Ruth's Chris Steakhouse Vs J. Alexander's: How Do The Chains Compare?

J. Alexander's and Ruth's Chris
J. Alexander's and Ruth's Chris - Static Media / Instagram

Both Ruth's Chris Steak House and J. Alexander's serve American cuisine, offering menus that blend traditional dishes with more contemporary culinary creations. Being a steakhouse, Ruth's Chris focuses on skillfully prepared steaks made from high-quality cuts of beef. The chain also serves an array of seafood, apps, and sides to complement its steak offerings. Conversely, J. Alexander's features a more varied menu that includes steaks, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and main dishes such as oven-roasted chicken and barbecued baby back ribs.

While both establishments offer an inviting ambiance and an outstanding dining experience, they differ in several aspects. For instance, Ruth's Chris is known for its upscale, classic steakhouse environment, while J. Alexander's tends to have a slightly more casual vibe. In addition, Ruth's Chris typically has higher prices due to its emphasis on premium steaks, whereas J. Alexander's serves more wallet-friendly dishes, catering to a wider range of budgets.

In our quest to compare Ruth's Chris and J. Alexander's, we've taken a close look at the menus of both establishments, zeroing in on their food offerings, ingredient quality, and prices. For more info about our review process, read the methodology slide at the end of this article.

Read more: Steakhouse Chains Where The Sides Outshine The Steaks

The Chains Feature Different Decor

J. Alexander's restaurant interior
J. Alexander's restaurant interior - Facebook / J. Alexander's

Ruth's Chris and J. Alexander's each have distinctive interior decor styles, with the former exuding traditional elegance and the latter embodying a more modern and casual vibe. While all Ruth's Chris locations are somewhat different, many of the chain's restaurants are characterized by an upscale ambiance, with plush seating, polished fixtures, and dark wood interiors. The lighting often features a soft glow to create an intimate dining environment, varying from basic spotlights to ornate chandeliers.

The recently redesigned Ruth's Chris in Midtown Manhattan, New York, exemplifies the chain's commitment to creating a refined dining atmosphere. For instance, the inclusion of design elements like velvet upholstered walls and rich mahogany pays homage to the opulence of yesteryear while also appealing to the tastes of modern patrons.

In comparison, J. Alexander's offers a more contemporary setting that blends sleek and rustic design elements, creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. The interior features a harmonious mix of wood, rock, and brick — all complemented by subdued lighting. The muted colors and minimalist decor further enhance the establishment's cozy vibe.

Ruth's Chris Has More Outlets

Ruth's Chris Steak House exterior
Ruth's Chris Steak House exterior - JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Starting out as Chris Steak House in 1965, today Ruth's Chris has around 133 locations around the U.S. The states with the most Ruth's Chris outlets are Florida and California, with 15 and 14 restaurants respectively. In terms of cities, Ruth's Chris has the biggest presence in San Antonio, Texas, with three restaurants, and Denver, Colorado, with two restaurants. Ruth's Chris also has a substantial international presence in countries such as Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, China, and Singapore.

Operating on a much smaller scale, J. Alexander's only has around 37 locations in the U.S., with Florida leading the states with seven locations. Trailing close behind are Ohio and Tennessee, with five restaurants each. Interestingly, J. Alexander's CEO Lonnie Stout once told The Tennessean in an interview that the company behind the venture isn't overly keen on the concept of a chain, which has resulted in the rebranding of some J. Alexander's locations. "Consumers think chains have bad service and bad food ... There's this mindset that if you're multiple under the same name, there's something bad about it. So by breaking up the company into these operating groups we think will help overcome that," Stout explained.

Ruth's Chris Is Famous For Its Broiled Steaks Served On Sizzling Plates

Ruth's Chris broiled steak
Ruth's Chris broiled steak - Facebook / Ruth's Chris Steak House

Broiling is a cooking method that involves grilling the meat under high heat. The broiler functions similarly to an upside-down grill, with the heat source located above the food. When a steak is broiled, the heat quickly cooks the surface, creating a crisp, caramelized crust while keeping the interior juicy and tender. This cooking method is what makes Ruth's Chris' steaks so delicious.

