It was with great pleasure, that I entered the building that sits at 4th Avenue North and Union Street to lose myself inside for a culinary and entertainment experience called Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. There’s a certain confidence you get when you approach the black marbled entrance adorned with the black and gold Jeff Ruby’s logo and statuesque bronze lions, that this will be a solid dining experience. When you walk in, your senses are blown away by the allure of color and crystal associated with the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. The 1920s era was associated with a break in traditions. This isn’t the warehouse chic we are used to here, so when you understand the décor was influenced by the unprecedented prosperity and glitz of that era, then you gain new perspective to all that is offered from this new dazzling dining location in the heart of downtown Nashville.
Here is the 5 Sense breakdown: Your eyes are drawn to the art deco décor of the 20s immediately, from the geometrical patterned carpets, swag of the plush drapes, to the glitz of the immense and numerous crystal chandeliers. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about pure decadence, and we all hung on every word. You can join the ranks of the characters of his story, The Great Gatsby, as you lose yourself in Tamara de Lempica’s wall mural, the well-known art deco artist of that time, and created by Frank Stanton, a local artist in Cincinnati who creates all of the Jeff Ruby’s murals. But don’t get too lost, because the mural is adorned with the Nashville skyline we all know and love. A local homage to each unique location. Every room of the restaurant in all their swanky glory, are graced with local memorabilia and artifacts from George Jones, Tammy Wynette or Johnny Cash, as well as many pictures with national and local celebs galore. Ruby has done a fantastic job of bringing enough glamour so this feels like something truly different, but enough rustic that you still feel comfortable and at home here.
Next is the bar which has fast become a hot spot in the downtown area. Come in early and sit in the lounge, sip a handcrafted cocktail and listen to the tickling of the ivories on that baby grand that sits up behind the bar for your viewing and acoustic pleasure.
You will be escorted into the dining room for your white tablecloth dinner experience. What is it about being escorted somewhere? It just feels good, like someone is taking the time to consider you, to take care of you and make you feel important. This is part of the Jeff Ruby experience. They take efforts to make sure that your choice to visit their establishment leaves you feeling like details were poured over to make sure you have “an experience.” So don’t be surprised ladies, when you excuse yourself to the plush ladies room, that you are escorted there by one of their exquisitely trained staff members and you are returned to your table by them. The Ruby’s have worked hard with their team to create a successful dining experience and one of the key components to that, according to Executive General Manager, Dillon Ruby, is their attention to hiring and training the best quality staff who are there not because they are trying to pay the bills in between gigs, but because they have a passion for the food and hospitality business. Recruiting the right people starts with knowing how to treat the people who work for the business. “We treat our staff the way they would like to be treated and we never let them forget that we know that they are the reason we are successful,” says Ruby.
Don’t feel left out, gentlemen. Your trip to the little boys room is just as impressive. While you won’t be escorted, you will be greeted by the impressive and charming details of a 1920s barber shop as well as some vintage posters, some black and whites of our favorite mobsters and rebel country music singers, and also, Farrah Fawcett’s famous and memorable bikini. If that doesn’t do it for you then gentlemen, while you are waiting, gaze at all of the celeb photos on the wall while you have your shoes shined!
Another great thing, you don’t have to have tickets to a show. You can exit the dining room and re-enter the lounge late night scene where you can listen to live music. The music ranges from Motown, R&B, or even classic rock. You can take advantage of one of the patios, grab an after-dinner cognac or one of their many whiskeys, and smoke a cigar. Or, sans the smoke, get your dancing shoes on because the tables will be moved to accommodate jitterbuggin’ in the lounge area, so you never have to leave the place in order to have a full night out of entertainment. That being said, TPAC is only a couple blocks away, so you can valet park, have dinner, walk to your show and back and maybe enjoy a nightcap.
If you have a private party or event, there are three private rooms; the gorgeous Music City Room which can accommodate larger parties and houses great artifacts such as the fireplace from one of Al Capone’s homes. The Speakeasy Room is smaller and great for more intimate gatherings featuring that vintage speakeasy private door, a beautiful wall-to-wall antique cabinet to house the hooch, attached to a private patio. The third, is the Jeff Ruby Room. The rooms are wired for your audio-visual needs, be it a presentation or just an important game you want to watch, you are covered!
Let’s talk about the food. There is so much to choose from on their extensive culinary, wine, cocktail, sushi, raw bar, dessert and beer and whiskey menus! I had the benefit of tasting some of the traditional favorites. The raw bar is incredible here with their specialty, the colossal Tiger Shrimp Cocktail and the Alaskan King Crab Legs. Their sushi list is amazing and all made with the freshest and finest seafood. I started out with the one and only Godfather Roll. It is the master of rolls including sweet tender lobster, the crunch of tempura and smoothness of spicy mayo, with the decadence of the thin sliced filet placed across the top then delicately drizzled with eel sauce. Some may say either or, but this surf and turf combination is a must try for the taste buds. The twenty-two ounce dry-aged, bone-in rib-eye is huge, but delicious. The beautiful marbling transports the flavors throughout the steak and it was cooked perfectly with a nice dark brown seasoned sear on the outside. The bone-in filet was incredible. It’s sixteen ounces, center-cut, dry-aged and also had a nicely seared crust. You can’t go wrong with either of these. It is a personal choice but pair either one of them with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon from their must-see wine cellar and you’ve scored. Add a little taste of their six cheese Mac and Cheese and you’ve hit the jackpot in Nashvegas. As Jeff Ruby himself puts it, they combined glitz and grits so it makes sense that they have their Nashville Hot Greens as a side which is deliciously seasoned with hot pepper flakes and Tabasco. All of the portions are large and can be shared or boxed up and sent home in a stylish black and gold Jeff Ruby’s bag. You must try some dessert…it’s a must. They make all their ice creams and pastries in house. I had their famous carrot cake with a caramel drizzle and beautiful white chocolate shavings. It was rich and delicious but not too heavy and was light on some of the fruitier components that some carrot cakes have but was still traditional in flavor. I’m still full but there are two desserts that I must come back for; the Ricotta Donuts with dipping sauce and the Cracker Jack with popcorn ice cream! I’ve been eying their salmon and the Steak Collinsworth as well and I like to cut a rug after dinner, so I know I’ll be back…hope to see you there!