Charming bayou back story notwithstanding, Ruth's Chris Steak House is possibly the most awkwardly named restaurant, ever. Just saying it out loud feels like you've got to stumble over four tongues in order to spit out its tangle of esses. And it's no picnic electronically, either: Earlier in the day, our friend Leah signed off an e-mail by saying, "See you at Ruth's Chris' brother's uncle's steakhouse at 6." Indeed.
So we arrive at Ruth's Chris and sit at the bar among largely middle-aged, professional-looking people engaged in reserved conversations. Judging by the prices on their drink menu, it seems too upscale and too low-key a place for a flaming martini, but the doorman wore a couple playful strands of Mardi Gras beads, so we remain hopeful. We rather lamely ask the bartender which of their drinks they light on fire. The bartender, perplexed but accommodating, says none, but explains that he could light something on fire if we want. Huh. We think about the open-ended possibilities, and need a few minutes more to consider them all. We order a water to start with and he ignites a lemon peel (well, it sparks a couple times) and drops it into the glass. It dully fizzles along with our hopes of a drink a little more interesting.
We turn back to the menu and decide on their eponymous Ruth's Classic Cosmo with Ketel One Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and a lime wheel. When we receive the drink it's clear that...well, really, it's pretty much just clear, period. The cranberry juice provides only the teensiest amount of color and there's no lime to be found. It's essentially alcohol on alcohol, and not in the good way. After taking a sip, our friend Leah agrees and orders her drink "medium" in color and alcohol content pointing to our drink as an example of "well done." We giggle already drunk after one boozy sip?
Unlike our drink, the artwork that's hung around the bar is intriguing. The pictures feature women in elegant black dresses. They are classy-looking, having found a sense of balance: they show enough skin to be seductive without being slutty, and each of them hold cigarettes, seemingly having reaped only good benefits from smoking. It almost functions as subliminal encouragement to light up, like the cigarette warnings for which Japan's famous: "Be careful not to smoke too much because it could harm your health." Which is sort of like Grandma making a fuss about eating enough vegetables, but then surreptitiously slipping a fifth of Jack into your coat pocket as you leave her home. We continue to stare at the art as conversation swirls around us.
All right, so maybe we do fall for gimmicks, we think as we fish a cigarette from out from our fresh pack and light it. But at long last, we also got our something on fire.
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