Ruth chris logo

Orlando based Darden announced last week that it would acquire Winter Park based Ruth’s Hospitality Group, owner of the upscale Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain. The purchase price is $715 million, or about what it would cost for steaks for a party of 10 at Ruth’s.

The acquisition of another premium steak brand is an interesting choice for Darden, which already has the Capital Grille in its portfolio. Ruth’s Chris has 154 locations worldwide, 80 of which are company owned or operated.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House was founded in 1965 in New Orleans by Ruth Fertel, who bought an existing restaurant called Chris Steak House (which explains the odd name). Fertel had no restaurant experience; she was a a single mom with two sons and working as a lab technician at Tulane Medical School when she saw the restaurant listed for sale in the newspaper. Not long after Fertel bought the business, a hurricane hit the city and knocked out the power. Faced with losing her inventory of steaks, Fertel had her chefs cook them up and serve them to emergency workers, earning her a loyal base of new customers.


Ottos intOtto's High Dive in Orlando

The Michelin Guide has announced the addition of eight new restaurants to its Bib Gourmand designation ahead of next week’s awards announcement in Miami.

Added to the Florida guide’s Bib Gourmand list are Isan Zaap, Otto’s High Dive and Taste of Chengdu in Orlando and Norigami in Winter Garden. Also joining the list are Gorkhali Kitchen and Psomi in Tampa and Rosie’s and Jaguar Sun in Miami. The Florida edition of the estimable guidebook includes restaurants in Miami, Tampa and Orlando areas.

Bib Gourmand restaurants, according to Michelin, are those that offer good food at a good price. “The restaurants joining the Bib Gourmand selection prove that foodies can find flavorful international feasts right in their own backyard – in Miami, Orlando or Tampa,” said Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides.

The May 11 ceremony in Miami will announce the winners of the coveted Michelin stars as well as those restaurants not quite worthy of stars but still recommended.



STK Orlando outside

I always associate STK, the vibrant restaurant at Disney Springs, with upscale dinners. The steakhouse, with its classy interior featuring impressive floral displays and elegant decorations, has always been a good choice for a special occasion dinner. But it turns out STK is a good choice for weekend brunch – yes, in full daylight – and I was invited recently to sample some of what it offers.

STK has a bottomless mimosa or bloody mary option for $30 but I chose to have the cocktail called French Love, which was a take on the popular French 75 with Hendrick’s Gin, a splash of Chandon sparkling wine and some lemon juice to tart it up. Very refreshing.


The Wilson Mothers Day

May 14 is Mother’s Day so May 14 will be the busiest brunch day of the year.

What mother doesn’t like to be treated to brunch? (It’s a rhetorical question; no need to reply.) There are bunches of brunches to choose from this year and you’ll find some select ones on our Holiday Dining pages.

You’ll want to pay especial attention to the offerings at Tap Room at Dubsdread, a perennial holiday brunch spot. And The Wilson at the Meliá Orlando Hotel Celebration, where brunch comes with unlimited beer, wine, prosecco or mimosas for mom, assuming that your mom is over 21.

At STK at Disney Springs, you can find the traditional brunch (and I’ll have more about STK’s brunch soon), but they’re also offering an afternoon tea, which comes with prosecco, Moêt Brut or Veuve Cliquot Rosé, which is my cup of tea, as it were.

Be sure to make your reservations as early as possible, and remember that if your plans change – like your mother breaks down and tells you she’s never liked brunch – call the restaurant to tell them your plans have changed and that you may possibly be adopted.

See all the listings here


Mr. J Hand pulled Noodle exterior

Mr. J Hand-Pulled Noodle might be easier to find if the big sign out front didn’t say Crab & Wings. But what do I know about marketing?

Mr. J occupies a small storefront in a strip mall at Silver Star and Clarke Roads on the west side. As the name suggests – the other name, not the Crab & Wings – it specializes in Asian style hand-pulled noodles, which, you won’t be surprised to learn, are noodles that are pulled by hand.

What that means is that instead of, say, Italian pasta where the dough is flattened and then cut to the preferred noodle size, the dough is rolled and stretched, then looped and stretched again. And again, until the desired noodle type is achieved. No rolling, no cutting. (Well, some style of noodles are cut using a planing tool.)