The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery

This review is the second leg of the Cleveland Trifecta

There’s nothing worse than not getting what you pay for. I’m no “fine diner;” I don’t consult dining guides (Zagat’s, Mobil, or the new-as-of-today Michelin guide for New York). Some have called me a picky eater, but this isn’t “picky” due to anything other than the fact that there’s a reasonable amount of food I simply don’t like. I’m not talking about, “my god, I could never eat a cheeseburger from McDonald’s!” but a more straightforward dislike of particular foods (fish, onions, and so on). That makes me a picky eater but not a selective eater. In no way shape or form am I too good for a restaurant; I’ll eat anywhere, but though this doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed certain expectations of a particular restaurant. Especially expensive ones.

Not the best picture in the world.
The best picture I could find.

Choosing price as the index, restaurants can be broken up into five categories: fast food/convenience food (McDonald’s, Wawa), family dining (Friendly’s, Perkin’s), theme dining (Outback, Olive Garden), upscale dining (there aren’t really national examples of this… though P.F. Chang’s would count while The Cheescake Factory straddles the line between theme and upscale), and fine dining (the restaurants found in the Michelin guides). Very few people have the money to visit these “fine dining” establishments and many areas don’t even have any of these restaurants within reasonable distance. All this is to say that at each price point there are particular expectations. Every now and then a fast food restaurant offers something better than an entree at a Perkin’s-type restaurant, but that’s not expected. These positive “category jumps” are rare, and it’s found much more frequently that a restaurant in a higher category only manages to deliver the quality expected at a lower price point. The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery is one of these restaurants.

Looking for a nice-ish place to eat after a full-day of conventioning, I took a walk toward the “warehouse district” of downtown Cleveland (the rough geography has been previously discussed) around 9:00pm (yes, late but not a problem as most places closed at 11). Most every restaurant was in that “upscale dining” category, so wherever I’d choose, a not insignificant amount of money would be spent. Simply, The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery was the most eye-catching of the options.

The intentionally sparesely decorated space was dimly lit and moderately full, with a combination of the sounds of jazz music from the speakers and conversations throughout the space. I’m not picky about interiors or decor, so even though it was perfectly comfortable, it didn’t strike me as anything special, but the three (+?) shiny vats (hence the “brewery” part of the name) were eye-catching in their glassed-in section of the main room. A better than neutral experience so far, but the unfriendliness of the hostess was the beginning of the end of any meaningful positive experiences to be had. I don’t need to be pampered or coddled to, but you’d think that in the usually limited interaction (“Non-smoking please” “ok”) there wouldn’t even be room for someone to be unfriendly, but apparently I said the wrong thing. The table was perfectly fine and happened to face a TV. Water service began right away, but that was it for about 15 minutes. No servers stopped by to take a drink order for those 15 minutes until one stopped by after seeing how long I was sitting. Naturally between that order was taken and its arriving, the actual server came by to take my drink order again. Having worked at a restaurant, I know how much servers hate when customers at a table they’re not serving need to get something from the proper server, so I didn’t say anything. When the proper server came by, she was very apologetic about how long I had to wait, but in that “I’m apologizing even though it’s not my fault” sort of way, like when the food is under/over-cooked. Except, in this case, it is usually the server’s fault (more restaurant experience talking here). Oh well.

Bread service began (a small pie pan’s worth of fresh corn bread with honey butter…. rather good), but my now twice-ordered drink was still MIA. Of course once I had enough of the bread, the drink showed up. It was some sort of “Irish Stout” made in the brewery section of the facility, and I’m not beer connisseur, but it was fine, sort of like Guinness without as much of the cigarette butt taste.

At a new-to-me restaurant, no matter how expensive, I have a simple strategy for deciding what to order: pick three things from the menu, ask the server what they like, and pick one that was common with my list. This happened to be Shrimp Scampi. **A note on this selection. Some have said, “Why would you get shrimp at a steak house. You should get beef.” Well, it’s not like seafood is any cheaper at these restaurants, and they claim to specialize in “steaks, chops, and seafood.” Naturally, it took a particularly long time to get to my table, but it (and the mashed potatoes it came with) were “just finished” hot, so at least it hadn’t been sitting in a heat lamp or equivalent (restaurant experience tells you when it’s “just finished” hot or “heat amp” hot). The whole “steak house” thing usually implies slow (“relaxed” might be a better word?) service, but without making a stupid joke about them pulling the shrimp out of the lake, it took forever.

The actual entree was ok. For $26.95 I’m not looking for ok. There’s nothing bad to say about it, but nothing good to say either. It was shrimp scampi, just that simple. No particularly interesting flavors, just plain old shrimp scampi. Some say that the “atmosphere” is included in those prices, but as discussed above, it wasn’t anything special either.


The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery receives one-and-a-half stars due to its not meeting expectations set by attempting to establish itself as an “upscale” restaurant. This is decidedly different than confusing hype and product, as restaurants create their own hype/expectations simply by deciding which price point to which they intend to cater. These expectations are as much a part of a dining experience as the food itself, especially for pricier restaurants. If a restaurant in a lower price category receive higher star ratings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “better.” They are simply better for the price point. Soon there will be a higher level discussion of star ratings to attempt to establish “rules.” Go Rules!

