BRIDGE­MAN’S CHOP­HOUSE:

PRIME CUTS OF BEEF IN A PRIME DOWN­TOWN LO­CA­TION

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - DINING - BY ANNE BRALY COR­RE­SPON­DENT

The Read House has been a Ten­nessee trea­sure since the prop­erty was de­vel­oped at the cor­ner of Broad Street and what is now M.L. King Boule­vard. In 1847, it opened its doors to guests as the Crutch­field House; but, in 1867, af­ter sur­viv­ing floods and the Civil War, the build­ing burned. It was re­built and re­opened as the Read House. The prop­erty was listed in the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places in 1976.

The ho­tel’s re­cent $25 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion is dra­matic, tak­ing it back to its glory days of the 1920s in some as­pects, while adding much-needed mod­ern up­dates to rooms. But one thing that hasn’t changed is com­mit­ment to qual­ity food, and the newly opened Bridge­man’s Chop­house, un­der the lead­er­ship of es­teemed chef Dao Le, is tes­ta­ment to that.

A chop­house is more than just a place for a great steak. In or­der to fit that genre of res­tau­rants, it needs a cer­tain am­biance and a decor that sets the mood for a mem­o­rable meal. Bridge­man’s does this with aplomb.

THE SPACE

Dap­pled gold-leaf walls are the back­drop for ta­bles dressed in white linen. Chairs, as well as ban­quette seat­ing, are up­hol­stered in black. Lights are kept low — bring a small flash­light if dim light­ing keeps you from read­ing the menu. The over­all feel is one of un­der­stated el­e­gance. Yet, come in a pair of nice jeans and you will be as wel­come as the man next to you dressed in a three-piece suit.

THE MENU

Beef is its pri­mary fo­cus with Wagyu sir­loin and USDA prime hand­cut filets, New York Strip steaks, ribeyes, a 28-ounce Porter­house for two and, above all, the dry- aged ribeyes and New York strip steaks.

But Bridge­man’s is more than a steak­house. The menu of­fers a nice se­lec­tion of seafood dishes: seared scal­lops and grits, spiced-crusted Chilean sea bass and pan-seared salmon among them.

Rack of l amb and a 14- ounce bone- in pork chop as well as pan-roasted Springer Moun­tain Farm chicken and roasted veg­etable pasta car­bonara will make your de­ci­sion all the more dif­fi­cult.

All en­trees are served a la carte; eight choices in sides ($7-$9) are ex­tra, but they are large enough for two to three peo­ple. If you are with a party of two or more, or­der one side each and share.

THE OR­DER

On­line re­views of the French onion soup were stel­lar and so tempt­ing that, in spite of a tremen­dous steak in my im­me­di­ate fu­ture, I had to give the soup a try.

With a kitchen f ull of beef trim­mings, the rich beef stock is made in-house and tucked with caramelized Vi­dalia onions and cubes of crusty bread be­neath a blan­ket of gooey melted Gruyere cheese. The soup is a clas­sic and not to be missed. In fact, it can make a meal in it­self.

I’m not in the habit of or­der­ing among the most-ex­pen­sive items on the menu, but any­one who has ever had a dry- aged cut of beef will ap­pre­ci­ate my do­ing so. Ei­ther one of the dry- aged cuts, the rib­eye or the New York strip, will be pre­pared to your de­sire — in­clud­ing well done. But by or­der­ing well done, you’re miss­ing out on the mar­velous com­plex­ity of f l avors that is the re­sult of dry ag­ing, a process that, at Bridge­man’s Chop­house, takes about two months of prepa­ra­tion. Dry- aged steaks are best en­joyed cooked to medium or even medium rare, and are as ten­der as but­ter.

Prop­erly dry-aged meat achieves a deeply nutty, al­most cheese- like fla­vor. The steaks served at Bridge­man’s do not fail to im­press. In fact, they are a cut above other steaks in town. But dry ag­ing takes time and space, and time and space cost money, so ex­pect to pay more. The 16-ounce rib­eye is $70, but is eas­ily enough for two. Take ad­van­tage of the no-charge­for-shar­ing pol­icy.

Serv­ings of ev­ery­thing are quite gen­er­ous. If you’re one who must have a side with your en­tree, go with the Brus­sels sprouts. Even if you thought you might not like them, the sprouts, roasted with Ben- ton ba­con, will make a be­liever out of you.

THE SER­VICE

There’s a team ap­proach to ser­vice at Bridge­man’s: a pri­mary server ac­com­pa­nied by other servers re­fill­ing wa­ter, wine, bread, but­ter and other meal ac­com­pa­ni­ments. All servers are well-versed in their ap­proach, from an ini­tial greet­ing to an­swer­ing any ques­tions about the menu. The servers are present, but don’t hover.

THE VER­DICT

Bridge­man’s is a won­der­ful com­ple­ment to other res­tau­rants in the down­town/North Shore/South­side/West Vil­lage area. For those want­ing an up­scale din­ner with­out all the fuss that some­times comes with such an out­ing, take your seat sur­rounded by the ca­sual el­e­gance of Bridge­man’s Chop­house. You’re in for a mem­o­rable meal.

Bridge­man’s Chop­house is named for a former server at the Read House, Peter Bridge­man, who spent 47 years serv­ing folks, never for­get­ting a name or face. Some­where, some­how, I think Bridge­man is smil­ing.

PHOTO BY ANNE BRALY

The rib­eye, a spe­cialty of the house at Bridge­man’s Chop­house, is dry-aged for more than 60 days be­fore be­ing cooked to or­der.

PHOTO BY ANNE BRALY

The stock used for Bridge­man’s French onion soup is made in-house.

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