ANTIOCH – As I write this, I'm eagerly thinking about the treat I've got waiting for me in the fridge at home – my leftovers from Johnny's Chophouse.
The menu options were so appealing, and the portions so generous, that I ended up with three-quarters of my entree uneaten despite how enjoyable it was. But that's OK; I expect my pasta dish will reheat nicely.
I stopped by Johnny's with a dining companion on a recent sunny evening after literally five other options left us looking for something better. To be fair, some of the other restaurants we looked at just weren't what we were in the mood for. Johnny's, on the other hand, was clearly the right choice 10 seconds after we walked through the front door.
The pleasant but unassuming exterior hides a very tasteful, elegant dining room. The hardwood floors and dark wood accents around the windows and doorways immediately set you at ease. There were classic songs playing, Sinatra and Bennett and Glenn Miller. Before even seeing a morsel of food, we already liked that Johnny's is a place where you can have a conversation.
Our spinach artichoke appetizer arrived quickly after ordering, and it was a treat. There was grated cheese, diced tomatoes and a hint of garlic to add up to a delightful combination of flavors, and the pita bread for dipping was surprisingly tasty on its own.
Moving along to the salad that accompanied my meal, I was offered and gratefully accepted some pepper, which intensified the flavor of the vegetables and the thousand island dressing (made in-house, I was told). My companion eagerly devoured a creamy chicken soup and proclaimed it delicious.
My entree was the pasta diablo, after my server suggested I'd prefer it to the tortellini bordelaise. The diablo is made up of fettuccine noodles in a spicy tomato vodka cream sauce. The menu lists chicken, sausage or shrimp as suggested meats you can add. I opted for the chicken, again at the server's suggestion. It was the right call – the only thing that stopped me from polishing the whole thing off in a hurry was the warning from my stomach – "Eat one more bite, and you'll have no room for dessert," it told me.
My companion had a similar experience with the top sirloin, a 12 ounce cut of 30 day aged corn-fed beef, according to the menu. Served with grilled onion, it sure looked a lot bigger than 12 ounces. I availed myself of the offered bite and decided that the next time I'm at Johnny's, I'm definitely getting a steak, too.
For dessert, my companion chose the strawberry shortcake and I picked the chocolate lava cake. Mine was rich decadence, smooth chocolate flavor accompanied by vanilla ice cream. I had a taste of the shortcake, and it was fantastic, too.
A common thread you might have noticed was the excellent service. Our server was present without being pushy, always willing to offer suggestions, very friendly and professional. It's always nice to find a restaurant that takes that part of the dining experience seriously.
One part of the menu that we didn't even touch on is seafood, where Johnny's offers shrimp dishes, scallops, salmon, lobster and crab legs. There's calamari on the appetizer menu, too.
Bottom line: If you're looking for a nice night out for dinner, Johnny's Chophouse is a great choice.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
Where: 1500 Main St., Antioch
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (bar open until 11 p.m.); 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (bar open until midnight); brunch available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, full menu from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Tuesday
Dress code: Casual
Info: 847-838-2015 or johnnyschophouse.com