My walk down the stairs into the newly reopened London Chop House was like taking a step back into time. I was first caught up in the nostalgia. It wouldn’t take long to see that the establishment also has a contemporary feel, which also became an integral part of the experience.
I remembered that the Chop House was once the jewel in the crown of a thriving downtown Detroit. While elegant, the old establishment was hardly a glittering showplace. In fact it was – and is – located below street level in a downtown office building on Congress. Its dark, sophisticated and intimate motif has an immeasurable, magical quality that makes customers feel right at home.
I also recalled that it was renowned for excellent food, elegant wines and gained notoriety as the “best restaurant in town.” In every way, the Chop House was a haven for the famous and a treat for the palate.
I remember too that the “Chop” lost its corporate and social cachet more than 20 years ago. The popular eatery officially went out of business after its misfortunes were influenced by a downturn in the economy, corporate flight, a decline in convention business, a disappearing downtown restaurant market and the emergence of high-quality suburban venues. The Chop House simply ran out of available patrons able to pay for good food and willing to make a special trip to the city after dark. The restaurant’s demise signaled a regrettable end of an eloquent era and dining tradition.
Then came news that the historic “Chop” was reopening under new owner Nico Gatzaros. Nico, you may know, is part of a family that understands — more than most — the sensitive mix of atmosphere and service required to sustain a thriving restaurant in the heart of the city. While maintaining much of its nostalgic qualities, he made sure that it is complemented with a fresh, sassy swagger.
Since its opening, I’ve been a frequent dinner, lunch and bar patron. The restaurant is rife with contemporary amenities, including an enthusiastic bar and wait staff that is professional and attentive, if not doting. The cuisine is superb and the ambiance electric. “The Chop” has been transformed into a “hip” in-place; a fun-filled “hot spot” that plays host to the new in-crowd. The room is constantly filled with captains of business and industry, CEOs, television personalities and young up and comers.
The re-emergence of ‘The Chop” will be embraced by those us who covet new, and all too few, quality downtown dining venues. Its revival and restoration to its former glory is an encouraging sign for the Central Business District, and an exciting time for those of us who remember and long for a return of the good ole days.
The bill of fare promises a lasting return to the glory days as a gathering place for the famous, the discerning, the successful, the newsworthy and the curious. The entire region, though, will appreciate that the city is again blessed with, and can boast of, a restaurant with so few peers.