Monday, April 10, 2006


One highlight of the trip, for at least one of the senses, was a trip to the confoundingly named Ruth's Chris Steak House. Ruth's Chris is an 85-restaurant chain and let me get this out of the way first: The food is delicious. In some ways, that's hard for me to admit, as a former vegetarian. There's part of me that will always regret falling off the wagon. But better an honest sinner than a hypocrite, right?

But there's something about the experience that didn't sit right with me and it had nothing to do with the food, and it has everything to do with chaindom. I'm not entirely allergic to chains, mind you. But chains with pretensions really bug me. I hate, for instance, when I go to Big Bowl here in Chicago and the waiter asks, "Have all of you eaten here before?" as if the experience to come would be so fucking unlike anything we'd ever experienced that we'd need some guidance. It's not a roller coaster. It's a meal.

This wasn't that. And it wasn't a typical chain, either. If nothing else the price-point kept it off limits to families deciding at the last minute to eat out on Friday. There was dress code and a valet, too, all the trappings of an exclusive dining experience. But here they were just that: trappings. It almost has more in common with a Planet Hollywood or a Hard Rock where part of what you're being sold is access to a world more glamorous than one you normally encounter. The walls are lined with wood and covered in scenes of antiquity. The bookshelves have leather-bound volumes on them. The beef is corn-fed Midwestern stock. It's White Privilege: The Theme restaurant. Is it any wonder that their celebrity endorsers have included Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity?

I do heartily recommend the ribeye, however.

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