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By Sharon Gittleman
Big Rock Chophouse provides a necessary function for hard-working Birminghamites – a place to slip away for a bit of non-politically correct fun in the middle of the afternoon. Red meat and lots of it is the star on the Chophouse menu.
It’s not just the menu that will appeal to people who think tofu looks more like spackle than a dinner option. An enormous bull’s head with large curving horns was attached to the wall near my seat not far from an intricately carved full size bear sculpture caught in mid-roar. A rather placid moose head occupied a spot on a wall nearby.
The restaurant’s dcor combines a unique blend of southwestern comfort and European luxury. While there are plenty of reminders of your menu choices hanging on the walls, the soaring arched ceiling is painted in elegant shades of light blue, pink, lavender, rust and orange. Tables are set with sparkling white linens and lamps add a soft golden light to booths that have cowboy scenes woven into the back cushions.
At lunch time, jazz is played on speakers throughout the restaurant – softly enough to not drown out the gentle conversation of the finely-dressed diners but with enough volume to add a relaxing ambiance to the meal.
Steaks, from 14 oz. bone-in filet mignons to 24-oz. porterhouses, are available for dinner or lunch. Grilled ostrich, lobster tail and Dover sole are other options for your evening meal with side dishes like spinach with white wine and sweet onions, wild mushrooms sauted with sherry, shallots and blue cheese and a half-lb. portion of steamed asparagus served a la carte. Non-salad dinner entrees started at $25.95.
I opted for a luncheon visit. The menu offered choices like broiled whitefish served with lemon-caper butter, Cobb salad and a 10-oz. sirloin burger – with topping selections from chipotle peppers to balsamic onions. Most lunch entrees are available for $5.95-13.95, with steaks priced the same as for dinner.
I chose the shepherd’s pie.
My lunch started with a generous bread basket packed with crusty fresh sourdough and an addictive herbed crisp bread, served with sweet cream butter. The big crunchy wafer lived up to its name and had a satisfying subtle flavor.
The traditional English shepherd’s pie is a stew-filled bowl topped by browned mashed potatoes. My non-traditional Chophouse version was delightful. It had tender slices and chunks of steak – done to order, prepared with a sweet and rich balsamic stout glaze, served on top of a large portion of creamy mashed potatoes. The entre was nostalgic with a twist.
For dessert, I had my choice of a chocolate brownie with ice cream, a flourless chocolate torte, cheesecake or a bourbon crme brulee. I chose the crme brulee and wasn’t disappointed.
I cracked through the browned sugar crust with my spoon to reach the golden creamy pudding below. It was not-too-sweet and had just enough of a “bourbony” flavor.
The wait staff is another plus at the chophouse. Despite being on the job for just a few weeks, server Laura Rautio seemed to anticipate my every need with a smile – my water glass was never empty.
For those who prefer their bourbon in a glass instead of a pudding, you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of fine wines, beer and mixed drinks to enjoy, from a pinot noir to a raspberry chocolate martini. You can also sample other alcohol-free homemade brews – including the Chophouse root beer.