Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ruth's Chris Returns Home (Kind of...Maybe)

It all started here. In 1965 Ruth Fertel bought the Chris Steakhouse at the corner of Orleans and Broad. Although she adopted the sizzling in butter presentation from the Crescent City Steakhouse down the street, Ruth undoubtedly was the restaurateur solely responsible for spreading that signature New Orleans style steak around the world.

But eventhough Hurricane Betsy (which hit less than 4 months after she bought the place) could not shut down Ruth's, it looks like Katrina has forever shuttered the location that started it all. Moreover, Ruth's corporate office has moved out of the Big Easy to just outside the restaurant chain mecca of Orlando. Talk about forgetting where you came from.

Although we stalwarts of tradition still long for the reopening of the flagship location on Broad Street, recent information has come to light that Ruth's will be opening again in the city. For those of us in the know (which I am sometimes one of them), this return has been a long time coming considering that the CEO of Ruth's actually flew down to NOLA two years ago to give final approval of opening the new restaurant in the bottom of The Lafayette Hotel (former location of Mike Ditka's and the recently defunct Anatole) only to put the kibosh on the deal because of the unorthodox dining room setup. However, the word is that the new Ruth's will (temporarily) be in the location of Riche in the bottom of the Harrah's Hotel and then eventually move down the block near the new Fulton Street Experience. The new location makes sense considering that the original Ruth's was situated in close proximity to the Fairgrounds in order to "cash-in" on those superfecta winners on their way home, whereas today Morton's and Besh Steakhouse look to snag the big money coming off the craps tables. However, I am hesitant to accept the veracity of this rumor due to conflicting information from separate sources.

Resident NOLA food critic Tom Fitzmorris reports on his New Orleans Menu Daily that he has spoken to various people connected with the construction, and that these people along with John Besh have confirmed that it is a done deal. However, Palm Room Hostess (an acquaintance of your bloggers) received word from upper level legal counsel at Harrah's that eventhough "the rumors are rampant," Harrah's has "not finalized the deal yet." Regardless, Ruth's has not issued any statement confirming or denying the rumors.

Has Father Tom been scooped by Palm Room Hostess? Only time will tell. But I think it is safe to say that we all look forward to the return of Ruth's to the city that started it all (whenever and wherever that may be). And although some of you might be a little worried that another steakhouse in the CBD/WHD may result in the eventual closing of La Boca or Besh or Morton's, remember that most of the time increased competition forces restaurants to differentiate themselves and create a better product. Nothing wrong with that.


Sonny said...

This is some good scoop. Thanks, Rene.

Not far this proposed locale, I checked out Grand Isle a few months ago. Great raw oysters in an outdoor setting.

Kelly said...

What is happening to Riche?