Chef-owner Marc St Jacques, along with his team from Bar Bête in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, have opened the doors to Ruthie’s, just a few doors down the block. Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
1. It’s named after the chef’s grandmother …
… And his mother and soon-to-be-4-year-old daughter.
“All of their middle names are Ruth,” St Jacques explains. “My mom and my grandma never went by Ruth, though; it was more of a playful middle name where they’d be called Ruthie or Little Ruthie when they were causing trouble. When my daughter was born, we named her Vivienne Ruth, but we’ve always just called her Ruthie, so the restaurant is named after her.” He adds, “She thinks she’s the owner.”
Whereas Bar Bête is heavily influenced by Montreal, where St Jacques’ father’s side of the family is from, Ruthie’s draws its influence from his maternal grandmother and mother.
“My father and grandparents on his side loved to go out and go to restaurants, while on my mom’s side, they had a farm, and we’d have cold plates, like bean salads and deviled eggs, and we’d go to these tavern-style restaurants outside of Toronto. Both my mom and grandma influenced me in wanting to be a chef and cook.”
2. If you love Bar Bête, chances are you’ll love Ruthie’s, too.
St Jacques hopes that diners who love Bar Bête will embrace Ruthie’s just as much, although he’s quick to point out that they’re not exactly the same: “It’s going to be its own creature,” he says. “It’s not an extension of Bar Bête, but it’s a restaurant with the same core principles.”
That means creating a space that’s most of all “fun and enjoyable” and where you feel “special and recognized.” St Jacques says that when it came to opening Bar Bête, he wanted diners to feel like they would if they were dining at a bistro in Paris or Montreal.
Ruthie’s has a look and feel that’s casual, with subtle nods to classic North American diners and dinettes: Think natural woods, pops of color, bolted-down stools, plenty of bar space, communal seating, and lots of booths that face each other like a diner or luncheonette would have.
“There are a lot of classic Midwestern design elements, like the wainscotting on the walls, without it being old timey or like grandma’s house,” St Jacques says.
Ruthie’s is roughly the same size as Bar Bête, with just slightly more seats available inside (about 47 seats) and with outdoor seating for 30 to be added in the near future. The space it occupies is that of Jolie Bistro, a French Mexican bistro that closed in January of this year.
3. It’s not exactly a diner, but there are some definite diner vibes at work here.
St Jacques isn’t calling Ruthie’s a diner, per se, but it does have some diner-like qualities to it. If there were an overall theme for it, he says it’d be “Americana,” drawing from Midwest luncheonettes and diners: Essentially, it’s a place to grab a burger and a beer, or some salad and wine all day, and he hopes Ruthie’s will draw in the neighborhood and New Yorkers from throughout the city.
“From a food standpoint, there’s definitely going to be a little bit of nostalgia happening for a lot of people, whether you’re eating deviled eggs that remind you of the ones your grandma made, or a 7 and 7 cocktail you haven’t had since you were 21,” St Jacques says.
Ruthie’s isn’t necessarily a kid’s restaurant, either, but it will have some kid-friendly features and dishes, too. “We’re making our own chicken nuggets, so parents can feel like there’s no excess stuff in there besides good cooking.”
4. You’re encouraged to customize, and make choices.
At a time when it’s not uncommon to see the words “no substitutions, please” or “no modifications, please” on a restaurant menu, Ruthie’s is doubling down on letting diners customize their meals as they please — much like you would at your local diner or luncheonette. At least for a few dishes.
“I grew up going to restaurants where they have a house salad on the menu and you get to pick your dressing and all that stuff,” says St Jacques. The house salad at Ruthie’s will have tomatoes from Eckerton Farms, yellow beans from Lani’s Farm, and herbs from the market that all come together for a “big, chunky salad” where you can add your dressing of choice, from a fermented French and a dried shrimp ranch to a classic Italian.”
There will be four burgers on the menu, as well as a vegetarian tomato burger and a tuna burger. Omelets will be served all day, and you can expect to see grilled cheese sandwiches and baked potatoes with fillings of your choice, too.
“This idea of selection is just really nice and something that’s kind of not that done that much anymore,” St Jacques adds.
5. Expect themed nights in the future. And breakfast, too.
Eventually, Ruthie’s will host themed nights like pasta night, fried chicken night, or possibly even a Sunday roast. “The idea is that our regulars can say they’re going to Ruthie’s on Monday for meatballs, or something like that,” says St Jacques.
Ruthie’s is initially opening with just dinner service for now, but the plan is to eventually open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the same all-day menu served at lunch and dinner.
Breakfast will be a more casual fare, and St Jacques notes that a breakfast salad is currently in the works, but you can expect to see coffee cake, egg sandwiches, egg plates, and more in the mornings at some point. Pastry chef Iris Conaway developed the dessert menu for Ruthie’s and is going to be working on the dessert program at Bar Bête, too.
6. You’ll see some familiar faces.
Bar Bête’s sommelier Nick Ferrante and general manager Steven Kincade will be fixtures at Ruthie’s too, with Ferrante leading the wine program for Ruthie’s and Kincade overseeing the cocktail program. St Jacques says that while you’ll see some Old World wines on the list, the majority of wines will have an American influence. The cocktail program centers itself on Canadian ryes and whiskies.
Overseeing the dining room at Ruthie’s will be longtime Bar Bête server Sarah Wolf, and joining St Jacques in the kitchen at Ruthie’s is Bar Bête sous chef Eugene Twardowski, now head chef at Ruthie’s.
7. The restaurant’s namesake has given it her seal of approval.
Ruthie, St Jacques’ daughter and self-proclaimed restaurant owner, recently participated in a menu tasting at her namesake restaurant and has given her seal of approval.
“She goes, ‘Appa, the restaurant looks absolutely beautiful. So, Ruthie’s is going to be a hit, you know?’”
Ruthie’s is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m. but will eventually expand its hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.