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Darrell Huckaby - 03/11/09

My lovely wife, Lisa, took me out for my birthday last weekend. I picked the show, secured the tickets, picked the restaurant, made the reservations and paid the bill - but she took me out. At least that's what she told me on Tuesday, when my actual birthday arrived.

Whatever.

At any rate, no matter who took out whom, we had a wonderful evening. We had greats eats for "A Chorus Line" at the Fox. They weren't Benson Plunkett-second-row-great, but they were still pretty doggone good - and as much as I hate going downtown and dealing with the traffic and road construction and panhandlers, I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the Fox Theater - and I still cringe at the thought of how close we came to allowing them to tear it down.

If you haven't seen "Chorus Line," you should - unless you have something against beautiful long-legged dancing girls, very talented male dancers and a delightful score and script with lots of laughs and insight into the human condition. Of course, the person with the biggest head in Atlanta sat right in front of me, completely blocking my view of the stage, but there was a whole section of empty seats right across the aisle so we outsmarted fate this one time and enjoyed an unfettered view of every high-kick and pirouette.

As good as the play was, it wasn't the highlight of the evening. That would have been Lisa's company, of course - but a close second would have been our meal.

I have finally been to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, y'all - and it is everything Sean Hannity says it is - and more.

Now I have been threatening to treat myself to Ruth's Chris for years, but I made the mistake of looking at the menu once on the Internet and the prices scared me away. They are one of those a la carte places, you see, which I think is French for "an arm for a salad and a leg for a side" - because that's what most of those type restaurants charge. I went to one in New Orleans once and had to use two charge cards and a wallet-full of cash to pay the bill. I think I had to leave the server an IOU.

I had been to a place like that in Atlanta once, too - up in Buckhead. It might have been Bones - or maybe it was Chops - I know it had a one-word name - and the waiter was so condescending that Lisa had to pinch me under the table to keep me from jerking a knot in his tail. I told myself after that experience that I would eat peanut butter and sardine sandwiches at the grungiest truck stop in South Georgia before I would darken the door of such a place again.

But it was almost my birthday and I was going to the big city with my beautiful young bride and I figured that what money I didn't spend would be confiscated by the government soon anyway, so I said, "What the Huck" and made a reservation at Ruth's Chris at Centennial Olympic Park. It was the best move I made since I bought my first pair of "expand-a-waist" pants at the Nearly New Shop in Dothan, Ala.

Honesty compels me to admit that we had a bit of a problem finding the establishment because I didn't realize that it was actually inside the Embassy Suites hotel. Once we got that little detail figured out then were home free - in a manner of speaking.

We were greeted at the door like long lost friends and ushered immediately to our table. Before we could get settled in our seats our server appeared. His name was James and I would learn that he has been in Atlanta from Detroit, by way of Seattle and I am here to tell you, Detroit's loss was our gain. James is one of the classiest people I have ever met. He is soft-spoken and knowledgeable and treated us like guests in his home. He wasn't one of those helicopter waiters who are always hovering around and he wasn't one of those "I'll be your buddy so you'll give me a big tip" guys, either. He was friendly and efficient and helpful - just exactly what I think every server should be.

And James actually tried to warn us that most of the items on the menu were plenty large enough to share. We didn't listen though. We each ordered a full meal apiece. Lisa had gumbo, the filet and shrimp combo, and mashed potatoes. I had a green salad, a huge ribeye and shrooms. We both had chocolate mousse and berries and cream for dessert.

Perhaps the only thing in the place superior to James's demeanor was the steak he served me. It was cooked to perfection at 1,800 degrees and still sizzling when they put it on the table in front of me. I have never had a more delicious piece of meat - and I have eaten a few steaks in my life.

You know, I saw Elvis in the Macon Coliseum in 1973 and haven't been impressed by an entertainer since. I am afraid I'll feel the same way about ribeye steaks from now on. But I'm glad I went because we never know how many birthdays are promised us.

Bon appetit!

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.