Chophouse boilerplate is as follows: plush fabrics, the iceberg wedge, jewel case wine rooms cuddling cult Cabernets and pompous Bordeaux, the double-cut pork chop, magnums and jeroboams assembled in decorative huddles in banquet nooks, acres of paneling and shiny brass chandeliers and sconces set to simulate flickering candles. Servers wear white shirts. Sometimes bowties wobble on their Adam's apples. Wine service ceremonies are rampant. You hear this: "Could you please cut into your steak and check to see if it is done to your liking?" Or this: "I recommend the jumbo lump crab cakes. No fillers!"
At 4050 Chophouse, you see none of these things. Instead of an elaborate wine bunker or even a wine list, Chophouse has three house wines of inscrutable pedigree: Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. Steak goes better with martinis anyway; at least you'd think that, given all of the steak house murals containing toothy Sinatra grins and speared olives (the Chophouse gin composition is as weak as melted highball ice).
Instead of lump crab cakes, Chophouse has Texas Rattlers, which neither rattle nor seem especially Texan. Fried shrimp are loosely assembled on a plate in no particular fashion, surrounding a ramekin of crab dip with diced tomato. Protruding from the dip depths is a single crab claw, pincers down. Shrimp are breaded and fried into little golden booties with no discernable curvature. They're hard and dry, except for the hot jalapeño cream that squirts from the coating when the rattlers are bitten, which isn't really a problem except there are no napkins on the table. But there is a plastic squeeze bottle of ketchup.
You might say Chophouse is afflicted with transgender frustration—a chopper roadhouse born into ill-fitting steak house form. It's cavernous, with a huge dance floor that spills from a raised stage and terminates into a bulging satellite bar. Rows of pool tables, arcade games and foosball tables are assembled in neat rows near the main bar, a large rectangular construct with flat-screen televisions posted on the overhangs. Various sporting events run constantly. The place is mostly empty, save for a cluster of people huddled around the bar, their chatter echoing through the expanse of empty dining room tables and banquettes. Rock music pounds at the walls and the ductwork, cables and support beams of the exposed ceiling.
We assemble near the hostess stand. No one appears. We locate a menu, assured the place really is a chophouse and not some sports bar awaiting a chicken-wire retrofit. The menu is a simple thing, a collection of laser-printed pages bound in a clear plastic report cover and featuring a leggy, bikini-clad vamp stretching under a chopper. The menu is odd, too, with a paucity of entrees counterbalanced by a proliferation of salads. Maybe bikers are trending veggie for more vibrant tattoo color.
We keep waiting. No one appears. Is it possible to order steak at this chophouse and sit at one of the tables and eat it with a real steak knife? "You serve dinner?" I shout. "Yeah," comes a holler from somewhere within the main bar complex. No one approaches.
A chef arrives from somewhere in the back, a short fellow in whites and Army fatigue trousers. "Yeah, we have steaks," he says. But it feels nothing like a steak house. There's a reason for this.
"It's a beer joint," says owner Butch Stallcup. Stallcup, who says he buys and sells airplanes at Addison Airport, once operated Cowboys nightclub plus assorted strip clubs. "I started Le Bare back in the '70s," he boasts. Beef is beef, it seems.
Soon 4050 Chophouse will no longer be a chophouse. It will become Addison City Limits, Stallcup says, easing the tension between its authentic roadhouse gender identity and its assigned steak house gender identity. "Name's already been changed. I'm just waitin' on the neon," he says. You can smell the relief.
At happy hour, a steam table holds complimentary hot dogs, tacos and Swedish meatballs. Instead of a white shirt and pressed slacks, our server wears a T-shirt, jeans and a wide glittery belt. Instead of a bowtie, she wears a thin metal hoop in her lip. Steaks have Harley names such as "Softail" and "Sportster." If it wasn't undergoing an identity transformation, this would be the first chophouse whose menu is essentially an ode to hogs. "The rib eye is really big," she says. How's the fillet? "I've never seen it made," she says. "We have $5 fajitas."
In addition to really big steaks, Chophouse has all-you-can-peel-and-eat shrimp and all-you-can-eat fried catfish for five bucks on Sundays. Catfish is fine: moist inside, crisp outside, relatively greaseless and no pond scum or river bottom mud on the finish. It comes with two hushpuppy versions: standard and jalapeño hushpuppies that look like little logs. Off to the side is also a bowl of red beans and rice composed of a fluffy rice blanket hiding a bottom layer of slightly sweet kidney beans.
Boiled shrimp are tiny, which makes the peel part of this peel-and-eat process tedious—too much work for reinforcements, which is perhaps the idea. They come with two pieces of sausage, cold roasted potatoes (in a nod to American political nostalgia, the menu is replete with Dan Quail "potatoe" spellings) plus corn on the cob that is essentially mush on the cob with neat rows of browning, shriveled kernels that drool when bitten.
When there isn't live Texas rock booming through Chophouse's 18,000 square feet (the space was formerly Rock Bottom Brewery), the venue is barren. On two of our visits, we were accompanied only by the bartenders, a manager, a server and the chef. Still, service was slow and sporadic. Silverware is difficult to obtain. Napkins are scarce. Salt and pepper shakers are randomly deployed.
Paintings of rock icons fill the walls, from Frank Zappa and Jim Morrison (From the cesspools of excitement, Where Jim Morrison once stood, as Zappa once referenced the Doors' dim-bulb poet front man), to Guns n' Roses' Slash and Jimi Hendrix plus some Rolling Stones lips. Beer signs not only light up, they rotate.
There's even a Hendrix salad. Caesar salad is a loose collection of romaine with an avalanche of croutons in Italian dressing. No Parmesan anywhere. Cheese sticks are a loose shuffling of fried mozzarella stalks on a barren white plate surrounding a ramekin of marinara. Not even a sprig of parsley or a Harley grommet for frills. It's the typical frozen food service breaded cheese, although this went awry between freezer and fryer. The sticks were hot but hard.
Yet somehow steaks emerge as diamonds in this culinary landfill. Softail fillet isn't livery—a huge accomplishment. It's dense, silky, lush and potently seasoned. Rib eye is tender and sweetly rich with free-flowing juices and a subtle bite of cracked pepper on the finish. But the sides are abysmal. Broccoli florets with the rib eye were cold, yellow, mushy and distressingly sour, while the asparagus spears with the fillet are thick, hard and woody.
A barely toasted BLT is jammed with bacon—so much so that we couldn't find the LT part of the sandwich without unloading all of the crisp, smoky strips.
We finish with a fine cheesecake in strawberry sauce, completely sidestepping the tres leches cake our server recommended. But with a restaurant creed like "biker-friendly inside and out," it's hard to know who you can trust with dessert.
4050 Belt Line Road, Addison, 972-385-1200. Open 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. $$-$$$.
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