Take me to the river

Every time I passed the tinted windows that conceal the interior of Ruby River Steakhouse, my curiosity grew. For seven months, I wondered what was hidden behind the mirrored glass.

I found out last week when my dining partner, Erin, and I entered the restaurant, which is across from the Peppermill Hotel-Casino. The hostess led us to a booth in the corner. On the way to the table, she offered us peanuts from the silver buckets placed on rails throughout the restaurant. This gesture made me feel at home.

After ordering the artichoke dip appetizer ($5.99), my eyes wandered along the walls of the restaurant. Cowboy boots line a rail in the middle of the main dining room. Electric guitars and basses hang from the walls. The decor seems arranged to remove diners from the hassles of the world while they indulge in good country cooking.

The menu is broken into four categories: Getting Started, Pasta and Salad, Fresh Catch and Why You’re Here. Ruby River offers five cuts of steak, ranging from a 9- and a 12-ounce filet ($16.99 and $18.99) to a 16-ounce rib eye ($18.99) and three different sizes of prime rib. They even serve a 24-ounce porterhouse ($25.99).

All the steaks are USDA Choice, aged 21 days and then hand-cut fresh daily.

I ordered the 16-ounce New York ($18.99), and Erin chose the seafood linguine ($13.99). Dinners are served with sourdough bread and your choice of baked potato, cinnamon yam or battered fries. You also have your choice of garden or Caesar salad.

Our appetizer was delivered promptly. Tender artichoke hearts, Brie and Parmesan cheese melted with diced green chilies and onion were baked to perfection. Slices of toasted sourdough bread were served for dipping. I’ve had this culinary delight many times before, and this was just as good as any I’ve tried. Erin also said she enjoyed the dish.

We each decided on Caesar salad, and just as we finished the appetizer, the salads arrived. This was good service. A server’s ability to time courses is essential, and ours mastered the task.

Fresh romaine lettuce lightly tossed in Ruby’s homemade dressing and sprinkled with fresh-grated Parmesan filled the edges of the salad bowl. I can make a great Caesar dressing from scratch with my eyes closed, so my expectations are a bit high. But Ruby River’s Caesar is almost as good as the one I make, with good texture and flavor; the dressing is made with the perfect amount of anchovies and garlic.

I was pleased by the first two courses, so I couldn’t wait to try the steak. My New York arrived just as advertised. A thick, juicy 16-ounce cut of flavorful beef filled a sizzling platter. The steak was cooked just as I asked — medium rare. It was as thick as any filet and just as tender and flavorful.

Erin’s seafood linguine, a mixture of scallops and shrimp sauteed in white wine, garlic and cream then tossed in linguine, also looked good. I tasted her dish and it was fabulous— plenty of seafood soaked in a great garlic cream sauce.

While Ruby River may not be up to par with the exquisite Harrah’s Steakhouse, their food and service match or even exceed most of the other steakhouse in town.