Welcome back readers to a Chopps centric collection of food half witticisms from your lovable narrators, the Pot and Pan Handler. Chop, chop dear readers we’re going to Burlington in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. More than just a review, this is a how to guide for eaters of restaurant food, how to restaurant. Pile in quirky readers, you’ll be restauranting like a pro in no time, 100% mi-steak free.
Chapter one Burlington Marriot has Chopps.
So a visit to Burlington was scheduled, it’s a Boston suburb just far enough away from Boston to make ya’ not want to go there, we were to spend two nights there. Followed by a few nights in Boston, but that, fickle readers, is another post. We got to the hotel late on our first night, too late to consider finding a different local eatery in this suburb of strip mall insanity. So off to the hotel restaurant we went. http://www.choppsamericanbarandgrill.com/
Chopps, is the stereotypical hotel steakhouse, dark wood softened with years. The open kitchen is a sea of stainless steel. The sullen eyes of a lone business man betray his desperation, the stink of which has permeated the air. He takes periodic breaks from sexually harassing the bartender to nurse furtive gulps of his red wine. There are two bartenders; one male and one female, both seem to have a vested interest in pretending we are not there. The desperate wine drinker takes another furtive gulp. Then Sullen Businessman announces to the female bartender now that he’s been fired from his job he will dearly miss the opportunity to sexually harass her at work.
Her pandering reply trails off as the discomforting statement has her panicked and her distracted glance falls upon us… The perfect distraction, she takes our beer order. Once we acquired beer, we looked to acquiring food. There are three Massachusetts staples dancing through our mind. As former residents who now live south of the Mason-Dixon Line these three staples are in short supply in our central location in this state, pizza, seafood & clam freakin’ chowdah.
Mistake #1 presents itself in a moment of dyslexia that occurs as we order flash fired shrimp & scallops. When they arrive not grilled but breaded in a light cornmeal batter we realize the descriptor on the menu; flash fired was actually flash fried. Oops. The lightly battered shrimp jump eagerly into our mouths. They’re delightful and bring back memories of Eastern fried seafood shacks prevalent throughout the Northeast. The scallops on the other hand are sandy. Few things are as unappetizing as sandy scallops. The light, briny bites of scallop are just out of our reach as each bite crunches with bits of beach sand. Never order seafood in a steakhouse each bite states.
Mistake #2 We order clam chowdah, we rarely see clam chowdah in the South and are anxiously awaiting the familiar taste of a dish that says home to us. The Chopps take on clam chowdah arrives. It’s soupy. A hot soupy mess, the light broth is not the thick creamy texture one expects when ordering a chowdah. It tastes alright, but reminds us much more of the South Carolina staple of she crab soup or worse… Manhattan clam chowder, eew, that’s not even chowdah. Each bite is another reminder don’t order seafood in a steak restaurant.
Mistake #3 pizza. As former residents of New England where you can get a decent pizza just about anywhere, who now live in a pizza dessert, we were looking forward to a good pizza. We ordered a margarita pizza, the disappointing disc is undercooked and doughy in the middle. The only redeeming factor is the cheese we end up ripping the molten, cloud of mozzarella and eat it by itself. Mmmm cheese, as delightful, as the stringy cloud of cheese is each crustless bite is a reminder, don’t order pizza in a steakhouse.
Chopps take on tater tots are THE positive factor in this meal. These potatoes are slightly crispy on the outside, soft, tastily seasoned potato clouds on the inside. The tots are served with ketchup because we’re 8 year old girls. Most restaurants would call these croquettes. It makes sense that the potatoes are good, as what steak restaurant doesn’t make good spuds? This prophetic potato thought would do us well to remember in the future.
As well as the lone sullen businessman there are two other suit clad businessmen with their ties loosened in three martini dinner fashion. They are passionately discussing a meal they had at someplace called Hacienda. The descriptors uttered by these men about their meal border on obsessive as if their meal had been borderline orgasmic. I can’t help but wonder if the sublime food in the Mexican restaurant helped them reach food nirvana, what were they doing here at Chopps? I wish we would’ve eaten there too. Soon we’d realize we had no one to blame but ourselves.
Chapter Two Chopps; How to restaurant
The next day in an effort to avoid Chopps, I walk a mile to a sports bar. As the Pan Handler has a prior engagement this evening, I’m scouting this joint out. I order a beer and the chili as the bartender highly recommended it. The chili is bland and forgettable. The bar is loud and filled with people ordering neon colored corn syrupy drinks. In between obsessively checking their phones while periodically talking loudly about Jake from HR. I can’t wait to leave.
There’s an Italian restaurant about a mile away from the hotel in the other direction. I take a ride in the hotel shuttle to scope it out. It’s still closed. I could wait for it to open but… This joint is a white tablecloth, cloth napkin, take out your spouse and spend waaAAY too much on wine restaurant. You know the type, earmarked for prom or Pre Theater. Candle lit, romantic, with servers dressed as penguins constantly hovering, refilling your water glass. Get out your wallet because you’ll have to tip four people before you even get to your table type restaurant. In no way do I want to subject myself to the derisive stares of the floor staff one is subject to when walking into and eating in a place like this alone. So back to Chopps I go.
Belichick’s a hero
I seat myself at the familiar granite bar, the ambience is different the second time. No sullen businessman. A lot less date rapey and a lot more typical New England bar for off putting Massholes. There are two men dressed casually bellowing the prerequisite conversation for every patron in every bar throughout Massachusetts.
Masshole one says “Er, ah, that dahm Belichick is ah gahd dahm hero.” Masshole two replies “Er, ah aihn’t that the truth.” “But that gahd dahm, Goodell is a fuhk tahd.” Not to be outdone Masshole one expands the scope to include the sports media. “Those chowdah heads aht ESPN ah such dichs, cahling Brady a cheater, ah fahk thehm.” This statement is always followed by the obligatory positive almost endearing compliment to Tom Brady: “That Brady looks goohd this yeahr, strawng, I’d go down on hihm in a secohnd.” I made that last one up.
There’s a lot at steak
It’s a different bartender today, expedient; he has a beer in my hand, almost quicker than I can order it. Menu distribution occurs. This time around I wasn’t messing around; I’m at a steak house, might as well get steak. Skirt steak served with au poivre sauce, asparagus and a surprise maître de butter made with herbs and a beef demi-glace.
The steak is well seasoned, expertly grilled to a perfect medium rare. The sear is artful and the interior is juicy and savory. The au poivre sauce is unctuous, slightly spicy with a black pepper kick, but it is rendered unnecessary. Served in a bone the maître de butter is delightfully salty, herbaceous and the demi-glace gives it a creamy, acidic kick that outshines the au poivre sauce. The sautéed asparagus is well seasoned cooked through with just a hint of snap left. It’s a completely different experience. Everything is delicious, when you don’t make a rookie mistake and order something other than steak in a steak house. We’ll never make that mi-steak again. That, dear readers, is how you restaurant.
Coming soon: we introduce you to the Chef & the Farmer, the Producer & the Wife Beater. When we eat at A Chef’s Life’s celebrity chef Vivian Howard’s restaurant, Located in a tiny Eastern NC town called Pork, oops, I mean … Kinston. Until then may the odds be ever in your flavor.
The Pot & Pan Handler are 100% illiterate, spatula wielding, food obsessed, escaped industry tools, wandering the United States, like shopping carts, never put back in the corral. You’ll find us nomadically stuffing our faces with some local delicacy in a city near you. ;aldfh;aert ccan’t talk, nom, eat, nom, ing.