Press: In the News
"Schlesinger's is sure to lasso in meat-lovers."
BY DAVID NICHOLSON
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When a New York restaurant put a $50 hamburger on its menu last year, the news ricocheted across the island of Manhattan like an arcade pinball. That kind of sticker-shock has been wagging Peninsula tongues in recent weeks with the opening of Schlesinger's, the new steakhouse in Newport News.
Named for literary lion Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the restaurant is the latest in a sparkling necklace of eateries soon to encircle William Styron Square in the newly developed Port Warwick community. The restaurant specializes in beef, including several bone-in cuts, brought in from Chicago. The menu also offers veal, chicken and seafood items such as tuna, crab cakes and South African lobster tails.
Old typewriters are displayed as whimsical wall art in the restaurant's small waiting area. The wait staff sports Schlesinger's trademark bow ties; even the menu type looks like it's been pecked out on an old Underwood.
Cigar smoking is encouraged in the bar to the left of the door, though the odor never permeated into the dining room. Inside, other striking works of art adorn the walls of an elegant though subdued interior. Two private dining rooms offer cozy spaces for parties. Crisp white tablecloths and napkins, contemporary curved flatware and rich fabrics give the restaurant a clubby, comfortable atmosphere.
At these prices you would expect impeccable service, and Schlesinger's delivers. On the evening we visited three weeks after opening, management appeared almost overeager to gauge our reaction.
After each course was served, as many as three people stopped by to inquire if everything was OK.
Then there's the penlight. When your order arrives at the table, the manager shines a small light into your sliced steak to make sure it's cooked to your liking.
Too fussy? Maybe. But it says a lot about the care the restaurant takes in keeping its customers happy.
Schlesinger's menu has that classic chophouse feel about it. The appetizer lineup of mostly seafood is designed to compliment the main event. There's onion soup and several salads as well.
Peppered sea scallops ($12.50) was a great starter, though for the price I would have liked more than two large scallops. But the dish was superb - pan-seared scallops on a bed of wilted greens with bacon bits and sun-dried tomatoes.
Our second seafood appetizer, New Orleans Style Barbecued Shrimp ($10.95), brought four large shrimp with slices of French bread in a white wine sauce. New Orleans enthusiasts may find this dish too mildly spiced, but shrimp were beautifully cooked with a light peppery taste.
Steaks are the star here, served unadorned or with Bernaise sauce and accompanied by a choice of potatoes. It was hard to find fault with any of them.
A bone-in filet mignon ($39.95), thick and buttery, was livened up with a thin mustard-horseradish crust. A New York strip steak au poivre ($34.95), also thick and bursting with flavor, had a great peppercorn crust and a smooth brandy cream sauce.
The lowly potato is treated royally here as well. Every selection we ordered - the garlic-mashed, crisp wedges or scalloped Schlesinger-style - yielded great results.
Desserts, however, ranged from average to spectacular. A chocolate punctuation cake is Schlesinger's version of the volcano cake made with a liquid chocolate center. It's an outstanding finish, a moist and intensely chocolate creation that's not too sweet.
With so few steakhouses around, Schlesinger's is sure to lasso in meat-lovers.
BY WILLA FRANK
THERE WAS A TIME, and not that long ago, when the only reason to leave Southside to go through Newport News for dinner was when you were on your way to the Trellis. The opening of Port Warwick, with its distinctive homes, shops and restaurants, has changed all that. Schlesinger’s Chop House, under the culinary direction of Executive Chef L’Mande Bagby, is one of the best reasons to make the trek, if you’re not fortunate enough to live nearby.
The muted colors — teals and greens and honey mustard — combine with big windows in the front and along one side of the dining room to lend an air of cool, elegant comfort, much supported by the music piped throughout, which leans toward traditional jazz and some truly classic oldies as well. Wood gleams everywhere, from the curved hostess stand at the entrance to the open-backed chairs and on to the decorative case holding bow ties, glasses and pens in honor of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian, scribe and JFK speech writer for whom the restaurant is named.
Two recent visits — one for dinner, one for a mid-week lunch — proved the restaurant’s strengths far outnumber its weaknesses. Let’s get the thing about the prices out of the way first. This is not a destination for the faint of wallet. Dinner entrees start at $24.95 (crabcakes) and cruise easily up to the $40 mark (several steaks) and beyond (steak and lobster). With appetizers hovering in the low to mid-teens and wine by the glass in the $10 range, an evening of full courses is going to get your attention.