I love local establishments that share the history of their surroundings, and The Ribeye has been feeding hungry patrons for more than 30 years. When you look at the walls and the general décor you are transported back in time a bit, but they are up to date on Illini athletics: Lovie, Underwood, and Whitman adorn the wall behind the salad bar. The best information I could find dates the Ribeye’s origin to 1984, but the building housed Cliff Hangers from ’78 to ‘84, and Ireland’s before that.
So, what is their secret to longevity in a community with no shortage of restaurants and high turnover? My guess is their commitment to quality and a simple approach. If you’ve never been, you have probably deduced that they are a “steakhouse,” but they really aren’t. Sure, they serve steak, but it is only one steak…you guessed it: The ribeye. They only serve choice, never frozen, aged steaks and will cut them to order from 8 oz to 32 oz in any 2 oz increment. In a world of endless choice and five-page menus, the simplicity is refreshing. Of course, they have a chicken option for those looking to avoid red meat. They will also add fried shrimp to any dinner, along with sautéed mushrooms or onions.
The 8 oz ribeye is $21.99 and $1.50 for each additional ounce; the chicken is $17.99. You can add four fried shrimp to your dinner for $5 to $6, or make a meal out of seven shrimp for $20.99. All dinners come with choice of baked potato, rice, or steak fries, a whole loaf of bread, and unlimited salad bar. Keep in mind, you can just get the salad bar for $10.99, kids under 12 have options for $8.99, and kids under 5 get free salad bar.
At first you might think that $11 is too much for typical restaurant salad bar, and if this were an ordinary salad bar I might agree, but it offers far more than ordinary salad. Sure, it has the obligatory lettuce, tomato, onion, mushroom, cheese, croutons, dressings, etc., but they also boast 15-18 various deli “salads” that allow for quite a variety for even the most discerning diner. I wish they were also open for lunch!
Now I’m not sure if it is widely known, or if I’m about to let the cat out of the bag…but you can buy their deli salads in bulk for takeout. Their deli salads are like the ones in most grocery stores around town, but I think they are made in smaller batches and aren’t sitting in a display case for an unknown length of time. If you have an upcoming house party or barbeque, let the folks at the Ribeye do the work; your guests will thank you.
After eating steak, potato, bread and copious quantities of deli salads, it was time to sample desserts. The night I went, The Ruibeye featured a lemon cake in addition to the menu standards. Even these were limited cheesecake and ice-cream sundaes, but I appreciate simplicity on occasion. If you are looking to spice things up, there are quite a few ice cream and coffee concoctions for the over 21 crowd.
At the end of the day, The Ribeye offers a predictable and repeatable fare that will leave you and your wallet satisfied. Will it be the best steak you’ve ever had? Probably not, but you should leave feeling like you got a good value and probably had a good time. The staff is warm and friendly, the atmosphere is casual, comfortable and non-pretentious, and there is something on the menu for just about anyone, including the kiddos. It is a great place for a family outing, I think you will enjoy.
1701 S Neil
M-Th 4 to 9 p.m.
F 4 to 9:30 p.m.
Sa 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Su 4:30 to 9 p.m.
Photos by Rob Schaffer