If you go
› Where: Bridgeman’s Chophouse in the Read House, 107 M.L. King Blvd.
› Hours: 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
› Price range: $18-$80 entrees
› Alcohol: Full bar.
› Phone: 423-643-1240.
› Website: www.bridgemanschophouse.com.
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.
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.
Beef is its primary focus with Wagyu sirloin and USDA prime hand-cut 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 lamb 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.
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 full 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 flavors 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-charge-for-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 Benton bacon, will make a believer out of you.
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.
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.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.