From greeting to goodbye

Chop's knows the real value of a meal is the whole experience

Chop's Cedar Plank Salmon, photography by Neal Bruns

Chop's Cedar Plank Salmon, photography by Neal Bruns

There’s something comforting about going to an old favorite restaurant. You know the staff and the owners, and they greet you enthusiastically upon your arrival. You know the menu, and you’re pleased to see many of your beloved dishes featured prominently.

For the past dozen years, since April of 2003, Chop’s Steaks & Seafood has offered unique and classic preparations of steaks and seafood to the delight of its many regulars – and the many newcomers who are still discovering the restaurant on West Jefferson Boulevard. Its spin-off neighbor Chop’s Wine Bar, which opened in 2010, offers up small plates and carefully curated wines and craft cocktails in an intimate setting. One caveat: While you can order drinks between the two restaurants, there is no mixing of menus between the dining rooms.

Owners Chuck and Kara Pastor are out in the dining room at lunch and dinner daily to greet their regulars and to make their newcomers feel like they are dining in the Pastors’ home, which includes children Maria and Molly.

But it almost wasn’t like that – for Chuck, at least.

“When I was first introduced to the business, which was at my uncle’s restaurant in Hobart, Indiana, called The Mortar Joint – he was a contractor – I was afraid to bus tables because I didn’t want to be out in public,” Chuck said. “Now, we love to be out there with the people.”

And those people keep coming. And since the Wine Bar opened, Pastor has noticed an uptick in new diners on the Chop’s side of the business.

“We get four or five tables a night” of new customers curious to try the creations of Chop’s chef Luke Federspiel and his team of assistants. “I think it’s because we really focus on them. I always tell my staff to come find me when there’s a new table (of first-time diners) so we can go over and meet them,” Chuck said.

The Pastors believe in giving their customers a great experience, from the first greeting to the goodbyes offered as they leave.

“I think we need to show a genuine appreciation for the people calling on our phone and walking through our front door. The value of a dinner is not just the price of the food,” Chuck said. “It’s what you get in return for your money, which is simply the atmosphere, the execution of the product, the knowledge of the server, the table visit by the manager or the owner – all that adds to the value of the product. To me, that is greatly important. And that’s what we’ve done for 12 years.”

That philosophy continues through the Chop’s staff members, many of whom have been with the restaurant for years. One star is manager Melba Thomas, Chuck said.

“She’s been with us the entire 12 years,” he said. “She’s probably the backbone of the operations. She’s rock solid. She’s an extension of us.”

But the proof of a good restaurant, to stretch a saying, is in the pudding. And here, Chop’s also shines. Though primarily a steakhouse, Chop’s offers seasonal variations through its daily specials, which are usually a steak variation and a take on a fresh fish dish. Soups change nearly every day, though the hearty French onion soup and tomato crab bisque are menu stalwarts that remain extremely popular. The risotto of the day features Arborio rice and a rotating array of other ingredients, while the apple pork chop satisfies hearty appetites with an apple-infused demi-glace. Pastor’s favorite dish on the menu, he said, is the black and bleu divers scallops. Fresh salads, such as the crispy goat cheese salad or the chicken citrus salad, mix fresh, seasonal greens with unusual toppings. And be sure to save room for dessert: the homemade bread pudding is simply scrumptious.

 


Chop’s Raspberry Lemondrop Martini
Serves 1

2.5 ounces citrus vodka
½ ounce sweet and sour mixture
½ ounce Rose’s lime juice
1 ounce Cointreau
Juice of one fresh lemon
A splash of 7-Up or Sprite

In a martini shaker, combine all ingredients over shaved ice and shake well before straining into martini glass. Enjoy responsibly.

First appeared in the April 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine

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