Gone are the days when I could, on a whim, jump on a flight to Paris, Rio or even New Orleans. Airline ticket prices are through the roof, which makes the so-called staycation all the more attractive. Still, I do like to get out of the house from time to time. And so a semi-staycation was in order: a getaway within driving distance.
It’s all too easy to forget that we have a world-class vacation destination right in our own backyard. Folks come all over the country and around the world to visit Park City, which we might take for granted. So, on a recent weekend, I enjoyed a staycation, of sorts, in Park City. It was marvelous, and there was no airfare involved.
There’s still a little time for spring skiing in Park City, and the skiing at Park City Mountain Resort was excellent. I love this time of year, when strong sunscreen is more important than hand warmers. Gear up for your day with a cup of java and fresh-baked pastries at Kristi’s Coffee Cafe, in PCMR’s Legacy Lodge.
Once on the mountain, my favorite dining spots include the Mid-Mountain Lodge, which, during the Silver King mining days, used to serve a thousand miners daily. Today, it serves hundreds of hungry skiers and boarders with burgers, brats, gourmet sandwiches, housemade soups and more. For sunny spring deck dining, it’s hard to beat the Snow Hut restaurant for a cold brew and a bite from the burger bar. At 9,250 feet, the views from the Summit House are unbeatable, as is the famous bison chili. And, down at the Legacy Lodge base camp, the family dining options range from salad, potato and soup bars to gourmet pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, spicy wings and a morning breakfast buffet. By the way, that wasn’t me dressed only in a thong, running across the PCMR plaza trying to evade Park City’s finest on a recent Saturday. You never know quite what you’ll see on a sunny spring ski day!
If your staycation budget can handle it, I highly recommend checking into the Hotel Park City for a night or two. It’s a world-class hotel perched next to the Park City Golf Course, equipped with an excellent spa and a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Our luxurious Hotel Park City cottage suite was situated right on a lake, and had a full kitchen, private balcony and six-person Jacuzzi, the latter of which is precisely what we needed after a day of spring skiing. I also have to say that the bedding and pillows at the Hotel Park City were the most comfortable I’ve ever encountered.
With the money we’d saved not having to pay for airfare, another splurge was in order: dinner at Ruth’s Chris. Today, Ruth’s Chris has more than 130 locations and serves some 25,000 steaks per day. But back in 1965, Ruth Fertel was a woman who happened to see a sign reading “steakhouse for sale” in New Orleans and thought, “I can do that.” The rest is history. From the humble beginnings of a single steakhouse arose a beefy empire—a chain of steakhouse restaurants recognized as among the world’s best.
One thing I like about Ruth’s Chris is consistency. Although the décor and design differs radically from location to location—they are not cookie-cutter restaurants—the menus and constant quality of the food served are very dependable. The Park City Ruth’s Chris is warm and inviting, with a ski-town feel and lots of stone, natural colors and subdued lighting. The Saturday evening we ate there, the restaurant had an aprÃ¨s ski feel to it, complete with live musical entertainment.
One of my favorite dishes, bar none, is Ruth’s Chris’ chopped salad ($9.50). It’s large enough to share and could work as a light meal by itself. Molded into a cylindrical tower, the salad is chopped iceberg lettuce, radicchio and baby spinach with hard-cooked eggs, hearts of palm, red onion, mushrooms, green olives, croutons, blue cheese, lemon-basil dressing and a topping of crisp-fried, julienned onions. It’s simply splendid.
Equally splendid, of course, is a Ruth’s Chris steak. My favorite cut is the USDA Prime rib-eye ($45). It’s beautifully marbled, juicy and delicious, perfectly cooked at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and topped with fresh butter. When the server says, “Be careful, the plate is really hot,” he’s not kidding. Ruth’s Chris keeps the plates for their steaks at 500 degrees so that the steak is piping hot when it reaches the table. My son proclaimed his 8-ounce Prime petit filet ($37) the best steak he’d ever eaten, and I wouldn’t disagree. Keep in mind, however, that sides such as spuds, sauteed mushrooms, spinach au gratin, creamed spinach and such are priced Ã la carte. An order of mashed potatoes was large enough to share, and was delicious, but cost $9.50.
Another aspect of Ruth’s Chris consistency is the service. Our server, Ron Gauvin, was polished and professional, yet very comfortable and friendly. He could work at any restaurant in the world; he has the goods. And he didn’t sneer when we veered from the meaty menu and tried some seafood specialties. A sea-bass special ($38) was the biggest hunk of sea bass I’ve ever seen on a plate—a good 4 inches in height, bathed in a tangy puttanesca sauce with garlic, olives, capers and, I think, anchovies.
Another Ruth’s Chris classic, barbecued shrimp ($27), was a bit disappointing. It consisted of about a dozen gorgeous, plump, perfectly cooked large shrimp—melt-in-the-mouth tender—served on a bed of mashed potatoes. However, the barbecue sauce was buttery, but bland. It could have used a hefty bam! of Cajun-Creole seasoning or even a big splash of Tabasco. And barbecued shrimp should really be served with grits, not mashed spuds.
In total though, an excellent dinner at Ruth’s Chris was a fabulous finale for our Park City staycation.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT
345 Lowell Ave., Park City
HOTEL PARK CITY/RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE
2001 Park Ave., Park City