Friday night, after meeting up with some lovely folks from my neighborhood, Terry and I decided that we needed a late dinner. Since Terry had a rather stressful week at work, he decided that he needed beef, and that beef needed to come from Jeff Ruby’s.
Who was I to argue?
Jeff Ruby is a bit of an institution here in Cincinnati. He considers his restaurant group “culinary entertainment”, and entertaining it is. Each of his restaurants, though heavy on the steak, has its own personality. Jeff Ruby’s (with locations in Cincinnati, Louisville and at the Belterra Casino– you non-Cincinnatians may remember OJ Simpson being kicked out of a restaurant last year– that was Jeff Ruby’s in Louisville) is an art deco, old-style steak house with some east coast flair; Tropicana has signature steaks alongside some pretty great seafood; Carlo and Johnny’s has a Mafia feel; the Precinct used to be a police station and has always attracted sports stars, so many of the dishes are named after local sports figures like Chris Collinsworth and Carson Palmer; the Waterfront has sushi and more seafood. Essentially, Jeff Ruby brings some pretty darn good steaks and some style reminiscent of Vegas and New York right here to Cincinnati.
We got there around 9:30 on a Friday, so we were seated immediately in a booth that would normally seat about 4. Our server, Steven, was fantastic– efficient, attentive (without hovering), had great recommendations and though very serious, still cracked jokes with me after I spilled my water (I’m a klutz, and I’d only had diet Coke that evening!).
We each started out with drinks– a beer for Terry and a glass of ABC Pinot Noir for me– and a salad. Terry got the Freddie, which is their version of a wedge salad, and I got the Tiffany, which I thought sounded a little lighter because of the haricot verts and lack of bacon. It had a choice of two dressings– vinagrette and blue cheese– and I asked Steven which was better. He got a huge smile on his face: “Blue cheese!” Who am I to argue? The Maytag blue cheese was perfect: creamy and pungent, and Terry kept stealing bites. I think he’ll get the Tiffany next time. Of course, there was the salted rye and porcini-and-truffle mushroom butter, which I could make an entire meal of in itself.
Remember how Terry wanted beef? He got it– Jeff Ruby’s Jewel. It’s a bone-in ribeye, cooked rare (just the way he likes it) and topped with foie gras butter. Steven said, as he placed the plate in front of Terry, that this was the best steak in the country. He agreed (and he’s eaten steak all over the country). Ruby’s steaks are dry-aged, which adds so much to the flavor, with a perfectly charred outside and nice, cool, red inside. Further research says that Steven wasn’t exaggerating– in 2007, Zagat rated Jeff Ruby’s better than the top steak houses in New York– including Peter Luger, Del Frisco and Sparks. Pretty impressive. He had been craving creamed spinach, so we ordered that as a side to share– it was creamy, with a hint of Parmesan and nutmeg. I’m not a huge fan of creamed spinach (too much of it growing up, and it wasn’t very good), but I really liked this version, and I’d definitely share it again.
I decided on some seared ahi– rare, of course. It sat on a bed of greens, surrounded by a surprisingly spicy portabella demiglace. If you’re not into steak (or just not in the mood for it), it’s a great option, and my leftovers the next day were superb. And you will have leftovers, I assure you!
We bowed out on dessert, far too full from our dinner. Maybe next time!
Jeff Ruby’s is a great option for a steak craving or a special occasion (our special occasion was, depending on the moment, “Friday”, “January 11”, and “Steak Craving Day”). It’s a little pricier than a lot of Cincinnati diners are used to, but the food, service and atmosphere are well worth every penny.