Yesterday was a ruby of a Tuesday for Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RI) as the casual dining chain put up some appetizing numbers. The company earned $0.48 a share in its fiscal third quarter, a sharp 23% gain over last year on a 16% uptick in revenues.

Ruby Tuesday always seemed to be little more than a "me too" player in casual dining, trumped by the more ubiquitous Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB) and Brinker's (NYSE:EAT) Chili's. That knock may have been unfair when the company was growing its bottom line steadily the past few years, but it's completely off the mark these days.

Ruby Tuesday is an industry leader. Back in November, it launched its Smart Eating initiative that broadened its choices for dieters. From introducing 30 low-carb menu items to replacing frying oil with canola, Ruby Tuesday repositioned itself as a health-conscious alternative just as the Atkins and South Beach diets were taking off. Later this month, the company will become the first casual dining eatery to roll out complete nutritional information on its menus.

So it should come as no surprise that comps are rising. Realizing that healthy grub makes for timely home meals, the company rolled out a "curb-side-to-go" program for takeout orders that now accounts for 6% of total sales. Yes, others like Chili's and Outback Steakhouse (NYSE:OSI) have been doing this for years, but it makes sense for Ruby Tuesday to follow suit under its healthier dining banner.

Clearly, these have been good times for restaurants. Last week, W.D. Crotty took a look at some recent traffic gains at chains like Jack in the Box (NYSE:JBX) and Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA). But Ruby Tuesday is also on the lookout for a brighter tomorrow. Management is looking for fourth-quarter profits to jump by 17% to 18%, while the next fiscal year should chime in with earnings improvement in the high teens.

That puts the high end of the company's earnings guidance at $1.91 in fiscal 2005. At 17 times forward earnings, Ruby Tuesday is trading at about its expected growth rate. That's a relative bargain down Wall Street these days. Smart eating? Bah! It's more like smart investing.

Have you enjoyed Ruby Tuesday's new menu? What other major food chains have hopped on the Atkins-approved bandwagon? All this and more -- in the Low Carb Way of Life discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will gladly pay you on a Ruby Tuesday for a burger today. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.