In some cases classic meals can be a double-edged sword. When done well, with just a little variation here and there, it can be a welcome friend at the end of a long, hard day. But mess with classic too much and it’s not the comfort and draw that you’re looking for. The Chophouse Grille in Wakefield thankfully veers toward the former with its mix of favorites such as clams casino, French onion soup, fish and chips and chophouse cuts of beef.
One area where it’s not-so-classic, but that’s more than alright in 2013, is in appearance. Walk into the very conveniently located restaurant right off of Route 1 and your eye is immediately drawn to a beautifully glassed-in wine “cellar.” Wander past the wine and it’s clear this is not the stodgy, dimly lit, dark wood of chophouses past. It’s a very big, very open, multi-level space with two full bars and lots of wood, yes, but not dark, suck-in-all-the-atmosphere wood. There are big-screen, really huge-screen, TVs behind the bar and the artwork on the wall is mainly blown-up antique postcards of the South County area. Overall, a welcoming environment and one that quickly filled up on the weeknight evening we were there.
After being seated, we were quickly presented with the – you guessed it, classic – warm bread on the cuttingboard with a knife and whipped butter. Nothing wrong with warm bread, and the butter was whipped with honey, which made it a bit on the sweet side. It was a touch messy to slice and butter, but what would you rather, fresh bread or neatness? While enjoying the bread we perused the drink menu. There are a lot of beers at Chophouse Grille, on tap and in bottles, and even more wines, also on tap and of course in bottles. There are a lot of the usual suspects by the glass, but the wine list is pretty extensive and there was a selection of about ten half-bottles, which is a nice alternative to by the glass choices.
We started with some local oysters ($1.95 each). The evening we were there, local was Point Judith oysters, which, at about six miles due south of the restaurant, makes them pretty darn local. We also decided since we were trying their Rhode Island shellfish we’d sample the Clams Casino ($8.95). I hesitate to use the word again, but it was certainly a classic preparation. The littlenecks were fresh and not-chewy, the breading had some good flavor and was nicely crisp.
We certainly could have gone for more shellfish because it was so well done, but onto another staple, French onion soup ($4.95). Would it be too obvious if I started using synonyms for classic? It was piping hot with a good size slice of toast on the soup, and lots and lots of melted cheese covering it all. There’s never anything wrong with a good bowl of French onion soup and the only thing that would have made it more like a blast from the past would have been if it were served a two-tone brown crock. But it was more properly presented in a heavy, white bowl.
Onto the main course, and we tried to run the gamut of dishes from Prime Rib to a chicken sandwich, with a little more seafood thrown in too. The Slow-Roasted Boneless Prime Rib (16 oz. for $25.95) was a well-prepared and presented dish of meat. It shows a bit though how our palates have grown, along with our restaurants, when that plate of Prime Rib is the least interesting dish at the table. Please don’t misunderstand me, it was a good dish. If you want a plate of red meat, with a sauce and a choice of some great sides – the Fall Roasted Squash ($6.95) was exceptionally good and had some excellent spiced flavor – then certainly go for the Prime Rib or one of the steaks. It’s just that the other three dishes we had were so much more interesting.
For example, the Fish & Chips ($14.95) were delicious. The dish came with two big pieces and they weren’t greasy in the least, which can be a problem with the U.K. staple. The batter was made with Narragansett Beer and it was light and crisp, covering some perfectly flaky fish. Along with the fish came the chips, seasoned with Old Bay, as well as a slaw, which was good and spicy. The Grilled Chicken Panini ($8.95) may have been the table’s favorite, served on pumpernickel toast with a red onion marmalade, brie and apples. Talk about some classic flavors put into good service on something as simple as a chicken sandwich.
Finally there was the, dare I say it one more time, classic dish of meatloaf. Chophouse Grill serves a Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf ($15.95). At 12 ounces it was almost as big and thick as a steak. It came with roasted potatoes and asparagus, which were wrapped in bacon for good measure. The sauce with the meatloaf was a touch on the sweet side for some, but certainly not overpowering.
By this point we were too stuffed for dessert, but never fear, there was Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Crème Brûlée, Apple Crisp, Bread Pudding and ice cream on the dessert list – a couple of which were even described by the Chophouse Grille as classic. There was also a great selection of after dinner drinks.
Classic, to return to that word one last time, never goes out of style and while a lot of dining trends can get dated, the Chophouse Grille has used good judgment in keeping those that work and changing those that won’t return to style. It should be a South County staple for a long time.