Chop Shops

The steakhouse three ways

Chophouse steaks are cooked “Pittsburgh-style,” which features a charred exterior.

JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPHS

At first pass the steakhouse seems a simple creature. A shortlist of steaks, an assortment of sides and a wine list heavy on the reds with some hair-curling highballs to round out the popular perception. But pull back the metaphorical booth’s curtain a bit and their diversity can be surprising. What follows is a horizontal tasting of some of our local options.

About a year ago Chophouse opened in the space formerly occupied by Cuvée. It was the realization of a long-standing desire of owner Jerry Greenbaum, who fell in love with New Orleans while attending Tulane University. He left in the early 1960s and went on to find success in the restaurant business, but the itch to open a place of his own here never left his mind. “Only trouble was for a while I couldn’t pin down the kind of restaurant I wanted,” he says. His company’s success with steakhouses then provided him with the answer. “We saw a need and therefore an opportunity to open a steakhouse here.”

Chophouse’s menu is straightforward and fits the profile of a classic steakhouse. The emphasis is on consistency at a very high level of execution. “We don’t do a lot of fancy sauces. We don’t disguise our food, because our food is extremely high quality,” Greenbaum says. What sets it apart is the quality of the beef (USDA Grade Prime for all cuts, including filet), which is wet-aged for 28 days adding additional flavor and tenderness.

Steaks are cooked “Pittsburgh-style,” which features a charred exterior. The menu offers the traditional cuts – strip, filet and ribeye, for example. The filet is particularly good, and big spenders should direct their dollars to the bone-in rib steak.

And although this steakhouse is all about the beef, a nice redfish amandine gives non-carnivores a tempting way to opt out. Top it with crabmeat for the full effect. Fresh stone crab, flown in from Florida, is also a treat to see on a local menu, although the season doesn’t start again until mid-October.

Meals here don’t leave much room for dessert, but the big, sweet Key lime pie is recommended, and the cheesecake is imported from New York’s Carnegie Deli. The overall feel is internationally bustling and animated, “We don’t want you to sit in our restaurant and have to worry about the person next to you hearing everything you say. We got a buzz in our restaurant; we have live music and a lot of action going on.”

Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse could only have arisen in New Orleans. Purists may scoff at the everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink menu but the restaurant pointedly makes every effort to accommodate all comers. “If you’re here, I know that there’s something on the menu that can please you,” says chef de cuisine Alfred Singleton.

Singleton grew up in kitchens. His family owned a sandwich shop in the Lower 9th Ward and his parents put him to work at an early age. “As a kid, I always found myself doing small tasks in the kitchen. From that point on it was what I wanted to do.” After stints at Bacco, Rio Mar and Café Sbisa pre-Hurricane Katrina, he joined the team at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse.

Dickie Brennan’s offers traditional steakhouse cuts but options them out with a variety of add-ons. All steaks get sprinkled with a house seasoning blend before broiling and are then finished with a special “Creole” compound butter. This being New Orleans, the kitchen can’t resist the urge to sprinkle fried P&J oysters over their house filet entrée. “We also offer a selection of house-made sauces, including béarnaise and a homemade Worcestershire,” Singleton adds. Even the sides get a little extra-special treatment. “The sweet potato mash has its own compound butter made with pecans and molasses.”

Along with P&J oysters, local seafood is sourced from New Orleans Fish House and produce from Covey Rise Farms. Last October the Dickie Brennan’s group began working with Chappapeela Farm to raise ducks. These ducks later appear in the DBLT (duck, bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich) on homemade sourdough dressed with a brown garlic Dijon mayonnaise. (Validated parking is offered at the adjacent garage – a big plus for the French Quarter.)

If Chophouse is about quality and bustle, and if Dickie Brennan’s marches to a New Orleans beat, La Boca is like a little pocket of Argentina tucked away on Fulton Street. Ask chef Jared Ralls about what makes La Boca special, and his answer is pretty simple: “We use as many different cuts as possible, as opposed to the traditional three.” Meat-eaters hungry for something outside the box will be rewarded with choices like Entrana Fina con la Piel – outside skirt steak with the skin on, which lends a distinctive crispiness to the exterior. All selections are curated by Ralls from an array of purveyors including Niman Ranch, Painted Hills and (occasionally) Blackmore Wagyu Ranch in Australia, a source with a history so fascinating it needs its own column. What is the difference in where you source it? Quite a bit. “The hanger steak from Painted Hills has a high mineral content, which makes it very attractive. Niman Ranch’s flank steak stands out for flavor – they have a higher fat content than anyone else.”

Complementing the steaks are what might arguably be called the city’s best fries (for more options of fantastic fries, see pg. 44), served in a cone and doused with garlic and parsley. A hallmark, too, are the three distinct chimichurri sauces that accompany the meat. La Boca also mines Argentina’s tradition of Italian cuisine to present some addicting appetizers like provoleta, a molten concoction of cheese, olive oil and oregano into which you dip bread, and the pasta dish Noqui La Boca, aka gnocchi, with pancetta and peas in a rich cream sauce. The wine list is predominantly Argentine, another distinction, and this small restaurant thankfully now takes reservations.

Stake a Steak
Chophouse
322 Magazine St.
522-7902
Centraarchy.com/CH_NOLA

Dickie Brennan’s
Steakhouse
716 Iberville St.
522-2467
DickieBrennansSteakhouse.com

La Boca
857 Fulton St.
525-8205
LaBocaSteaks.com
 

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