes with heels higher than anything I had ever seen south of New Jersey. There is, in fact, a term they use for shoes that look like this in New Jersey, but we don’t use that kind of language on our beach down here. She was on her cell phone for a very long time, swinging her big red forelocks as she shifted from one foot to the other, like a gamine stuck at the gate. It looked like she was getting cold.

All in all, it was a great evening. We waved a cheerful goodbye to pretend soldier in the little house on our way out. For some reason, on the way home, driving through Berlin, Maryland with my father's handicap tags swinging to and fro from our rear view mirror, I found myself humming, "Tomorrow belongs to me!"

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