Ruth's Chris renovates, expands in tandem with reborn Market Square
As if in step with the renaissance of downtown Pittsburgh, one of the city's most enduring restaurants — Ruth's Chris Steak House — has undergone a $2 million renovation and expansion in Market Square.
Founded 30 years ago at 6 PPG Place, Ruth's now features a larger bar area, new private banquet rooms, a temperature-controlled wine room with vast inventory, and a brighter, more open dining room elegantly appointed with glass and wood.
The menu features an array of USDA prime beef steaks broiled at 1,200 degrees and served on 500-degree plates for the signature “Ruth's Chris Sizzle,” says owner Scott Offenbach, whose parents established the Market Square location as the 18th Ruth's Chris in a growing upscale chain. Today, there are more than 150 Ruth's Chris restaurants around the world.
“Back when we first opened, you had to be in a city with a National Football League team, because (founder) Ruth (Fertel) believed that people who like football are steak-and-potatoes people,” Offenbach says.
His parents hired Dennis Denk, who then was working at the Grand Concourse as executive chef, and he has continued in the position for 30 years. He was personally trained by Fertel, whom he described as unwavering in her standards.
“Our product speaks for itself,” says Denk, noting that Ruth's Chris uses only the top 2 to 3 percent of Midwestern cattle for its custom-aged beef. “Our beef is grass-fed but ‘finished' with corn for the right amount of marbling.”
While steaks can be prepared from rare to well-done, Pittsburgh-rare is often requested, Denk says. “It goes back to when steelworkers cooked their lunch on hot steel because they didn't have much time to eat. It charred the meat on the outside, but left it cool on the inside.”
Of the dozen signature cuts on the dinner menu, Pittsburghers seem to favor the 11-ounce filet and the 16-ounce rib-eye, while popular lunch items include the petite steak, center-cut pork chops with sweet and spicy apple slices, and the steak salad, which is prepared with sautéed bell pepper medley and served on fresh greens, Denk says.
Although Ruth's Chris is known for steaks, popular alternatives include the pan-seared Chilean sea bass prepared with citrus-coconut butter and sweet potato and pineapple hash, and the free-range stuffed chicken breast made with garlic-herb cheese and lemon butter. Vegetarian plates also are available. Classic Ruth “sides” include Idaho au gratin potatoes, with three-cheese sauce, and creamed spinach.
In addition to the renovation, Ruth's Chris recently introduced Sizzle, Swizzle and Swirl, which offers a specially priced menu of foods and drinks from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Items range from the house-ground prime steak-burger made with choice of cheese ($10) to bruschetta ($6), and cocktails ($7) such as the French martini with Sobieski vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice; and the Manhattan Northside, a Jim Beam bourbon-based cocktail prepared with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lemon sour and filthy Amarena cherries.
Parking for diners is complimentary at the PPG Place garage (enter left-hand side of Third Avenue) every day after 5 p.m.
Deborah Weisberg is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Ruth's Barbecued Shrimp
Ruth's Barbecued Shrimp is one of the most requested appetizers at Ruth's Chris, according to executive chef Dennis Denk. When he serves it as an entrée, the shrimp is placed on a bed of roasted, garlic mashed potatoes.
¼ teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
15 shrimp, peeled and deveined (16/20 count)
8 ouces salted butter
¾ ounce canola oil
1½ ounces dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¾ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Wash shrimp under water and then peel the shells and discard. Devein the shrimp with a paring knife and then wash again. Repeat until all shrimp are done, place on a sheet tray in the refrigerator. Place a large cast-iron skillet on a burner and heat over high heat. Add oil and cook shrimp until they are just done. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add green onions and cook for 1 minute. Add white wine and reduce the volume by half. When the wine is reduced by half, measure and add the chopped garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper and paprika. Shake the pan well. Cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low. Cut the butter into small chunks with a knife and slowly add to the pan, shaking fast to melt the butter. Continue to add butter until it is all added and shake until it is melted. Add shrimp back to pan and toss well to coat shrimp with butter and to heat through. Serve.