If that’s what you’ve thought when you discounted it and drove on after you dropped off some donations at Salvation Army or returned a movie to Blockbuster, you’re wrong, meatloaf breath.
Choplin’s is, from beginning to end, an epicurean delight. We met some dear old friends there recently to make certain we had a representative variety of palates to give the chef a good run for his money. To our delight, not a single plate put in front of us fell short of the reputation Wes Choplin has established since opening in 2010.
We felt we should kick all four tires, so we agreed to meet in the lounge to start the evening. If there’s anything about Choplin’s that we’d warn you about, it’s the size of the bar. With very few tables and four or so chairs at the bar, this is designed as a staging area, not a destination. Regardless, the service was outstanding, with our server having a full command of the drink specialties and the wine list (more on the list later). Every libation was spot on, complete with a specialty beer list, and the Cosmo had the highly sought after “ice skating rink” surface.
We were seated in a booth (booths and tables are available — ask for a booth for the more intimate experience). The menu was a delightful mix of standard dishes prepared with flair and some creative offerings that confirm the chef’s skills. On this particular Saturday evening, the special menu theme was Cajun/New Orleans. Two of us ordered from the special menu while the other two stuck to the standard, if you can call them that, offerings.
From the Cajun menu, for a pris fixe price of $30, we got to choose an appetizer, an entree and a desert. We decided to share the two apps, so a consensus vote resulted in an order of fried okra and barbecued shrimp. We’ve had countless versions of both over the years, but we can’t recall a better presentation of either. The okra was expertly fired, avoiding any of the typical pitfalls that can adversely affect this Southern delicacy. The chef even included bits of crawfish in the remoulade to add another layer of flavor and texture that really impressed us. The shrimp were perfectly cooked in a tasty sauce. Round one — A-plus.
For dinner, we ordered the Filet of Beef of Lyonnaise, potatoes and a vegetable medley with fresh spinach; the Seared Tuna with a jasmine rice cake (one of our friends commented, “I don’t like fish and I like that!”), and the Shrimp Ettoufee and Pork Chop off of the special menu. Each dish was passed around as we were all certain ours was the best food on the table. In the end, we decided to stop trying to win and just be happy with one of the best meals any of us had enjoyed in a long time. And while we couldn’t decide which was the best entree, the Jalepeno Mac and Cheese edged out all the other impressive sides. Round two — A-plus again.
Back to the wine list. As we were making our decisions, we thought we had it narrowed down to two bottles based on the offerings and the food ordered. We were impressed with the assistance we received in making the final decision, and even more impressed with how spot-on the pairing was.
For dessert, we ordered the bread pudding and a creme brulee. Both were perfect, a confirmation that Wes knows how to run a kitchen with offerings for every appetite. Round three — yet another top grade.
Our conclusion is that Choplin’s should be added to everyone’s fine dining rotation. What you’ll like almost as much as the food, however, is that the restaurant offers these delights at a price below some of the others competing in this end of the market. The three-course specials are great examples of this value, and we intend to head back often to enjoy the chef’s creativity. Take a date, take some of your oldest and dearest friends, or do both. We did!
19700 One Norman Boulevard,
Suite C, Cornelius
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m. Closed 3-5 p.m. each weekday. Closed Sunday.