What's in a Name?

Steak apart, Rippe's is just Chez Gus in drag.

CHEZ GUS, "SEATTLE'S neighborhood café" on Pier 70 is no more. In the same place we now have Rippe's, "Seattle's blue-jeans steak house." Apart from the name, not much has changed. A few menu items have been dropped (pizza, most of the pasta, and ribs) and a few added (a tuna sandwich, veggie burgers, more fish, and way more steak). But some things definitely haven't changed: A lunchtime Reuben ($9.95), which earned the ire of an earlier Weekly critic, was a bust: Now with sliced turkey joining the corned beef instead of grilled chicken fingers, the meat's still dry, still slathered with too much Thousand Island dressing, and the bread's still soggy. The Crab Louie ($16.95) still has plenty of crab, but little else but bland iceberg lettuce and a quartered not-too-fresh Roma tomato.

The crowd at Rippe's, downtowners on their lunch breaks and tourists killing time waiting for the Victoria Clipper, were probably more concerned about getting back to the office on time or not missing the boat than mediocre entrées. And to be fair, proprietor Paul Mackay is now calling his place a steak house, so I guess it ought to be judged primarily for its beef.

And I have to admit the steak is fabulous. Rippe's meats hail from the supplier who delivers 28-day-aged Angus beef to Mackay's flagship El Gaucho, and my 16-oz. strip of very marbleized New York steak ($23.95) had the tenderness of sashimi. Bite after bite melted in my mouth as I continued eating long after I should have called for a doggie bag.

The pleasure didn't extend beyond the steak. Alongside it was what appeared to be frozen broccoli, very unpalatable despite a drenching of melted butter. The exceptional meat quality doesn't extend to the burger ($7.95), which was just your standard OK restaurant burger on a not-so-hot bun. If you're going to gamble on Rippe's, stick with the steak: El Gaucho-quality fare at half the price.


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