Opened in early December, is a contemporary take on the classic steak and seafood restaurant. Featuring a diverse menu created by owner and chef Corey Wry, Chops 'N Catch fills the void between high class and casual. Local grown and raised Connecticut products are featured widely throughout the menu and wine list, giving a local feel and taste to the selection. The high quality food and beverages at Chops 'n' Catch make for a satisfying meal in this unique restaurant.
Look and Feel: A renovation of the old Nulli's has given Chops 'n' Catch the atmosphere of a fine steakhouse. The dining room is well decorated with ocean-inspired art. The low lighting gives a soft glow to the location. The bar area has comfortable booth seating, along with chairs at the bar. The lobby of the restaurant needs some improvement, and takes away from the charm of the restaurant proper. Also in need of improvement are the uniforms of the waitstaff, as they call to mind the tacky uniforms seen in chain restaurants. A quality establishment deserves tastefully dressed staff. Reservations are recommended, as wait times on a Friday night easily topped an hour.
Food: The menu has a diverse feel to it, offering much more than steak and fish. There are many options, but not so many to feel overwhelming. The starters section had some interesting choices, and we ended up with the 10-Penny Steamed Mussels. The mussels are served in a large bowl over chorizo, roasted peppers and garlic, and with a pair of toasted crostini. The chorizo made for a nice addition, as mussels can definitely use a strongly flavored sidekick. The wide selection of entrees are drawn from the experiences of chef and owner Corey Wry, and the personal touch is evident. There are many unique dishes, including a Dr. Pepper infused braised short rib, and Judy's Chicken, a dish styled after a meal created by Wry's mother. On this particular night, I chose a 16 ounce boneless ribeye, which comes seasoned with a custom peppermill blend, along with a side of broccolini and horseradish sauce. While the steak had the wonderful texture of a ribeye, I felt that the spice blend needed to add a unique flavor, as most of the flavor came from cracked peppercorn. The first member of my party ordered Willie's Sizzling Sirloin, a small steak served on a hot skillet over a vegetable mix that included peppers, onions, and potatoes. For a side dish, she chose a baked sweet potato with brown sugar and butter. A nice, thick steak, the sirloin was tasty and juicy, with the flavors of the vegetable mix adding to the meat. Another companion ordered the New England Market Cod, a fresh fish selection, alongside a baked potato. The fish had an herb crust, and was cooked to perfection. Two members of our party ordered off of the kabob section of the menu. Each dish was served with hummus and pita, lending a Mediterranean feel to the meal. The first meal was a kabob with Filet Mignon and sea scallops. The filet was very tender, and the sea scallops made for a great grill choice. The second kabob was served with Southwestern shrimp. The spice blend on the shrimp gave a it a great taste, and made for a good contrast with the hummus. The final member of our party ordered the special of the night, a braised pork shank served over risotto and ratatouille. The portion was very generous, and all the ingredients came together well. The large shank was cooked well, yet was still tender and juicy.
Drinks: The variety of beverages at Chops 'n' Catch is diverse and extensive. The wine list features wines from Connecticut vineyards, as well as selections from international wineries. They have a good selection of beers on draft, and offer mixed drinks and cocktails as well. I paired the house's Twisted Merlot with my ribeye steak, and the Merlot made for a fine match.
Prices: The prices at Chops 'n' Catch occupy a middle range, between a chain restaurant and a fine-dining establishment. While some of the entrees reach into the upper twenties, there are options available in the teens, without sacrificing quality. Be prepared to spend around $80.00 including tip for a full dinner and appetizer for two, with wine for each person.
Verdict: Though on the higher end of the price range for restaurants in Manchester, Chops 'n' Catch offers the quality to warrant the tag. The wonderfully diverse menu has something for everyone, and the emphasis on local products is commendable. The dining room atmosphere provides a comfortable venue for a night out as a couple or with a group. Only weeks old, Chops 'n' Catch has a bright future ahead.