Entries in Choptank (3)


Review Recap: Choptank

Today, Sam Sifton dropped a surprisingly harsh goose-egg on Choptank. Despite liking many dishes, he found the food highly uneven and unfaithful to its Chesapeake namesake:

Choptank the restaurant opened this winter on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, taking the watershed as its muse and Baltimore as its butler. The restaurant evokes the Chesapeake region in the way that dorm rooms at Johns Hopkins do: Duck Head khakis in the dresser and lacrosse sticks leaning against the desk, postcards from Rehoboth Beach tacked to the wall along with the covering board from grandfather’s sloop, a thrift-store oil painting, sconces from mom.

So there ain’t no pit beef here, hon. Too low-class. No steamed crabs on paper tablecloths, either. (Though they say come summer.) You can’t buy a can of Natty Boh beer. (The company doesn’t distribute up north.) There is a fine Ostrowski’s Polish sausage sitting with its pretzel brother on a plate, garlicky as a Pigtown housewife, but there is no John Waters to Choptank, much less Avon Barksdale or Stringer Bell. The restaurant’s vibe is suburban, as safe as Cal Ripken.

The food is to match, especially among the appetizers: crab dip out of a Junior League cookbook, with potato chips russet with Old Bay seasoning, all celery salt and heat; church-supper Virginia ham, with biscuits that taste morning-made and midday-refrigerated.

We liked Choptank better than Sifton did, but he paid more visits and sampled more of the menu. We agree that if it’s that uneven, zero stars is the correct rating. We are surprised, however, that he bothered to waste a a review on a place he considered so unimportant. Whatever.

We and Eater both lose a dollar on our hypothetical bets.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $7.00   $19.00
Gain/Loss –1.00   –1.00
Total $6.00   $18.00
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 7–9

Life-to-date, New York Journal is 79–34 (70%).


Review Preview: Choptank

Tomorrow, Sam Sifton reviews the West Village’s casual seafooder, Choptank. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows: Goose Egg: 50–1; One Star: 2–1; Two Stars: 3–1; Three Stars: 500–1; Four Stars: 25,000–1

While we loved Choptank for what it is, it struck us as fundamentally a one-star concept—in the good sense of that term. Sifton has been less inclined than his predecessor to toss out two-star ratings like candy bars. We therefore have little hesitation in predicting a positive one star for Choptank.



Note: Choptank closed in December 2010 after suffering water damage from a massive leak above the dining room. The owner divided the space in half, and re-opened part of it as Caffe Muzio, a casual Italian restaurant.


Choptank opened recently in the space abandoned by Anito Lo’s misguided Asian barbecue shop, Bar Q.

I have to give the mangement this much credit: they didn’t stint on the build-out. No sign of the Bar Q décor has survived—not that you mourn it. It’s a significant investment for a casual place serving entrées under $25, but so far it seems to be working. They have a lot of seats to fill, and full they were on a Friday evening.

The emphasis is on seafood, but the burger is terrific, and another reviewer loved the chicken. Blissfully, the menu fits on one page and features what the kitchen does well. So far, we think they have it right.

Clam chowder ($12; above left) was slightly (but I must emphasize, only slightly) less hot than we’d like, but otherwise very good. Polish sausage with sauerkraut and a house-made pretzel ($7; above right) comes from a section labeled “nibbles,” but in fact it’s a full-size appetizer, and a very good one at that.

The burger ($15; above left) was first-rate, one of the best we’ve tasted in a while. Nor could I find any fault with the Oyster Po’ Boy ($15; above right), with crisp oysters and a toasted bun. Chef Matthew Schaefer likes the deep fryer, and he seems to have mastered it.

The space is large, as an outdoor patio with thermopane windows is usable year-round. We were seated there on a winter evening, and didn’t feel cold at all. Our server was attentive, and the kitchen kept things moving.

The bar area is unfortunately under-sized, and it is popular. I arrived early and needed to stand a while before I got one of the few stools available. The house cocktails are mostly $12 or less, and the two I tried were excellent.

Choptank isn’t a “stop everything, you must go here” kind of restaurant, but it’s one of the better casual restaurants we’ve tried in the West Village. A number of recent places nearby have the fine dining route, and wound up with a more expensive menu than the neighborhood would bear. Choptank gets it exactly right.

Choptank (308–310 Bleecker Street between Grove & Barrow Streets, West Village)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: *