When I was younger, my family’s options for dining out in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina were limited. For a reasonably priced dinner, there just weren’t that many options. Pizza meant Pizza Hut. Chinese meant Shun Lee Palace, the questionably sanitary take-out place near our house. Classic, all-American food meant Ruby Tuesday.
Charlotte has come a long way in the past ten years. The city has transformed completely, most notably with the opening of many new restaurants. What used to be a city full of chains and casual local joints has now become one of upscale, fine dining spots. And they’re not all outrageously expensive, either.
As a child, Ruby Tuesday was always my favorite spot. My dad liked the rack of ribs, which was enough food to feed a small village. There was a salad bar, which I always avoided (I used to hate vegetables), but my parents would pile their plates high with greens and other healthy looking things.
For me, there was the chocolate tall cake. It’s still so clear in my mind – layers of moist chocolate cake and chocolate mousse, swimming in caramel and chocolate sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and Oreo cookie crumbles – presented in a gigantic glass goblet. In my tiny four and a half-foot, eight-year-old body, the tall cake towered over me.
I might allow my mom or dad to have a few small bites of the tall cake, but that was it. I could take this monster down nearly every time, pretty easily too. I might have felt sick afterwards, but it was a small price to pay for its deliciousness. It’s amazing that I wasn’t a fat kid, either.
A few years ago, Ruby Tuesday decided to distinguish itself from Applebee’s, T.G.I. Fridays, and Chili’s by upgrading its menu and appearance. Gone was the random crap and paraphernalia that previously filled the walls, traded for a cleaner, more minimalist look to their restaurants. Gone were many of the past menu items as well, including my beloved chocolate tall cake.
Unfortunately, I found this out the hard way. Sometime in 2009, the same year of Ruby Tuesday’s transformation, I tried to find the chocolate tall cake on the menu. I asked my server about this, but was instead offered the double chocolate cake. I didn’t want that. I wanted the chocolate tall cake. Every restaurant has a double chocolate cake for dessert. That’s not very creative at all.
A 2009 article from The New York Times provided an explanation. Ruby Tuesday executive chef Peter Glander commented on taking the tall cake off of the new menu –
“Some things lose luster…like the chocolate tall cake. It’s this cake that is extremely rich, and when I came over a year ago, this was the holy grail of the dessert menu. It was like, there will never be anything happening to this piece.”
With the loss of the tall cake came the New York Cheesecake, the Blondie, Tiramisu, gourmet cupcakes and the double chocolate cake. Really? Gourmet cupcakes? Ruby Tuesday is so trendy now.
Perhaps Chef Glander decided the tall cake was not sophisticated enough for Ruby Tuesday’s new menu. I say, why fix something if it was never broken in the first place?
You probably think I’m starting to sound a little bitter. Well, I am. I really liked the chocolate tall cake.
Sometimes, it’s best to take matters into your own hands. Determined to bring back this dessert masterpiece, I vowed to recreate the chocolate tall cake in my tiny, ill-equipped kitchen.
In my next post is the chocolate tall cake experiment breakdown. Unfortunately, my roommate, my boyfriend and myself ended up eating most of the cake before I finished my experiment. As a result, the tall cake wasn’t so tall anymore. Oh well. Stay tuned for the sweet saga.