Recently we did the radio show (2-4 weekdays 990 AM) from the studio, which is in the CBD. We almost never do that, preferring to work remotely like everyone else now. But there we were, and considering that we eat for a living, it behooved us to make it count and eat somewhere downtown.
It was barely after 4 when we left the station and we made the block while we were discussing where to go. We checked the Bon Ton to see what was happening there with the renovation. Bon Ton was purchased by Jerry Greenbaum from The Chophouse across the street, and the restaurant closed the very day the COVID lockdowns started. We were talking about the “new” Bon Ton when we passed The Chophouse and saw a blackboard placard announcing that The Chophouse opened at 4pm. Sold.
We went into a pretty empty restaurant. We have never had especially good luck here. The Chopbhouse is part of a mid-Atlantic chain owned by Jerry Greenbaum, a Tulane graduate who lives in Atlanta. We were quite familiar with it from our many trips between here and DC in the post-Katrina years.
It always registered to me as ordinary, but one of our callers is obsessed with it, declaring it the best steakhouse in the city. Huh? I was happy to have a chance to see what he was talking about.
We sat down to a warm French pistolette and soft butter. There was an overwhelming aroma of garlic in the place, and I soon learned why.
As an appetizer I ordered the garlic shrimp, envisioning big New Orleans shrimp in a garlic butter sauce. What came to the table was a dish of five enormous shrimp that were clearly not from here. They were very well done and had been roasted under a salamander, crisping the ample Parmesan cheese. I don’t like extra large shrimp, fearing that they are not cooked enough. That was not a worry here because they were so well done, but I still cut them into normal size bites.
These shrimp couldn’t possibly be local, so I checked the menu and noticed some fine print in the description. (Imported.) I wouldn’t get those again. Local shrimp are just so much better. You really can taste the difference.
We ordered the way we always do, splitting a steak and a couple of sides. The steak was great, tender and swimming in sizzling butter. It was a much better steak than I expected. I don’t remember this level of excellence in the other locations of The Chophouse. Maybe they upped their game for New Orleans. This filet was crusty on the outside and cooked exactly as I asked. It was very enjoyable.
Creamed spinach, is a requirement at every steakhouse meal for us. This was underwhelming. It was a smallish portion for the price and absolutely ordinary. Creamy and dense with spinach, this did not have a particularly good flavor. It was fine but nothing more.
The Lyonnaise potatoes, on the other hand, were just so excellent it thrilled me. This is my preferred preparation
for potatoes, but it is rare to find Lyonnaise potatoes on a steakhouse menu these days, I just couldn’t believe how good these were.
It was a large portion, but not large enough. I wanted more, more, more! Irregular cubes of potatoes and sauteed onions were molded together with copious amounts of butter. These were hard-crusted on the edges and salted almost too heavily. Delicious! Crunchy brown on the outside but sort of fluffy on the inside, these are unequivocally the very best potatoes I may have had in any steakhouse. I may go back there just for the Lyonnaise potatoes.
Steakhouses all operate within the same perimeters: steaks of various cuts cooked hopefully to your liking, in New Orleans usually resting in a pool of melted and sizzling butter, and predictable sides. There are slight variations in the quality of beef, but wild differences in the goodness of the sides, which to me are not inconsequential to the experience. Keith Young’s on the north shore is outstanding. He does not do sizzling butter, and no one can touch his sides, in size, value, but mostly in excellence. For us, it is the standard.
The Chophouse is better than I remembered it. It’s a handsome steakhouse environment with bustling waiters and a great steakhouse meal. Its location makes it a good alternative to New Orleans food for tourists in the CBD.
But I don’t think it is a destination restaurant, unless, like me, you sometimes really crave Lyonnaise potatoes. These are the stuff of dreams.