Well, it only took me five months to make my way downtown and eat at The Local Chop & Grill House. Whenever I would mention to friends how badly I wanted to go the chophouse their reactions were always along the lines of “Oh my God. It’s so good.” Indeed, they were right.
I guess the good reviews are to be expected given the management. Craig and Bert Moore, the original owners of the upscale Joshua Wilton House decided to add another impressive dining experience to the Harrisonburg area.
It was about ten degrees the night my mom and I went to the restaurant and we were greeted by a bundled-up valet when we pulled into the full parking lot. I never would have thought a restaurant would have valet in downtown Harrisonburg. I suppose that goes to show you how impressive and upscale Harrisonburg’s dining scene has really become.
The chophouse is located where Downtown 56 used to be — in an old warehouse. The warehouse still has “Poultry, Eggs” painted on the brick front.
Inside the restaurant, wooden floors and a large staircase were the first things I noticed. To the left was the bar which has a different menu, a stage and an English pub look. Musicians play on weekends at the bar too. My mom and I were seated in the dining room and got a seat upstairs looking over the lobby of the restaurant.
Upon sitting down my mom and I were also quick to notice that everyone dining seemed to know each other. Seriously, look at the guy above. I think he talked to about five different tables. I felt relieved when I recognized someone from school and said hi.
The walls of the dining room have photography of local food such as squash and berries. In fact, much of the menu features food from local farms, hence the restaurant’s name.
My mom and I started off with an appetizer and a drink. But while we waited we munched on a basket of their homemade salted focaccia bread with two types of olive oil for dipping, one regular and one infused with chives.
Our appetizer was the Arancini de Riso. In other words, fried risotto balls. Underneath, there was a cilantro aioli that added some more flavor to the lightly fried parmesan risotto. My only complaint was that I wish my mom and I didn’t have to split the third one. I easily could have had all three to eat for myself. While my mom got a mojito, I went with a blackberry fresca cosmo. Many of the drinks at the chophouse have their own homemade juices.
One thing I love about this restaurant’s menu is the amount of options. There are 11 different meat or seafood options that can be paired with 15 different types of sauces. Even better, you get to choose two sides. I went for the 8 oz. Filet Mignon, medium rare, with a savory veal demi glace sauce, 4 onion risotto and haricot verts with terragon and brown butter. The second I cut into the filet and saw the perfectly cooked meat I knew I was in for a delicious meal.
The risotto was creamy without an overly onion flavor. The sauce was a perfect pairing to the filet. My mom went with the U-10 scallops, the risotto and a local root vegetable confit for her meal.
The sauces on the menu are categorized in one of three groups: sweet, savory and spicey. The above sauce is a mangoHoisin BBQ that was something like a sweet and sour sauce.
Another thing I like about the chophouse’s menu is how it labels what foods are actually from local farmers. In capitalized letters, the word “LOCAL” comes before the menu item. For example, one dish, the LOCAL honey and lavender ice cream has ingredients from the lavendar farm off Rt. 33. Yes, there is a lavender farm in Harrisonburg. There’s even lavender lotion in the chophouse’s restroom.
Our only complaint after our entrees was the service. My mom asked for a glass of wine prior to eating her scallops but that $6 glass never came. Lucky for our waitress, the food outshined her mistakes and we decided to order some dessert.
My mom ordered the seasonal fruit crisp, with apples and cranberries, and I went with the LOCAL creme brulee. The fruit crisp had a shortbread crust that went well with the tartness of the fresh cranberries.
The dish was still hot has the homemade vanilla ice cream melted on top. My creme brulee was thick with actual vanilla beans throughout.
From start to finish I must say kudos to the executive chef, Ryan Zale. Zale once worked at the Little Inn in Washington (which was recently featured as one of the best restaurants by the “Washingtonian”) and he also previously showed his culinary skills at the Joshua Wilton House.
The LOCAL food has really made The Local Chop & Grill House standout. As we handed our tip to the valet (yes, he was outside that whole time…good thing there was a space heater) I kept saying to my mom how delicious the entire meal was. I think I’ll now spend my semester trying to find reasons to dine again at the chophouse. Friend’s birthdays? Good grades? Job offers? Uh, got a haircut? Yeah, I’m sure I’ll find a reason.