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R You Ready for Ruth’s Chris & Romano’s?

Cover Story Features

May 21, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

If the basics to any primary school curriculum start with the three Rs, is it possible that the basics to impeccable local cuisine begin with the two Rs — Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Romano’s Macaroni Grill?

  • Randy Schoch, CEO and founder of Desert Island Restaurants LLC, sits down to an extravagant meal at Ruth's Chris Steak House.
  • Creme Brulee ($10.95) at Ruth's Chris
  • It's all about succulent steaks like the Filet Mignon ($37.50) and Bone in Filet ($46.95) at Ruth's Chris.
  • Ruth's Chris' Carpaccio ($15.95)
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Pasta and steak lovers know what we’re talking about here. Ask them to describe their experience at either of these restaurants, and they’re likely to throw out delicious adjectives such as rare and rich.

Indeed, these establishments are replete with the finest in culinary creations. Ruth’s Chris offers diners its incomparable USDA prime steaks and fresh-island fish and seafood, while Romano’s Macaroni Grill features the best in Italian cuisine with its award-winning Tuscan-inspired entrees, classic Italian pasta dishes and more.

Much of the credit goes to the guy whose name fittingly begins with an “R” as well, Randy Schoch, CEO and founder of Desert Island Restaurants LLC. This management entity is responsible for operations of five franchised Ruth’s Chris Steak House and two Romano’s Macaroni Grill establishments in Hawaii.

Dining Out recently sat down with the veteran restaurateur, who relished the opportunity to explain what goes into managing two entities that have successfully satisfied the appetites of many for generations. Thankfully, Schoch and his restaurants have no plans to step out of that role anytime soon.

DO: What is the philosophy behind Ruth’s Chris Steak House? It’s built up quite a reputation in Hawaii and across the nation, hasn’t it?

Schoch: Yes, we offer the finest quality ingredients — finest quality steaks, the finest quality vegetables. We really let Mother Nature shine through. We don’t really over-sauce things or do anything too fancy.

DO: What makes the steaks at Ruth’s Chris so amazingly good?

Schoch: For starters, we always use USDA prime Iowa-fed, Iowa-grown beef products. They have a lot of marble in them, which means that they have a lot of flavor. They are shipped and chilled, and then we cook them at 1,800 degrees and serve the steak on a 500-degree plate. With the steak cooked at this level of heat, it really sears in the juices and your steak stays hot through your entire meal. We add a little bit of butter on there and salt and pepper, and guests are able to enjoy the best steak that Mother Nature made. It’s all about the product here — it’s really gotta shine through.

DO: What sort of clientele do you cater to?

Schoch: Here in Hawaii, it’s probably 95 percent local business. We cater to everyone from local business people to those celebrating special occasions.

DO: How has the restaurant grown and developed throughout the years? And since the restaurant’s inception, has the menu expanded at all?

Schoch: Our sales have increased with the expansion of the restaurant and we’ve started to focus a little more on seafood, but our No. 1 priority has always been our steaks. Our prime cuts of steak are the New York, Porterhouse, Rib-eye and Filet Mignon. We really are just trying to provide a real simple, great product and that really doesn’t require us to do anything too fancy. We also really focus on utilizing local produce as much as possible, such as Big Island tomatoes, Maui onions, goat cheese from Puna. We haven’t really had to tweak the menu too much, except for offering more fresh, local fish.

DO: So what can you tell our readers about your signature dishes?

Schoch: Our Filet Mignon ($37.50) is 11 ounces of the most tender cut of corn-fed Midwestern beef, and our Bone in Filet ($46.95) is a huge bone-in version of our famous filet. It’s a special item and an outstanding example of USDA Prime at its best. As far as fish goes, the Carpaccio ($15.95) is a sliced rare filet garnished with Caesar dressing, shredded Parmesan cheese, fresh ground and mixed greens. We also have a Seared Ahi/Sashimi ($15.95) featuring Fresh Island Pacific Ahi, perfectly complemented by a spirited sauce with hints of ginger, mustard and beer. For dessert, our Creme Brulee showcases the classic creole egg custard, topped with fresh berries and mint. We’ve returned to a lot of classics and really try to make them outstanding. We also have 350 wines to choose from!

  • Romano's Mama's Trio ($18.59) features lasagna, chicken parmigiana and roasted chicken cannelloni.
  • Romano's Spaghetti and Meatballs with pomodoro ($13.59 with pomodoro sauce; $14.59 with bolognese sauce)
  • Romano's Strawberry Zabaglione ($6.99) with fresh strawberries topped with classic Italian sweet marsala cream sauce and served with rolled sugar cookies.
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DO: Romano Macaroni Grill has also made its own mark in Hawaii’s restaurant industry, with its savory Italian dishes and family-geared ambiance.

Schoch: Yes. I think Macaroni Grill is a family-friendly place really known for its exciting, fun, large portions of very flavorful food. It’s also a great place to be. We have opera singers in the restaurant, we have really exciting, dynamic decor and really develop a personalized relationship with our guests. We offer tasty Italian food at a great value. We celebrate the rich tradition of Italy and everything Italian here.

DO: You offer some great Italian cuisine at Macaroni Grill, including Spaghetti & Meatballs ($13.59), Mama’s Trio ($18.59), and Chicken Florentine ($14.99), not to mention desserts like Strawberries Zabaglione ($6.99). There’s something for everyone here, isn’t there?

Schoch: Yes, we have a really diverse menu. It’s always evolving, but it’s always heavily based on really solid and great Italian flavors.

DO: Randy, you’ve got a lot on your plate! What are some of the rewarding aspects of your job?

Schoch: One of the most rewarding things is creating an experience for people so that they have a wonderful time. We have so many opportunities to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. and we do our best to help make that one of the most special days in people’s lives.

DO: Where do you see the concepts of both restaurants headed in the near future?

Schoch: Ruth’s Chris is probably going to be very similar. We have a great product, so I guess we’ll work toward continuing to improve our level of service. People come to us to celebrate momentous occasions, so we have a really big impact on their lives. We have great steak, potatoes, vegetables, fresh baked breads and great glasses of wine, and I don’t think that part of it is ever going to change in my lifetime. On the other hand, Macaroni Grill is revising its menu to showcase a bit more of a Tuscan style, including more pastas, new salads, soups and more.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

  • Locations
    • 500 Ala Moana Boulevard #6C
    • Honolulu, HI 96813
    •  
    • 226 Lewers Street #L-236
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 599-3860 (Ala Moana)
    • (808) 440-7910 (Lewers)
  • Hours
    • Open for dinner nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.
  • Website

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

  • Where
    • Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hookipa Terrace
    • 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard #4240
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 356-8300
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.