published Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

VIPs attend opening brouhaha of Chattanooga's new Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

Ruth's Chris Steak House
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Photo by Connor Choate /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Stick a fork in it, the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on Lifestyle Way is finally done.

Chattanooga on Monday became the newest city in the world to host the high-end steakhouse, which boasts top-dollar meat cooked in an 1,800-degree oven.

With a flourish and a sizzle, waiters brought out trays of medium-rare filets for guests to slice and sample -- a meal that most polished off with no need for encouragement from Nancy Oswald, co-owner of the Chattanooga franchise.

"Everybody loves a great steak," Oswald said. "Our menu items are universal."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke didn't stick around for the filet mignon, but he didn't leave without seizing the opportunity to cut up a bit.

"I go to a lot of events and make these kinds of remarks, but it's kind of unusual for me to do this at a steak place. So I guess you could say this event for me is medium rare." Berke said. "I have a ton of these, but I'm afraid if I stand up here and do these all day you'll filet me."

Bob Doak, head of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, proclaimed the Scenic City in rarefied company with the addition of a franchise that traces its lineage back to 1965, when Ruth Fertel mortgaged her home to buy the Chris Steak House in New Orleans.

"Years ago, we used to judge communities by how many Starbucks they had," Doak said. "Now, when you look at the fact that we've got one of only 139 of these restaurants in the world, that puts us in an elite league."

It's a dream come true for Byron DeFoor, who donned a chef's shirt and a knife for the traditional steak-cutting ceremony.

Brothers Byron DeFoor and Ken DeFoor have for almost a decade worked to lure premium brands such as Embassy Suites and the attached Ruth's Chris Steakhouse to their Lifestyle Way development, and Monday marked an end to that chapter of their lives.

"We actually finished it on time, 18 months, and on budget, for about $40 million," said Byron DeFoor, who will maintain ownership of the complex but will allow the Legacy Property Group to run the hotel. "It's really just the beginning of this development."

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at or 423-757-6315.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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