This year’s Kingsport Fun Fest was both fun and festive for the members of the dine-around bunch. Lots of fun, lots of things to do and of course, lots of things to taste. The shank end of our day, however, found us wanting something more substantial than corn dogs and funnel cakes for supper.
Trust the Carnivore to suggest we try The Chop House just over the hill on North Eastman Road. Now, Kingsport’s dining scene is undergoing as big a change as that in Johnson City. The Stone Drive “Corridor” is undergoing a makeover of epic proportions, with spillover onto North Eastman Road heading toward Fort Henry Drive.
J. Michael Connors’ Chop House is smack in the middle of this food-based turmoil, a quiet cove of culinary perfection that has called Kingsport home for the past 20 years. While known for their beef, The Chop House does pork, chicken and seafood equally well, and has a well-stocked bar fronted by a knowledgeable pair of barkeeps if your meal requires a suitable libation derived from grape or grain.
We were fortunate to get a table on short notice, and as our server Kristin took our drink orders we began our inquest on the Chop House’s menu. The Dieter spotted her favorite, the Chop House Pork Chop ($15), a 12-ounce thick bone-in chop garnished with cinnamon apples, a baked sweet potato and a bowl of the Soup of the Day — Chicken Gumbo ($5).
The Retiree wasn’t doing meat this evening, opting for the Fresh Vegetable Plate ($10), and choosing a baked sweet potato, fresh asparagus, creamed spinach and sugar snap peas. My dining partner, still on her all-things-chicken kick, ordered the Tennessee Country Chicken ($14) with a Caesar Salad ($3.50) for openers.
I’d been craving a Chop House Caesar salad myself. Then I discovered that The Chop House did Homemade Blue Crab Cakes, and promptly ordered a two-cake serving ($15) with rice pilaf and sugar snap peas as my side orders. The Carnivore was in his element, lingering long over the menu, discussing the merits of sirloin over T-bone over New York strip before deciding on the 7-ounce Horseradish-Crusted Sirloin ($17) and a loaded baked potato to go with it.
Kristin brought our salads and soup along with a basket of The Chop House bread and cinnamon butter. The Caesar salads were crisp, cold and refreshing after a hot day spent at Fun Fest. Though mine had a bit too much Caesar dressing for my taste, the fresh-grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese and homemade herbed croutons made everything right.
The Dieter’s Chicken Gumbo had chunks of chicken, okra, tomato and green pepper in a gumbo soup thick enough to stand a spoon up. It was delicious to the bottom of the bowl.
Though tasty, my crab cakes were a disappointment, being more cake than crab; I was looking forward to doing battle with the Blue Crab foe once more. Still, the rice pilaf made a proper accompaniment, and sugar snaps are always good with any seafood dish.
My dining partner’s Tennessee Country Chicken featured a chicken breast stuffed with smoked ham and topped with aged melted cheddar cheese. A baked sweet potato of moderate size with a smidge of butter and some steamed broccoli florets completed the dish, all of it excellent and worthy of being a Chop House specialty dish.
The Retiree’s Vegetable Plate was well-prepared, especially the asparagus, lightly steamed and still crunchy, while the creamed spinach would have made a great appetizer dish with tortilla chips or pretzels for dipping. The Dieter’s Pork Chop arrived to “oohs” and “ahhs” from the rest of us; a heroic thick-cut grilled chop plated with a baked sweet potato tucked demurely to one side. Mentally waving bye-bye to her diet, she carved a morsel of juicy goodness from her quarry, took a bite, chewed and swallowed. A brief smile flickered across her face, and she took another.
Centered on his plate, the Carnivore’s Horseradish Crusted Sirloin was a 7-ounce mesa of beef dusted with a spicy snowcap of horseradish. With a quick turn-up of shirtsleeves, our friend picked up his knife and fork and strode forth into heroic struggle between man and beef. For a while, it looked as though the beef might prove too much for one sitting, but the Carnivore has never had use for a doggie bag. I managed to get a taste of the steak (sadly, mostly horseradish) and pronounced it delicious.
The Carnivore wasn’t doing much pronouncing, though he did get a refill or two on his water glass. Horseradish will do that to you. He finished with a quick run round the plate with a piece of bread, swabbing up every drop of juice and fragment of sirloin. A quick pop into the mouth evoked a smiling, satisfied “Ahh.” High praise, indeed.
The Chop House pays particular attention to families with children in tow, and can accommodate persons with food allergies or diet stipulations. Lunch is served until 3 p.m. with larger meal portions available if needed. Desserts are available from $4; we decided to leave them for a return visit. The Chop House is also available in several other cities across the South. There’s even a location up north in Ohio, a fine gesture of Tennessee and Southern hospitality toward our Northern cousins.
The Chop House
1704 North Eastman Road
Sun-Thu 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted