100 Austin Burgers: Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
107 W. Sixth St. in the Scarbrough Building, Austin (map), 512-477-7884, www.ruthschris.com
Hours: 5-10pm Mon-Thu; 5-11pm Fri-Sat; 5-9pm Sun
Burger available only in the bar
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.10.16
Ruth’s Chris is a national chain with humble roots, and the Austin branch started much the same way, over on the Drag near El Patio. It long ago moved into the Scarbrough Building on West Sixth, and the polished brass doors announce it as a place where Mad Men might go. It could be, except that Austin is no place for Mad Men; the party next to me was all shorts, hats and sunglasses. The mood was bruised even more by a bar in full teardown for renovation, with new plush-button banquettes, a weathered wood floor and more room for happy hours with $9 drinks and $9 steakhouse burgers. Renovation or not, Ruth’s Chris has the look and feel of a steakhouse in decline.
 Prime Burger: I like my burgers the way I like my steaks: Salt. Pepper. Medium-rare. Ruth’s Chris knows the drill, and the beef is the only thing worth talking about on this plate. It’s unapologetically fatty, juicy and tender all the way through. The rest is pure picnic. No artisan roll, no fancy sauce. Just a plain white bun, iceberg, a slice of raw red onion, a single tomato, cheddar cheese. Just shut up and enjoy your hamburger steak. (In the bar only; $9 with fries during happy hour 4:30-6:30 Mon-Fri, $14 after)
 On the side: Hard to get a read on these fries, because the whiff of spent fryer oil followed them all the way to the table, the kind of acrid grease that haunts your stomach into the night if you’re not careful.
 Wash it down: Steakhouse protocol demands a martini or red wine. Or if you’re fancy, a Manhattan. Especially if it’s part of the $9 happy hour food and drink menu, 4:30-6:30 Mon-Fri (regularly $13). Ruth’s Chris starts classical enough, with Jim Beam bourbon and sweet vermouth. The waiter seals the deal by shaking it tableside in a cocktail strainer. But then things go South, er, Southern, with a splash of Southern Comfort liqueur in place of traditional bitters. No cherry for you. The result is strong, spicy and bitter, possibly autobiographical. 
100 Austin Burgers
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)