Saturday, May 26, 2007

Review: Ruby T.

Originally published in Cityview Magazine.

A Foodie Divided:
The roots below Maryville’s newest hot spot might surprise you.

I have a confession: for the most part, chain restaurants make me cringe. I would always rather support a local business, and I feel like so often the quality suffers. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule—big restaurant conglomerates that manage to maintain the passion of a small boutique restaurant owner. I wouldn’t have thought to include the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain to be in that category, that they would be interested in opening a small, trendy, unique restaurant with little to no media fanfare or advertisement—but that is just what they’ve done. Ruby T opened not long ago and has quietly become a charming, bustling little restaurant.

With its use of bright lighting and slick stainless steel, the outside of Ruby T projects the feeling of a neo-modern diner. Inside, you’ll find an incongruous, but not unpleasing, blend of unstained wood, luxe patterned upholstery, and over-the-top light fixtures. Not a bit of “flair” to be seen. My guest and I were greeted warmly by the staff and continued to be very impressed by the level of service as the evening went on. It was a fairly busy Friday night, yet we were seated immediately (however, reservations are recommended for large groups). My only nit to pick on the atmosphere would be the salad bar placed in prime position. I admit that I hate salad bars and wish they would be regulated to fast food restaurants, but after checking it out I must begrudgingly admit that everything looked incredibly fresh and there were some unique choices such as edamame, marinated cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, and what appeared to be homemade dressings. And it seemed like the majority of patrons chose the salad option, further proving that I am mostly alone in my condemnation. Well played, Ruby T.

Perusing the wine list, I found it a bit limited, but I didn’t mind because there are some decent choices and very good values, such as the Cavit Pinot Grigio ($5.00/glass). Feeling festive, I was pleased to see some specialty drinks featuring fresh-squeezed juices and happily ordered a signature Ruby T Margarita ($7.00) from our darling waitress. This was a very nice margarita, one of the best I’ve had in a while, not too sweet and with lots of fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice.

My thirst quenched, we moved on to two appetizers—Chicken Dumplings ($7.00) and Thai Phoon Shrimp ($8.00). They came promptly with nice presentation and generous portions. The peanut sauce that accompanied the dumplings is positively delectable, and the dumplings themselves had the proper crisp yet tender exterior and delicious chicken and water chestnut interior. The shrimp were a surprise: they are served absolutely drenched in a creamy chili sauce. I actually really liked the sauce but found the application to be a bit heavy handed and the extra sauce on the side to be unnecessary. That said, these little crustaceans were addictive. The fried coating managed to stay crunchy even under the weight of the sauce, and there was a slow burn from the chilies that had me going back for more.

I found the entrée selection to be a little sparse, but there is something for everyone, including a comprehensive burger list on the back. I was in the mood for fish but disappointed to see only 3 offerings, 2 of them tilapia. And so, I went with the Chicken Oscar ($12.50) instead—the lump crab topping satisfying my craving. Topped with a generous mound of the aforementioned crab, a creamy sauce, and asparagus, the chicken was quite nice—seasoned well, moist and properly cooked, and another portion. The pile of steamed broccoli seemed unnecessary with the asparagus (and actually I would have liked more asparagus instead), but the white cheddar mashed potatoes were rich and flavorful.

My dining companion also enjoyed the potatoes but wasn’t blown away by his Ruby’s Ribeye ($15.00). The steak was on the thin side and weakly seasoned. Not bad, but not a great, steakhouse-quality steak.

At this point we were so sated that dessert seemed laughable. But on we forged, ordering the Double Chocolate Cake ($5.50). It was described as your typical decadent chocolate cake with an oozing, molten chocolate interior, but was actually something quite different. The cake was almost more of a sponge cake, with a depression in the center filled with warm chocolate sauce. However, I actually preferred this version to what I was expecting, because it was lighter and not as rich. Served with a wonderful vanilla ice cream, this is a dessert that can be easily split between two people.

Our entire meal, including tax and tip, came out under $80.00, and we ended up taking half of it home for leftovers. Ruby T is a great choice for those in the Maryville area seeking out a fun, trendy atmosphere and fairly priced food.

Food *** ½ (out of 5)
Atmosphere **** (out of 5)
Service ***** (out of 5)
Overall ****

Ruby T
216 W. Church Avenue
Maryville, TN 37801
(865) 980-1847

1 comment:

Traci said...

I had an excellent crab cake "burger" and mojito there just the other day. I can't stand chains either, but Ruby Tuesday is definitely an exception to that rule for me.