Oh well, there goes another one. A couple of years ago the number of chain restaurants nationwide overtook independently owned restaurants. So it's no surprise, really, that just around the corner from the Cheesecake Factory the Seattle franchise of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is moving from its Fifth Avenue location to the yawning restaurant space inside the Grand Hyatt heretofore known as 727 Pine. While the move is good news for lovers of big meat and creamed spinach, the restaurant chain is a bane to lispers everywhere, its name a sibilant conspiracy of consonants. What's more, it represents another deflated dream of Seattle-bred luxury cuisine.

The darkly glamorous 727 Pine opened with a snowstorm of PR about its young chef Danielle Custer, who envisioned a menu full of worldly flavors and superb local ingredients. Kitted out in lush, forest-y materials, the slinky split-level space exuded tech-boom opulence. The hotel itself was clearly aiming for a certain boutique appeal--just asking to be filled with chic clients with pockets full of stock options. But it opened in the summer of 2001, amid slumping markets and just weeks before 9/11. It became a kind of gorgeous ghost town. In 2002, Custer left, abruptly it seemed, sparking a bout of absolutely venomous gossip, and 727 has been operating below the radar ever since.

For me, the fancy drinks and the haute comfort food served in the lounge have made it a regular stop whenever I show up too early for a downtown movie. Who wouldn't want a big paper cone full of hand-cut French fries and a slender pint of Delirium Tremens ale? Or a trio of tiny Kobe beef hamburgers? The alabaster lighting made sure I looked good even as I bloated out to the farthest reaches of pregnancy. At least in the near term, Ruth's Chris plans to keep that lighting and the rest of 727's décor, when it relocates in January.

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