All a chophouse should be

Photo by David Robert

My sister and I took a cab to the midtown chophouse where we were meeting her literary agent. As the cabbie fought his way across town in Tuesday rush-hour traffic, my sister clutched the box holding the final draft of Twilight, the novel she and Billy Dee Williams had just finished co-writing. Her expression was a combination of blissfulness and sheer terror.

We were in New York City for a talk show, and the handing-over-of-the-masterpiece was a lucky coincidence. And so was the meeting at Keens, a chophouse founded in 1885.

Once inside, we were enveloped in the sounds of the chophouse. Manhattanites relaxed, ate, drank and made merry. Voices boomed off the dark-paneled walls with their years-old adornments and the collection of 90,000 clay pipes on the ceiling. The place seemed at maximum capacity—nearly 500 people—and every seat felt at the center of the activity, including ours. My sister handed Natalia the manuscript and history was made. The romantic thriller was released last summer, pleasing many of my sister’s loyal readers and titillating the fans of the eternally handsome Billy Dee.

My own personal thrill that night was eating Keens’ legendary mutton chops.

Not until recently has Reno had its own dedicated chophouse. When the former Adele’s Restaurant was sold, a redevelopment grant was given to new owners Tim Wright and Tommy Cortopassi. Tim and Tommy have turned their vision of a great chophouse into a reality in the space of Adele’s. The Chophouse on Virginia Street has all the makings of a legendary chophouse like Keens in New York City, right down to its dark paneling, well-stocked bar and cozy aesthetic.

The Chophouse also boasts great service, exceptional food and a wine list to die for, which we discovered right away when our waiter, Chad, recommended a glass of exquisite Joseph Phelps Le Mistral wine ($9.75) from Napa Valley. I have never before had wine so substantial and velvety.

Chad also did right by us when he suggested the fire-roasted tomato bisque. The bisque was complex, flavorful and full of texture.

For an entrée, I ordered the mixed grill ($23.95). My plate arrived with a gorgeous pork chop covered with baked apples and onions, a succulent lamb T-bone steak and a shrimp and scallop brochette. Michael had the most tender filet mignon ($25.95) I have ever tasted. Maybe that’s because the Chophouse gets its beef from special Harris Ranch stock. All of our meat was perfectly medium rare—warm and pink in the middle, hot on the outside, and juicy. There were no fancy seasonings on the meat, so we were able to savor the succulent, natural flavors of the meat itself.

Our entrées came with mashed potatoes or rice, but we substituted more provocative side dishes. Michael enjoyed the creamed spinach. I chose macaroni and cheese. This was no box of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese; served in its own dish, this casserole contained hearty elbows in a blend of cheeses.

The Chophouse’s desserts are dreamy: the Bavarian crème puff ($3.95) was frivolous, like eating a cloud. Our other unusual but delicious dessert was a cross between cheesecake and a cannoli ($4.95): marscapone cheese wrapped like a burrito in a crepe, lightly deep fried, then served with a scoop of ice cream and wine-marinated strawberries.

My first chophouse experience since that memorable meeting with my sister’s agent turned out to be just as noteworthy—only in Reno.