What do you do when it’s pouring rain outside and completely miserable on a Saturday? If you’re Ken Peng, then you seek out new tasty goodies. Which led me to Ruby’s, a small southern restaurant located at 308 NW 5th Avenue in the historic Pleasant Street neighborhood. The curious location is perfect for this small eatery that advertises itself as “a great place to eat.” I’ve heard a lot about this spot run by husband and wife team, Ruby and Johnny Moore, so I was excited to finally visit.
The restaurant is small. I mean a short bar, and four tables small. If you plan on visiting with more than three other people, it can be difficult. The interior is old, lined with pastel colored wallpaper that’s hidden behind decades worth of Moore family memorabilia. Everything from family reunion programs and yearbook photos, to children’s drawings and report cards cover the walls. The only employees in there are husband and wife, their son Johnny Jr. and I’m told some of the other children occasionally come in to help as well. You really do feel like you’ve been welcomed into the home of the Moore’s.
On the menu are all the standards. Chicken Dinner ($7-$9 depending on white or dark, 2 or 3 piece – pan fried or smothered with 2 side items and bread), Pork Chop Dinner ($9.99 - fried, grilled or smothered pork chop with 2 side items and bread), Shrimp & Broccoli, BBQ Sandwiches, Oxtail, and their famous Gatorburger (a whole pound of beef grilled and served between Texas Toast and toppings). Every item seemed reasonably priced for generous portions.
There were a lot of choices, but I wasn’t going to pass up on fried chicken, so I went with a Chicken Dinner (white meat) with fries, okra, cornbread, and some sweet tea. The chicken was juicy and tender, served piping hot and pan fried in homemade batter the way all good fried chicken should be. I thought the meat could have used a little more seasoning, but the batter was delicious. The fries were hand cut and fried in the same oil as the chicken to give it that extra bit of flavor, and the okra actually freshly fried and not the frozen stuff that most places usually use. My tea was extremely sweet, so a word of warning. Unless you like consuming syrup, ask for half and half! If your life goal is to achieve Diabetes, then you’ll love it.
I also had a chance to sample the fried pork chop, which was cooked in the same batter as the chicken. It was juicy, though not as tender as it should have been. The cut that was served was very fatty and mostly bone. But the best thing I had was the candied yam. If you like a good candied yam, Ruby’s will not disappoint! Sweet sugary starchy goodness, I could probably eat it by itself. But given the choice between toast and cornbread, I’d pick the toast. The cornbread was cold, flavorless, and just generally sad. If my meal was “Abbey Road”, then that cornbread was “Octopus’ Garden.”
While the service was generally friendly, the owners spent the better half of our meal arguing with each other over some trivial nonsense, so our table of three was mostly ignored. That was made extra infuriating by the fact we were the only people in there. It took some time before I was able to get a refill, or even a to-go box. As much as I was enjoying Lord of the Rings on their 30” television circa 1996, I was ready to go home and nap.
The food here can be described in one word; heavy. I felt like I consumed an entire bottle of Crisco and washed it down with high blood pressure. In fact, it took me until 6 PM to finish writing this because I came home and immediately napped for 2 hours. Now I’m craving a salad, and I hate salad. This may sound unappealing to some, but to me, good soul food will do that to you. It wouldn’t be good unless you feel like you need to atone for your sins afterwards.
Ruby’s also serves breakfast starting at 7 AM on the weekdays and 8 AM on Saturday. They’re closed on Sundays, but open until 7 PM every day except Wednesday and Saturday (5 PM). So if you’re craving some good home-style fried chicken, or a big juicy burger for a decent price, this is the spot for you. But if you’re a health nut or a vegetarian, you will not enjoy it. Though today’s experience was a little slow, this is a good spot for some unashamed food served by a family of smiling faces. So does it live up to its billing as “a great place to eat”? That may be a stretch, but it’s good and worth the price. That’s enough to pay them at least a visit! If you do, don’t forget the yams…please don’t forget the yams.
(Pictured - clockwise from top right - fried chicken & fries, fried okra & cornbread, fried pork chop & candied yams)
Edit: I also stand corrected, apparently Ruby has passed away...so I don't know who that woman was today. My information was outdated. CURSE YOU INTERWEBZ!