Ruth's Chris broils its steaks at an ultra-high 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooked, the chain serves the cuts of beef on sizzling 500-degree Fahrenheit plates. Each sizzling steak arrives at the table topped with a little butter and parsley for added flavor. Lana Duke, an advertising professional and Ruth's Chris franchise owner, explained the concept in an interview with Dine Magazine, saying, "It was difficult to get every Ruth's Chris in the world to do that. 'If it doesn't sizzle, send it back.' That helped build the brand."

J. Alexander's Has A More Diverse Menu Than Ruth's Chris

Different dishes at J. Alexander's
Different dishes at J. Alexander's - Facebook / J. Alexander's

While Ruth's Chris mainly focuses on steaks and classic accompaniments, J. Alexander's offers a broader menu that caters to more diverse culinary preferences. The dining experience at J. Alexander's kicks off with a range of soups and starters, such as deviled eggs and fire-grilled artichokes. The chain serves an array of burgers and sandwiches, as well as steaks and ribs. Additionally, the menu highlights a selection of specialties like seared ahi tuna, Carolina crab cakes, and Mr. Jack's crispy chicken platter. J. Alexander's also offers a range of salads and sides, including options like couscous, red potatoes, and Not Your Ordinary mac & cheese.

In contrast, the menu at Ruth's Chris is more streamlined, focusing on signature steak offerings and seafood. Diners can choose from a variety of cuts including New York strip, cowboy ribeye, and petite filet. Aside from the star of the show — the steaks — Ruth's Chris also serves a range of seafood, from Maine lobster and colossal lump crabmeat to shrimp, calamari, and ahi tuna. The chain's side dishes maintain a classic steakhouse feel, with items such as french-fried onion rings, creamed spinach, and julienne fries.

Ruth's Chris And J. Alexander's Serve Different Types Of Beef

Ruth's Chris steak
Ruth's Chris steak - Facebook / Ruth's Chris Steak House (Troy)

Whether you opt for the New York strip or the tomahawk ribeye, Ruth's Chris guarantees to serve you some of the finest beef around. Most of the meat offered by the chain falls under the USDA Prime classification. This means that the beef comes with a lot of marbling, ensuring that it's both tender and juicy when it arrives at your table. However, not all of the steaks at Ruth's Chris are of the same quality. The chain also serves USDA Choice meat, which is still of high quality but comes with less marbling than USDA Prime cuts. All beef served at Ruth's Chris comes from corn-fed Midwestern cattle.

Unlike Ruth's Chris, J. Alexander's doesn't use USDA Prime beef. Instead, the chain makes most of its steaks with USDA Choice cuts, which fall somewhere between USDA Prime and USDA Select in quality. The restaurant's strip steaks are made from Certified Angus Beef. All J. Alexander's steaks come from corn-fed Midwestern cattle and are aged for at least 21 days. Notably, J. Alexander's doesn't guarantee the quality of any steaks ordered medium well or well done, as stated on its menu.

The Appetizers At J. Alexander's Are More Low-Key Than At Ruth's Chris

J. Alexander's Spinach Con Queso
J. Alexander's Spinach Con Queso - Facebook / J. Alexander's

While both J. Alexander's and Ruth's Chris cater to lovers of hearty American cuisine, J. Alexander's appetizers are simpler than those offered by Ruth's Chris. Clearly complementary to the main dishes, the starters at J. Alexander's tend to be more understated, emphasizing flavors that enhance rather than compete with the main courses. So what's on offer? J. Alexander's apps feature classics like deviled eggs with sugar-cured bacon and spinach con queso with tortilla chips. Additionally, J. Alexander's offers daily soups made from seasonal ingredients.

Ruth's Chris Steak House positions itself as an upscale restaurant, and this is evident in its selection of appetizers. The chain offers a range of sophisticated starters, some of which can stand as a meal in their own right, depending on the patron's hunger level. Perhaps the most exquisite item on Ruth's Chris' menu is the chilled seafood tower with Maine lobster, colossal lump crabmeat, and jumbo shrimp. Several of the chain's other app offerings include sizzling crab cakes, barbecue shrimp, and seared ahi tuna. Meanwhile, in the non-meat starter department, the restaurant offers stuffed mushrooms and a variety of salads.

