Local Chop & Grill House Is A Hit

Kirsten Parmer -- October 9th, 2009

It’s rare that on opening night a new restaurant has all its ducks in a row, but Local Chop and Grill House does. Restaurateurs Craig and Bert Moore, the original owners of the Joshua Wilton House and partners in Cally’s, have jumped back into the business after a five-year absence with another excellent downtown dining option.

Don’t expect to walk in and see a huge physical change from the previous Downtown 56 tenants. They did get rid of the awful hotel check-in desk in the main dining room and tucked some cozy seating behind a wall of wine. The bar has recycled some of the artwork and added recessed lighting, but feels pretty much the same. On the opening night of Downtown 56, I actually had to uncork our bottle of wine for the server. You won’t find anything like that here. The wait staff is well prepared and not new to food service.

But the shining star here is Chef Ryan Zale’s food. Zale honed his skills at the highly-acclaimed Inn at Little Washington and the Joshua Wilton House and what he is cooking at the Chop House is good. Really, really good. Our group sampled several appetizers including a delicate steak carpaccio, beautifully seared dry Maine scallops, spiced calamari with coconut-tomato sambal, and creamy arancini (fried risotto balls) with cilantro aioli—all under $10. The mixed drinks are excellent with creative libations such as a port and blackberry fresca, and a lemon basil Collins. The beer and wine lists are equally good. If you’re going for drinks and appetizers, a limited list is available until 7 pm that includes a glass of beer or wine and one appetizer for $6.

There are two menus, one for the bar and one for the main dining room. Many of the small plates and salads overlap. In the bar you’ll find burgers and sandwiches—most of which can be converted to slider size—and duck fat fries, which if you haven’t ever tried you need to. In the main dining room, you choose your meat (various cuts of steak, pork, lamb, duck, chicken, and fish), its rub and preparation, a sauce that’s served on the side and ranges from sweet mango hoisin bbq to savory veal demi glace to spicy grapefruit red curry, and two sides. I’m not 100% convinced that all of the rubs and sauces work together, but each good in their own right. Do not pass on the local chevre mac and cheese gratin; it’s out of this world. The most expensive cut is the filet mignon at $27, so the price point is quite reasonable.

For dessert we passed around the goat cheese cheesecake, a fruit crisp, candied bacon ice cream (yes bacon, and the jury’s still out on that one), and crème brulee that rivals that of the Wilton House’s, likely because it was Bert Moore’s recipe all along.

I actually hated the idea of going in and reviewing a restaurant on opening night, but it far exceeded my expectations, made me want to come back, and elevated my hope that downtown dining will stretch it’s physical boundaries just a little bit further than Court Square. Go. You won’t be disappointed.

Kirsten Parmer was the food writer for eightyone magazine from 2006 until its closing in 2009. She loves nothing more than having a reason to eat out with friends.

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20 Responses to “Local Chop & Grill House Is A Hit”

  1. Ashley says:

    Awesome, especially for an opening night. Kudos to the Zales and all of the team! I can’t wait to try for myself!

  2. Renee says:

    Sounds excellent! Great review!

  3. David Miller says:

    Your review was excellent. I had heard a very similar description from a colleague but your descriptions far exceeded theirs.
    I’ll be enjoying their food this evening.

  4. Beth says:

    Thanks for writing such an informative and tasty review! We can’t wait to try it…..welcome back to food writing Kirsten!

  5. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Great work on this review! Hope you do more!

  6. Laura says:

    Kirsten – I’ve missed your reviews so much — glad to see you writing here! We’ll check it out soon. Laura Brennan

  7. Sadiesho says:

    Thanks for the reviw. So it is true that there is a new restaurant in the Downtown 56 location. I have not seen any mention of the Chop House except for a mention of it on the H’bg blog. It sounds as though it is a place I want to check out and look forward to experiencing.

    What are the hours???

  8. I think it’s only open for dinner/cocktail hours. So, maybe something like 4 – midnight?

  9. Bell says:

    We went there for dinner friday night and it was fantastic! Had the steak carpaccio (sp?) for an appetizer, the beef was really high quality. Had tuna and duck for entrees and they were both delicious as well. The sauces are great, can’t wait to go back and try some different ones. The price was pretty reasonable as well. Also the beer list is HUGE. they have something like 20 beers on tap, and even some seasonals like Bell’s Octoberfest and a pumpkin ale. I’ll definitely be going back soon.

  10. Dave Scott says:

    Congrats to Craig and Bert–old pros who first helped elevate the H’burg dining scene years ago. Sounds like they’ve launched another winner!

