Chef Kenny Mills made himself at home in Arlington with Chop House Burgers, which started as a hole-in-the-wall near University of Texas at Arlington only a couple of years ago. Now Chop House has taken over half of the strip mall in which it’s located and has been featured on Food Network’s popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
And his string continues: Last month, he opened Chop House Steak & Seafood in Pantego, just up the road from Chop House Burgers.
Mills, who learned his trade by cooking and consulting for high-end steak joints in Dallas, has adopted nostalgia as the new Chop House’s organizing concept. It’s a paean to neighborhood steakhouses of old, with their white tablecloths, mile-long salad bars, and baked potatoes big as your head. But Mills has also added some unusual touches. The menu includes several items that maybe only chefs can truly appreciate. Take the roasted bone marrow, served as an appetizer with toast points and a deliciously sweet-crunchy fig preserve. If you’re running a restaurant where the steaks (from Texas-raised beef) are cut on-site, and you have time to roast the femur bones, why not use them? The appetizer is definitely not for the squeamish or for people who have issues with slimy textures. However, the meaty, gelatinous marrow combined nicely with the sugary fig.
Another unique and tasty appetizer was Mills’ take on classic Texas deviled eggs, the yolks mixed with mesquite-smoked salmon, cured in-house.
At a restaurant where the menu brags that the beef is smoked as well as cut on-site, it seemed foolish not to try the New York strip. The meat was a little smoky, courtesy of the mesquite wood, but not to the point of barbecue smoke. The steak, ordered medium, came out medium well, but it was still deliciously tender and not too chewy.
The mesquite-grilled salmon with couscous was the best entrée of the evening. The fish was cooked just a tad beyond medium, so it was perfectly moist, and the couscous was lemony and scrumptious.
The sides are served family-style, and each easily would feed at least three people. The creamed spinach featured just slightly wilted spinach in a garlicky, velvety béchamel sauce –– it was heavenly sinful. The mac ’n’ cheese is actually macaroni and five cheeses, including creamy Monterey jack and white cheddar. The only disappointment was the asparagus. The giant, twig-like spears were just too crunchy.
Desserts are made in-house. From the daily changing cheesecake menu, the peanut butter and jelly version was fabulous –– the grape jelly-flavored topping was inventive but a little odd tasting (and looking) –– and the more traditional bananas foster version was even better, with caramelized slices of bananas on top. The crème brûlée was also tasty. The custard was soft, almost runny like a crème anglaise.
Chop House Steak & Seafood is open only for dinner. A casual observer would never guess at the quality of the food by looking at the strip mall location’s exterior. Mills and his staff have only halfway changed the décor (circa 1986), choosing instead to focus on the food. Obviously.
Chop House Steak & Seafood
230 W Park Row, Pantego. 817-274-2600. 4-10pm Mon-Thu, 4-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Roasted bone marrow ………… $9.00
12-ounce New York strip …… $22.00
Mesquite-grilled salmon ……… $20.00
Mac and five cheeses …………. $5.00
Creamed spinach ……………….. $5.00
Crème brûlée ……………………… $6.00