Ruth's Chris Is More Expensive Than J. Alexander's

Dining at Ruth's Chris
Dining at Ruth's Chris - Facebook / Ruth's Chris Steak House (Troy)

The prices at Ruth's Chris are higher compared to those at J. Alexander's, reflecting differences in the dining experience at the chains. Ruth's Chris is perceived as a more upscale dining choice, generally attracting those looking for a special occasion meal. On the other hand, J. Alexander's caters to a broader range of dining situations, including casual family dinners and various spontaneous gatherings.

In terms of prices, Ruth's Chris' starters hover around the $20 - $25 mark, with the priciest item being its sizzling crab cakes at $28. Those wishing to splurge can opt for the chilled seafood tower, priced at $82 for two diners and $164 for four diners. In contrast, the apps at J. Alexander's will set you back between $8 and $18, with the most expensive item on the starter menu being the tuna stack. The story is similar when it comes to the mains, with Ruth's Chris' steaks ranging from the petite filet at $52 to the tomahawk ribeye at $154. While J. Alexander's steak menu is more limited, its beefy offerings are priced around the $45 mark. Please note that the prices may vary by location.

Ruth's Chris Has More Seafood Options

Ruth's Chris seafood tower
Ruth's Chris seafood tower - Facebook / Ruth's Chris Steak House Virginia Beach

Those who prefer lighter, marine-inspired dishes to classic steaks and chops needn't despair. Both Ruth's Chris and J. Alexander's offer a wide array of seafood dishes. Nevertheless, while J. Alexander's holds its own in the seafood department, Ruth's Chris features a more extensive aquatic menu that includes numerous upscale items.

Ruth's Chris is particularly noted for its premium seafood selection. The chain offers a lavish assortment of oceanic delicacies, such as garlic crusted Chilean sea bass with lemon butter or the seared ahi tuna with a mustard and beer sauce. Several other of Ruth's Chris' seafood dishes include the shrimp cocktail, barbecued shrimp, and sizzling crab cakes.

Despite having a more limited seafood selection, J. Alexander's features an aquatic menu that offers plenty of flavorful options. In terms of fish, the chain serves dishes such as grilled salmon, grilled trout, and seared ahi tuna. Meanwhile, those in the mood for shellfish can opt for the chain's cilantro shrimp, Carolina crab cakes, or Hong Kong shrimp.

Both Restaurants Offer Extensive Wine Choices

Wine selection at Ruth's Chris
Wine selection at Ruth's Chris - Facebook / Ruth's Chris Steak House Virginia Beach

Those who like pairing their dishes with quality wine are in luck. Both Ruth's Chris and J. Alexander's features large wine selections curated to complement their menus. Whether you lean towards a robust red to enjoy with your steak or a refreshing white to accompany your seafood, these restaurants have you covered.

At Ruth's Chris, wine bottles start at around $38 a pop, featuring options such as the Montevina White Zinfandel from California or the Lagaria Pinot Grigio from Italy. For those seeking a more premium experience, there are also pricier options like the Joseph Phelps "Insignia" from California, priced at $325 per bottle. Additionally, the chain offers wine by the glass in 6-ounce and 9-ounce servings, albeit with a more limited selection. Ruth's Chris boasts an international wine selection, showcasing offerings not only from the U.S. but also from France, Italy, Australia, and South Africa.

Although J. Alexander's wine selection may not match the breadth of that offered by Ruth's Chris', the chain still boasts plenty of quality sips. Plus, some of its wines are slightly more budget-friendly than those available at Ruth's Chris. On the more affordable end of the spectrum, diners can select the likes of Wente Estate Chardonnay from the Central Coast for $35. On the other hand, those seeking an upscale experience can indulge in J. Alexander's pricier offerings like the Silver Oak from Napa Valley, priced at $270 per bottle.

Ruth's Chris Offers More Menu Dessert Options Than J. Alexander's

Ruth's Chris apple crumb tart
Ruth's Chris apple crumb tart - Instagram / megsescapades

Ruth's Chris is a veritable playground for dessert lovers, boasting an extensive menu that caters to a variety of sweet cravings. The chain serves classic favorites like the warm apple crumb tart with vanilla ice cream. There are also more innovative creations like the bread pudding with whiskey sauce, a New Orleans favorite with a twist. Several other of the restaurant's noteworthy after-dinner options include the chocolate sin cake, creme brulee, and chocolate mousse cheesecake.