  11. Amanda says:

    Local Chop and Grill House is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5pm until 9pm. We serve dinner on Friday and Saturday nights from 5pm until 10pm. The Local Bar opens at 4pm every night. We look forward to your visit!

  12. Joey Groah says:

    My wife and I could not have enjoyed our meal more. It was the kind of experience you talk about on the drive home.

    We ate in the dining room, and had the pork chop and New York Strip respectively. The pork and beef were paired with a different rub and sauce (you have a number of choices of each) suggested by our incredibly knowledgeable server. I didn’t put my fork down till I was a third of the way through.

    I opted to go with two starches for the sides, and regret nothing: the chevre macaroni & cheese gratin and the roasted four onion risotto, and I’d easily order both again. Also got to sample the asparagus, maybe that and the potatoes next time? The biggest problem on subsequent visits is deciding what to get…

    Oh, and the bread and olive oil at the start of the meal: we declined a second round because we knew we’d be getting a third. From the description I remember, the dough is soaked in a local beer and paired with lavender and ingredient-I-can’t-remember-because-are-you-eating-this-bread-right-now? Two different types of olive oil to dip in. We would have left happy after the bread.

    And the burgers on the bar menu. That’s also going to be tricky, figuring out which section to eat in. What a great problem to have.

  13. David Miller says:

    The bison burger was the best burger I’ve had in recent memory. The carpacio was the best dish I’ve had since I tried the Wilton’s filet. Bravo, We’ll see if I can make it for the bar scene but I liked everything I saw. My only request is more pilsner-ish on tap, but now I forget what they even had, their list of tap beer offerings was incredibly long.

  14. Carole says:

    Have eaten at this wonderful establishment twice in two weeks! Great food/great service/great wine and beer list. GO!

  15. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    It’s a little fancy-shmancy, I admit. Maybe I should borrow some of their menus for my French class (we certainly couldn’t afford a field trip there).

    But the food is amazing. Amazing!

  16. Sally says:

    We have now eaten at Chop House two nights in a row…being invited the first night and last night the invitee. It was wonderful both nights. The bar area is great with so many beer choices. The dining areas are wonderful first night eating upstairs and last night in a cozy little area downstairs which was perfect for our group. We have now had the tuna, the salmon, the filet, and the scallops and all were absolutely delicious. We did share dipping sauces to get a taste of the variety. I cannot wait to try all of the sides. The Creme Brulee is out of this world. The honey and lavendar ice cream (not so much) just our opinion. Our waitor Nate was great….just precious. This is a remarkable restaurant and we are very fortunate to have it in Harrisonburg. It is perfect for special occasions and entertaining out of town guests. We loved it !!

  17. A former server at D56 says:

    It infuriates me that you can be so close minded, Ms. Parmer. To criticize your service on the first night of opening of the old restaurant is not only tacky but takes away from the grand opening of the new restaurant. I’m not sure what fine dining service you were expecting on that night, but in a town of primarily college students and “townies” you should have expected no better than new people trying their best. If you want a perfect fine dining experience maybe you should go into DC, where servers are waiting tables as their sole profession. As you know Harrisonburg is a very transient area, where people start out and move away to become more successful. I see you’re still waiting for your big break, as you have yet to grown out of the local paper. So maybe you should be more thankful for the service available in your area, otherwise you can join the rest of the town at the buffet at the mall.

  18. Anne Lorimer says:

    Dear Former Server at D56,

    Your advice is wise: “expect nothing more than new people trying their best” — in any circumstances, but especially on a restaurant’s opening night. When the reviewer says she “hated the idea of going in and reviewing a restaurant on opening night”, I read her as sharing your take on this matter: that would be why this new place “far exceeded [her] expectations”. She does imply that the D56 server was not thoroughly trained or experienced; but this is pretty realistic, as you point out. Nowhere does she blame the server personally. The incident actually sounded kind of charming. (As an inexperienced server I had help from customers myself, and was grateful they handled the situation so gracefully (but perhaps Ms. Parmer did not?); if it happened to me here as a customer, it would probably strike me as part of the local charm.)

    I’m new to Harrisonburg, and trying my best not to offend people. (For me it’s a place to live, not a launchpad for future success elsewhere.) I’m therefore sincerely curious what it was about this review that struck you as so close minded or hostile. (For example: it does not acknowledge that the opening of a new restaurant may be bittersweet to those with fond (& justifiably proud) memories of the old one, or that the closing of a local business brings misfortunes or disruptions to many people’s lives, not just an opportunity for new customer service experiences.)

    Yours sincerely,
    Anne

    Sincerely

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