The steaks are high at Arnette’s Chop Shop
Much has been written about Arnette’s Chop Shop, the newest offering from the Word of Mouth restaurant group that includes Haven, Valenza and Vero Pizzeria. You may have read about the stunning rib-caged staircase leading to a second level where a Southern comfortable veranda, bar and dining space await, adorned with huge portraits of music icons Jagger, Hendrix and Harry (Debbie, that is).
You’ve likely heard, too, about the exclusive members-only knife club and its enviable perks from custom-engraved steak knives to special event access. And of course you’ve heard about the menu: oysters and caviar, Chicago-sourced ribeyes, strips and tomahawk steaks, and hearth-roasted shellfish. Perhaps you’ve even seen with your own eyes this revamped industrial space that’s well on its way to becoming the Brookhaven spot to see and be seen and to dine.
And I am here to tell you: It’s almost as good as you’ve heard.
It was pummeling rain on our first visit, but thank God for the valet canopy and complimentary umbrellas. Upon entering the fortress-size walnut door, my friend and I were whisked into the busy dining room where blown glass fixtures and leather banquettes in calming neutrals create a mellow, Santa Fe feel. We were squeezed between occupied two-tops, and while I generally don’t like to be in such close proximity to others, there is at least one perk: You have a front row seat to your neighbors’ food.
Expensive steakhouses are like theatre— most cuts here range from north of $50 up to $140—and we shamelessly soaked in the scene like it was Hamilton. Towering plates of sumptuous roasted marrow and earthy wagyu beef tartare were followed up with a sizzling cowboy ribeye, the mound of golden compound butter melting into the charred hollow of the steak’s soft center. “I’ll have what she’s having,” said my friend.
Along with a gentle, fruity 2017 red Burgundy from Bouchard, we ordered the $75 cowboy steak and commenced with Arnette’s classic wedge salad—a mainstay on steakhouse menus. This version was rich with chunky bits of tart tomato, smoky bacon, tangy blue cheese and organic iceberg lettuce. It was fresh and texturally complex, but with the dim lighting and 360-degree chatter, it was hard to give the salad our full attention.
Not so with our ribeye. We had heard so much about Arnette’s version—a deeply marbled, bone-in beauty that’s wetaged for 50 days. Ours was unctuous, juicy and satisfying, but it arrived more medium-rare than black-and-blue as we had ordered, with a rather gray (not charred) exterior. We perked up, though, with the steamy hot Dauphinoise potatoes. Oozing hot butter, cream and melted Gruyere cheese, it was a mere memory in under four minutes.
Our next visit was beyond exceptional. We got the best booth in the house (#44) and only ordered ice teas, but still our waiter was accommodating and deferential, as if we’d sprung for the reserve Ornellaia 2015 ($389). We agreed on the lobster pasta for starters. A triumph, each individual strand of homemade pasta was lightly coated with a masterfully crafted butter sauce, the chopped tomatoes were all San Marzano, and the lobster? You’re served a half pound—mainly claw and knuckle meat—each rosy chunk oozing with deep, marine flavor as if the creature had just been plucked from the sea.
The next dish, however, took home first place on our notepad. You’ve read those entertaining “my dream last meal” pieces by famous chefs? Well, this is the meal I would choose. I’m talking about the shaved prime rib sandwich. The description—“Gruyere, horseradish, onion Kaiser, jus, side of fries”—hardly does it justice. And at $20, it’s a gift. Imagine: the soft buttered Kaiser roll soaking up the thick, salty jus, tenderizing the already tender meat, and all of it melting in your mouth at once. The plate arrived with golden handcut fries the size of Paul Bunyan’s fingers. Tossed with sea salt and accompanied by the most delightful ketchup I’ve ever tasted—a spicy, rich Sir Kensington—these fried spuds were a revelation.
Arnette’s Chop Shop has the potential to be a destination for years to come. It’s got the spark, the beauty and the buzz. My only quibble—and it’s not a small one—is that at these prices, the steaks better be perfect: cooked by a time-tested grill veteran, served with a “no place I’d rather be” smile, and tasting even better than you imagined. Not 50 or even 75% of the time. Every time. Atlantans will pay whatever it takes to get a great flame broiled steak. Now it’s up to Arnette’s to ensure this praise-worthy concept delivers.
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna
ARNETTE’S CHOP SHOP
2700 Apple Valley Road N.E.,
Prices: appetizers and salads: $9-$22; shrimp, oysters and caviar: $13-$150; sandwiches: $18-$25; hearth-roasted shellfish, fish and steaks: $13-$140; sides: $8-$14; desserts: $8-$12.
Recommended: wedge salad, 22-ounce cowboy ribeye, Dauphinoise potatoes, lobster spaghetti, shaved prime rib sandwich.
Bottom line: A high-class, earnest-effort steakhouse whose breathtaking decor gives it an edge over the rest. There are upcharges for various items. If you don’t like surprises on the bill, familiarize yourself with the online menu or call beforehand with questions. Street or valet parking (complimentary); only open for dinner (bar opens at 4 p.m., dining room at 5 p.m.).
Food, beauty and interiors writer at Simply Buckhead. Linguist, teacher, chef, parent.