The Spot: Ruth's Chris Steak House, 2201 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602-957-9600, ruthschris.com
The Hours: Dinner 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour: 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Interior: Happy Hour is held in the small, cozy bar and lounge at the bottom of the stairs. You might want to remember these stairs (which are oddly steep, or is it me?) when you're considering a second or third cocktail.
The room exudes clubby warmth, thanks to plush upholstery and rich wood accents, and as is true of most steak houses, the subtext is money and the luxuries it buys. Although the restaurant draws an older crowd, who can afford a $45 steak, Ruth's Chris's happy hour habitues are twenty-somethings who look as if they may be operating from the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder. Although they can't flash around much money yet, at least they're smart enough to know a good deal when they see one.
The Food: Sure, you can find seafood dishes at Ruth's Chris, but everyone knows this is a meat-lover's haven. The $7 Sizzle, Swizzle and Swirl Menu is exactly as advertised -- six sizeable happy hour snacks (four of them focused on red meat, two on seafood), all priced at $7, all of which spent a little sizzle time on a grill or in hot oil.
The prime burger, served on a toasted brioche bun with blue cheese, tomato and onion, is juicy and cooked to temperature. Sided by crispy fries (not house-made, but still good), it's a more-than-decent supper for $7. The steak sandwich, which also comes with fries, seems even more substantial: tender filet slices, overlapped on a soft sub-style bun and drizzled with thick, luscious béarnaise.
If you value simplicity (the essence of no-frills sliders), you may love Ruth's Chris's upscale version: three petite burgers, fashioned from prime beef and tucked between toasted brioche buns with absolutely nothing on them. They're greasy and satisfying.
Lightly fried lobster nuggets, served over chopped lettuce, topped with feathered green onion and bathed in spicy cream sauce, seem small portioned compared to everything else, but that's to be expected. It's lobster, after all -- crunchy and delish.
The Drink: To fulfill the Swizzle portion of the Happy Hour menu, Ruth's Chris offers five cocktails: the classic Cosmo, a too-sweet pomegranate martini, a Manhattan, a Moscow Mule and a refreshing Rocks Rita made with freshly squeezed lime and OJ. Forget the swirl. By-the-glass wine selections -- one Chardonnay, one Merlot and one Cab -- seem like an afterthought.
The Conclusion: If you're an unabashed carnivore who doesn't require edginess or even creativity from Happy Hour, Ruth's Chris will suit you just fine. It's good solid food done well. Other happy hours offer lower prices, but precious few of them are putting out prime beef. And that's getting to the meat of the matter.
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