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4 responses to “The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery”

  1. Dan, maybe if you didn’t eat at so many Steakhouses, you wouldn’t be such a Heart Attack Risk.

  2. […] With a ridiculous name like “The Cleveland Marriot Downtown at Key Center,” I should’ve known something was up. I have exceedingly low expectations when it comes to hotels. I’m even less of a snob about hotels/motels than I am about restaurants, and the fact that I consider hotels and motels to be in the same category should let everyone know how I go about choosing lodging. Just like the ChopHouse & Brewery, prices were high and because of that, so were my expectations. There was a special group discount rate due to the eye show, but due to the fact that it was very much in the middle of “metropolitan” Cleveland, and was (at least superficially) rather fancy, I had high expectations, as I’m sure that the Marriot expects that of their customers. […]

  3. […] 4th, 2006 Dan Site note: to potentially get some commenting going on, you can now leave a comment without needing to fill-in an e-mail address. What’s thatsound? Why, it’s the sound of accountability going out the window! Hmmph. I never thought we’d be “pioneers” in this little internet endeavor, but I did think that, at the minimum, we’d bring something new to the table in some capacity. Well, now that we’re about two-and-a-half months into its existence, I’ve found that, no, we’re not even bringing anything new to the table. It’s true. The story goes something like this: Nate’s friend Pete submits this very website into a “community-driven links database” called The way it works is anyone can submit a link and its description, then the “community” rates and sort of reviews it. No, isn’t the source of the frustration; it’s not a “reviews” site by any stretch of the imagination. It provides a framework for categorizing and ranking links that usually have to do with technology, computers, science, etc.; that’s about it. Looking at what Nate’s friend submitted to digg, we see that four people “digg-ed” it and two people thought they had something worthwhile to add to the discussion. Mr. “schwit,” playing the typical “internet”-role, informed everyone (in the form of a question, of course) that this link (our site) has nothing to do with technology, while a second commenter, “JohnH,” trotted out the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, explaining that although “[we’re] ok, [I] thought Lore did it better though:” Please everyone, click that link, and just like me, die a little inside. I had mentioned the existence of the “Lore”-person’s site to Nate before I had investigated it thoroughly, but even just scanning it, I knew it would be bad news. Later that same day, I checked it out again, looked through his archives, and saw a very disurbing link to “buy the print version.” This led to the following e-mail to Nate and Adam on 1/1/06 (please note, I’m hilarious all the time, not just when writing reviews): (Adam, this is a follow-up to a conversation about the below topic that I had with Nate… I’m sure you can follow without needing to have the conversation explained to you.) Here’s the link. This is the website: It looks like he might’ve stopped updating in 2003. It looks like this Lore person (he’s from San Francisco apparently) managed to actually publish a book of his reviews. I’d wager that the “Editorial Review” was written by the author, but I won’t hold that against him. What I will hold against him is that fact that he’s practically completely beaten us to the punch and even (potentially/probably) made some money off of it. He even reviewed the seven deadly sins one by one (you can see it in the “look inside this book” on the amazon site). I’m okay with the concept of someone else doing a “wacky, random, etc’” reviews website, but looking through the Amazon reader reviews I see: “Now a lot of you “simple minded” folk out there might not be interested due to Lore’s advanced and half made up vocabulary.” Now that’s just plain old reverse gimmick infringement. It doesn’t look like he reviews abstract concepts (“The Hype Surrounding This Week’s Trading Spouses,” Verbally Harassing Horses,” etc.”) but that’s probably just because I haven’t looked closely enough through his archives. The “Old Trading Cards I Bought at a Shop in San Francisco [Parts 1-3]” really seals our fates as imitators. Looking at the left of his reviews page, he has a list of other sites/projects. I’m afraid to click on them as I’m sure that one of them retells the story of his production of an action movie about Ben Franklin in 1999. Now more than ever, we suck. At the risk of simply repeating the rather straightforward e-mail…that’s right, reverse gimmick infringement. That way, we can blame him for copying us before we even did it. It doesn’t make much sense but it helps me sleep at night. His reviews are all much shorter than ours, and it seems he likes reviewing things in list form (such as those baseball cards or “Aspects of Santa part 2”), but he always brings the funny. The reviews aren’t the most insightful, but that’s not his goal. For example, when reviewing “Stuff in the Airline Catalog,” one of the many items evaluated is an Authentic Pachinko Machine about which he says, “I’m just glad it’s authentic, because once I ordered a pachinko game and I forgot to check the “authentic” box and they sent me one of those little Cracker Jack toys where you have the get the little bee-bees on the puppy’s eyes or something and it lacked that authentic pachinko experience that I was hoping for.” To get an impression on the general length of his reviews, that’s the whole thing for the “pachinko machine,” but it was one of the six items in the “airline catalog” review. Disturbingly, it sounds just like something Nate or I would say, except this guy said it sometime before 2003, a good 3 years ago. Nate mentioned that many of the reviews are focused on “internet-popular things,” and we usually avoid that stuff, but to be fair for each “Dungeons and Dragons”-related review, he has one like “Types of Band-Aids.” Because some none of you are looking to mesh his reviews with ours, he uses a traditional letter grading, making his “A+” equivalent to our….oh, nevermind. Thinking You’re Doing Something Original receives half of one star due to the fact that not only is the internet unfathomably huge, it’s been huge for quite some time, and is getting, uh, huger, and that combination means that the likelyhood of anyone doing something original dwindles each day. I mean, that’s fine, it’s progress and all, and don’t worry, we’re not going to be like Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State and being wacky/weird/random for the sake of originality, but I can’t help but think I won’t be at least a bit self-conscious about making sure I don’t review things that are already reviewed by our more trailblazing precursors. I’m sure that most people (meaning: our readership) probably don’t consider this to be too big a deal, but the amount of time it takes to write a what-we-hope-to-be-good review, much less maintain the website, it’s frustrating to see it sort of in someone else’s “been there, done that” category. Yeah, yeah, we know that we choose to spend the time writing, maintaining, etc., and we know that we’re only “busy” for the amount of time that we choose to spend, but still, it’s the principle of it. We get the half-star because our reviews aren’t one-trick ponies and we do evaluate serious things every now and then, something Mr. Lore seems to be too good for. […]

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