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Now that the stream of farm-to-table restaurant openings has slowed to a trickle, the city’s next hot dining trend seems to be steakhouses—several upcoming options are in various stages of development. After decades of favorites (such as Sperry’s, Jimmy Kelly’s, Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, Kayne Prime, and Fleming’s) ruling the category, Nashville now has Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, a high-end version that is raising the bar.
Set at the corner of 4th Avenue and Union, this is the fifth link in a chain of upscale restaurants based in Cincinnati and run by longtime restaurateur, and namesake, Jeff Ruby. He’s earned a reputation for his fierce dedication to the total dining experience—and to being a raconteur, as well as a flamboyant interior designer. The lavish environs of the Nashville outpost include a soaring lobby (the building was once a bank) that has been converted to an opulent cocktail lounge.
There’s a stage behind the bar where live, mellow music can be heard throughout the day; later in the evening, solo piano acts are joined by a full band to pump up the jams. The lobby is also home to a raw and sushi bar, where shuckers and sushi chefs prepare cold plates of tiger shrimp cocktails, specialty oysters, crab legs, and a variety of traditional and inventive sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri.
To start, though, you’ll have to decide what type of experience you want to enjoy. There is an assortment of dining areas with different vibes throughout the 10,000-plus-square-foot restaurant. In addition to the lounge, there’s a main dining room, with cozy tables and elevated booths; the Music City Room, where the walls are covered in music memorabilia and dramatic chandeliers glint from the ceiling, can be set up as a private dining space.
The Speakeasy Room, a hideaway for up to a dozen guests is decorated with a gigantic liquor cabinet fashioned from an old apothecary’s storage shelving and filled with more than 200 different spirits; and the Jeff Ruby Room, decorated with more photos and memories of Ruby’s life as a restaurateur, where 14 diners can sit around a table made from the Gothic face of an ancient clock imported from a London tower.
Once seated, it’s time to peruse the multiple menus, ranging from the raw bar offerings to a list of creative cocktails and spirits, including some rare whiskeys and single malts. The wine list reads like a small phone book. A visible cellar housing more than 500 bottles of domestic and international bottles takes up a wall in the main dining room.
The most important menu, though, introduces the food. A combination of old school and new age cuisine, the menu reads like a musical score crescendoing toward plates of USDA Prime beef. Noteworthy starters include classic oysters Rockefeller, beef tartare, and a colossal lump crab cake topped with a delicate red-pepper vinaigrette.
Several of the dishes on Ruby’s menu are named after customer favorites: Noted sportscasters Kirk Herbstreit and Cris Collinsworth both have eponymous dishes on the menu. (Nashville resident Herbstreit offers his name to a tempura shrimp sushi roll; Collinsworth is associated with an eight-ounce filet mignon topped with red king crab and asparagus.)
Steak is certainly a focus here. All the larger bone-in cuts are aged at least 28 days, offering a delightful flavor and aroma to the meat. Others benefit from Jeff Ruby’s proprietary spice blend, which contributes an extra salty punch, as well as a blackened crust. Seafood lovers will appreciate delicacies like dover sole, Scottish salmon, and an impossibly rich lobster thermidor. Plus, the non-steak plates are served as composed dishes with accompanying sides—otherwise, the majority of the menu is presented à la carte, with sides like baked mac and cheese, creamed spinach, or potatoes Anna.
In addition to after-dinner drinks, like espresso, dessert wines, ports, and cognacs, the pastry chef has some special treats up his sleeve. From something as simple as homemade vanilla-bean ice cream or ricotta donuts to complicated classics, like hummingbird cake, the dessert menu provides an ideal capper to an archetypical steakhouse dining experience.
300 4th Ave. N., 615-434-4300; jeffruby.com/nashville