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Out to Lunch: Friends bridge the way at Chop House

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By Bethel Poston

Recently I told someone that writing “Out to Lunch” articles is as much about people as it is about the food from unique restaurants. Everyone likes to enjoy good food with friends.

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Most Tuesdays my wife Carol is playing bridge with several varied groups of area ladies. On our most recent adventure I decided to eavesdrop on another bridge group, which Carol is not part of.

Our friend Luci Bell, who has been mentioned in previous “Out To Lunch” articles, told me about her Wednesday bridge group that plays at different restaurants.

Luci and two other Wednesday bridge group members, Jean Hohulin and JoAnn Schmidt, in the Wednesday bridge group, are in our Kingston First Baptist Sunday school class.

For our visit, the group traveled to The Chop House at 9700 Kingston Pike, Knoxville.

When Carol and I arrived, the ladies were at two tables playing bridge near the back of one of the dining areas.

The ladies of this bridge group are from Kingston, and some live south of Kingston.

When the bridge group broke for lunch, Luci ordered a tenderloin Caesar salad from the lunch menu. It was a salad topped with slices of what the menu said was a grilled 3-ounce fillet, plus crumbles of blue cheese, onion slices and diced tomato flavored by Caesar dressing.

JoAnn is a retired human factors engineer. Her order was a house specialty, sweet corn tamale cakes. The volcano-looking cakes were served topped with avocado, diced tomatoes, cilantro and chipotle ranch dressing.

Jean, a retired nurse, chose one of her favorites, baked schrod. The menu says it’s “a 7-ounce fillet baked in a unique Ritz cracker crumb breading.” She had Parmesan creamed spinach as her side.

“Another one of my Chop House favorites is the homemade blue crab cake,” Jean said. The breaded and fried cake comes with a side.

Mary Elise Clevenger is a retired accountant. She couldn’t resist ordering the Soup of the Day, shrimp bisque, to go with her tamale cakes.

Another of our longtime friends, Ann Barre, is part of this group. Carol played bridge at her house yesterday with a different group of ladies.

Ann went for the grilled-chicken-topped Caesar salad, saturated with Chop House homemade dressing.

“I really like the prime rib sandwich,” she said. “It’s a slow-roasted 6-ounce cut of prime rib, prepared au jus, then served with an onion roll, plus mac-and-cheese side.”

Carolyn Henderson is a retired medical office manager.

“One of my Chop House favorites is center-cut lamb chops,” Carolyn said.

The menu describes it as “three petite porterhouse cuts, mint sauce [and] Parmesan creamed spinach.”

“I guess I got hooked on lamb when I spent some time in Scotland,” Carolyn said as she ordered pizza Florentine. It’s grilled chicken bits (not lamb) on a thin crust with creamed spinach, cheese, diced tomatoes, jalapeños and artichokes.

Retired teacher Brenda Best echoed Ann Barre’s choice of a grilled chicken topped Caesar salad.

Another Anne — Anne Jamison — chose the grilled rainbow trout. The trout fillet, cooked with seasonal topping, was served with a rice pilaf and steamed broccoli.

Anne retired from Access America Telephone Co. in Oak Ridge, a business owned by her family.

Mike Connor of Knoxville established The Chop House in 1992, with the help of family and friends. The restaurant has become one of the premier casual restaurants concepts in the Southeast, with 12 locations spread across four states.

Readers know that I like to select something for lunch that others have not ordered. It didn’t take me long to land on the Cuban sandwich.

The Chop House version is made with thinly sliced roast pork, ham, bacon and melted Swiss cheese, served on a ciabatta bun with spicy mustard; plus a side of Chop House fries.

Carol was intrigued by the description of the Santa Fe salad: roasted corn, black beans, bell peppers, onions, carrots, tortilla strips, jack and cheddar cheese, all tossed in Chop House Santa Fe dressing, served over a bed of greens topped with grilled chicken and pico de gallo.

Even with a side cup of shrimp bisque soup, she kept talking about how good my fries were as she ate several off my plate.

Carol and I both were tempted by the shrimp and crab cake combo: Four grilled jumbo shrimp over fettuccine and a blue crab cake. Maybe on our next visit.

We invited our longtime friend, Mickey Pease, to join us for lunch. Her late husband, Jerry, was like a brother to me, and we enjoyed talking about our furniture businesses.

Mickey selected the lunch combo of a large club sandwich and a cup of shrimp bisque. She finished her soup but left a bunch of bread crust on her plate.

Our server, Erin Mertha, took excellent care of us. She packaged take-out containers for half of my sandwich and shrimp bisque.

The Chop House is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The full-service bar offers wine, mixed drinks, domestic and craft beers. Check www.thechophouse.com for menu selections and beverages.

The booth we sat in had glass windows separating our booth from one in the next dining area. I couldn’t help but noticing a ponytail blond young girl through the glass.

When I went around to visit, I discovered there were twin 5-year-old ponytail blonds. Meg and Maguire Jensen were celebrating their birthdays with their mother Amanda and grandmother Phyllis Marks.

Meg had a pasta dish; Maguire was doing a good job on a salad.

Amanda, her husband and family, operate the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. She had a house salad of grape tomatoes, jack and cheddar cheeses, bacon, cucumbers and rice noodles over a fresh bed of greens.

She also had a cup of the popular shrimp bisque soup.

Phyllis was a previous editor of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory newsletter. She chose char-grilled shrimp, served over fettuccine, with steamed broccoli as her side.

Angela Kauffman, Chop House general manager, told me some of the other popular items on the menu include turkey and dressing and petite pork chops. Both entrées are served with side items.

Luci was host for her bridge group and responsible for the desserts.

One table had a serving for four of triple berry shortcake with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream.

The other table had a serving for four of caramel fudge cake: a Hershey’s chocolate cake, with house made Heath bar crunch ice cream, topped with caramel sauce. I wish I’d had room to snitch a taste of their desserts.

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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. Email suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.