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Review: Iowa Chop House delivers

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | OCTOBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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"Pleased to meat you," "Thank a farmer," and "Good people drink good beer." Those are just a few of the wait staffs' clever T-shirts at Iowa Chop House, 223 E. Washington St..

The new Iowa City establishment — which opened Sept. 23 — is a fairly upscale restaurant with a down-to-earth attitude, a warm, clean environment, and one of the biggest, most glorious selections of beer I have ever laid eyes on. I'm not sure how it compares with 30hop in Coralville, but having a huge TV by the bar listing the various brews in plain font on a black background like an airport's arrival/departure board is impressive enough on its own.

Before moving on from the beer (and there is much more to discuss), I need to mention a few things. I must apologize to the reader for my inability to clarify exactly how many beers, wines, and mixed drinks the restaurant offers. I was so blown away by the long, front-to-back menu, the beer TV, and the miniature indoor barn designed to hold and dispense beers on tap that I forgot to ask. There's beer. There's a lot. Trust me.

Which is a little daunting, but our waiter and the bartender were kind enough to let my editor, with whom I was dining, sample a few brews in miniature glasses to help her with the selection process. Perhaps this is normal in classier restaurants — in which I rarely indulge thanks to crippling college debt and the ever-stagnant price of pizza — but it was a first, and the eagerness with which our waiter offered to help was unexpected and impressive.

The Iowa Chop House's interior design follows a rustic-yet-contemporary theme, a trend that's becoming more popular with new restaurants — not necessarily a bad thing. Sitting down to eat at around 8 p.m. on a Sunday, the lighting was gentle and contrasted nicely with the darkness outside, and the polish on the tables was rich and beautiful. Our waitress brought us water in a glass bottle with a rubber stopper while we explored the menu.

About $64 for a porter house. Goodness me, almighty. Local and sustainable farming aside, I didn't have that kind of cash. My hypothetical meat sweats relaxed when I saw the burger menu. A few options were $9.50. I opted for the $14 burger made of bison, an animal I hadn't feasted on since visiting South Dakota back when I was just starting to enjoy the bliss of acne.

The burger had Gouda, mushrooms, and an apple avocado spread, and it was perfectly cooked and juicy. It came on a cutting board ("chop house," get it?) with a side of fries presented in a decorative, miniature deep fryer basket. My meal damned the pre-cooked, frozen, salty yuck-garbage you'd get for just a few dollars less at Applebee's to the filthy, pestilent hell where it belongs.

The moral of the story is that while the Iowa Chop House can be an expensive, high-brow place designated for upper-middleclass graduation celebrations, marriage proposals, and the cream of the economic crop, it doesn't have to be. The burger options, as well as a few of the steaks, are friendlier to the college budget and are worthy of small celebrations, third dates, or simply enjoying delicious local food and drinks with friends. I was thoroughly pleased with the entire experience, and I hope to someday return when I can finally afford that porter house.


Iowa Chop House
Where: 223 E. Washington
Serves: American, steaks, burgers, beer
Cost: Moderate to Very Expensive
Should you go?: Yes, duh.


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