EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of reviews featuring our staff's favorite places to dine. They are either go-to spots we frequent for good service and conversation, the favorite dishes we order over and over or the one-of-a-kind Chattanooga dives that make us love our Scenic City that much more.
I don't actually have a favorite restaurant. I do, however, have favorite entrees. And favorite side dishes. I have favorite spots for atmosphere and for excellent service. I have favorite "specialty" restaurants when I am craving wings, or burgers, or fried chicken, Italian, barbecue, Mexican, Indian, seafood, Mediterranean or Chinese. I have a favorite go-to meat-and-three, a go-to Open All Night-er, a fast-food fave as well as a sit-down-and-feel-the-local-charm spot.
So how did I decide what to write about? I chose to narrow my focus to my go-to meat dish. I am currently culinarily obsessed with Ruby Tuesday's Hickory Bourbon-Glazed Pork Chop.
THE REASON IT'S A GO-TO
I think the best way to explain it is through a simple three-line, 5-7-5-syllable haiku that I've titled "Ode to a Pork Chop."
Pork chop, I crave you.
Hickory bourbon-glazed love,
I'm under your spell.
* Where: Ruby Tuesday, 5595 Highway 153
* Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
* Prices: $6.99-$20.99
* Alcohol: Yes
* Phone: 423-875-2480
The dining room of Ruby Tuesday's on Highway 153 is clean, comfortable and roomy enough that I've never had to wait more than a minute or two to be seated, and that's a major plus for me and my missing patience gene. The lighting is bright enough to read the menus, but not so bright that you feel like you're dining under a spotlight. It's not overly loud, either.
While I have tried and enjoyed a number of items off the menu at Ruby Tuesday since I rediscovered the restaurant about a year ago, the Hickory Bourbon-Glazed Pork Chop ($15.49 with two sides) is my go-to fave. Ever since the day a dinner companion insisted I sample a delectable bite of her pork chop, I have been rendered incapable of ordering anything else on subsequent visits. I'm smitten.
Oh, sure, I remember how delicious the Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin is ($15.99) with its coating of fresh cracked pepper and a spoonful of Parmesan cream sauce topped with shaved Asiago cheese. And, yes, the Double Decker Chicken ($15.99) with its savory layers of roasted baby Portabella mushrooms, bacon and an oozing of yummy cream sauce is delicious. My dining partner, who tends to order either the Hickory Bourbon Salmon ($17.49) or the New Orleans Seafood ($15.49), has never been anything but completely happy with her choices as well.
But that chop! At least an inch thick, it's a hefty hunk of porcine protein. Big, yes, but not overly heavy. The hickory bourbon glaze, always perfectly caramelized, has a mildly sweet, subtly spicy flavor that I try to replicate at home. Paired with my go-to sides of fresh grilled zucchini and a baked potato, the meal satisfies me without leaving me feeling stuffed.
Try as I might over the years, and despite being a pretty decent cook, I have never quite perfected the art of creating a tender and juicy pork chop. That's why I am so impressed by what Ruby's does well so consistently.
We're always impressed by how attentive and friendly the servers are at Ruby Tuesday. On this visit we were seated in the section of a new staffer, Abbi, but we'd have never known she was a newbie if I hadn't asked how long she'd worked there. She did everything right and with a smile.
We were especially glad we took her suggestion to indulge in dessert. I ordered the chocolatey Cookies and Cream Cake ($6.49), and my companion had the beautiful Caramel Crunch Cake ($6.49). Both were delicious.
Ruby Tuesday's menu offers something for everyone, and if it has been a long time since you've been there, you likely will enjoy it. The salad bar is still terrific, by the way, with more than 55 fresh items to choose from, including their signature house-made croutons. You'll be tempted to fill up on salad before your entree arrives, but try to resist. The entrees are worth saving room for.
Contact Cindy Deifenderfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6362.