While not as plentiful, the dessert options at J. Alexander's sound just as decadent. Highlights include the Key lime pie, served on cinnamon graham cracker crust, and the carrot cake with pecans and pineapple, topped with warm cream cheese icing. J. Alexander's also delivers in the chocolate department. True to its name, The Very Best Chocolate Cake is a triple chocolate delight served with vanilla ice cream.

J. Alexander's Serves A Wider Range Of Martinis Than Ruth's Chris

J. Alexander's martini
J. Alexander's martini - Facebook / J. Alexander's

Typically made with gin or vodka and vermouth as a base, martinis are very versatile. Perhaps this is why there are so many takes on this classic cocktail concoction. By tweaking the ingredients or ratios, a martini can be easily customized to suit a range of taste preferences. This is precisely what J. Alexander's has done. Offering around 10 different martini options, the chain caters to both purists with the classic martini and the more adventurous with innovative takes on the cocktail. On the other hand, Ruth's Chris only serves two martini types: the Dirty Wheatley martini with Wheatley vodka and the espresso martini with Caffe Borghetti espresso liqueur and cold brew coffee.

Among the martini options at J. Alexander's, the ginger martini offers a blend of Grey Goose vodka, Domaine de Canton liqueur, and a splash of Grand Marnier. For those who favor something refreshing, the cucumber martini features Hendrick's gin mixed with dry vermouth and fresh cucumber. Additionally, the restaurant also serves creations like the prickly pear margarita, the Sparkling Rose with sparkling wine, and the Red-Headed Rita infused with pomegranate juice.

Ruth's Chris Has A Prix Fixe Menu

Ruth's Chris people eating
Ruth's Chris people eating - Facebook / Ruth's Chris Steak House

For those new to the concept, a prix fixe menu presents diners with a set meal at a set price, offering a selection of choices for each course — usually an appetizer, main, and dessert. This format allows restaurants to display their culinary prowess, using the best seasonal produce to whip up their signature dishes. Ruth's Chris embraces this curated approach to dining with its Classic Prix Fixe menu.

Ruth's Chris set menu gives diners the opportunity to sample several of the chain's dishes at a price that's lower than if they had ordered them from the menu separately. This special menu starts at a baseline price of $56 for a salmon filet and goes up based on the choice of entree. For instance, the 6-ounce filet & shrimp menu is available for $63 and the 6-ounce filet & lobster tail menu starts at $73 and goes up depending on the steak choice and weight. To complete the meal, diners select from a choice of starters such as Louisiana seafood gumbo and side dishes like creamed spinach. All diners also receive a personal-sized dessert.

Ruth's Chris Is Better Overall

Ruth's Chris logo
Ruth's Chris logo - M4Productions/Shutterstock

Both Ruth's Chris and J. Alexander's offer memorable dining experiences. However, it's our belief that Ruth's Chris has a slight edge over its competitor due to its upscale decor, innovative menu, and high-quality steaks. Additionally, Ruth's Chris offers a thoughtfully curated wine list to complement its dishes, adding an extra layer of elegance to the dining experience.

While J. Alexander's menu delivers a broad range of dishes, it doesn't quite reach the same level of sophistication as Ruth's Chris. This being said, J. Alexander's has its own charm, featuring an inviting and casual dining atmosphere. The more relaxed setting makes the restaurant perfect for casual meals where the focus is on comfort and ease.

The two chains also differ in price points, with Ruth's Chris being more expensive. However, budget-conscious customers may appreciate Ruth's Chris prix fixe menu, which allows diners to enjoy a variety of the restaurant's specialties at more wallet-friendly prices.


J. Alexander's baby back ribs
J. Alexander's baby back ribs - Facebook / J. Alexander's

To compare Ruth's Chris Steak House and J. Alexander's, we examined each chain's menu and prices. The primary focus was on scrutinizing each restaurant's food offerings, particularly evaluating the quality of the beef used, the variety and creativity of the menu, and the overall value for money. Additionally, we considered the overall dining experience at each restaurant, taking into account factors such as decor and ambiance.

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