When Louis Prpich opened up the Chowder House at the former Jimmy’s Café in 2009, fans of Jimmy’s might have worried that the colorful décor would get a major makeover. Those worries were largely unfounded as the bold palette and fun, quirky touches are still there.
The menu reflects a change in ownership.
Prpich, who recently opened the nearby with an Italian emphasis, maintains a hand in creating the menu and running the kitchen at Chowder House.
The lunch menu features popular sandwiches such as the lobster roll ($9), pulled pork ($8), East Coast cod ($10) and chicken with goat cheese ($9). Lunch specials cost a tad more. Sandwiches come with chips or you can substitute chilled sesame noodles for an extra $2.
Dinner features include fresh New England baked cod ($17), seafood pasta ($19), Three Little Pigs (boneless pork chop wrapped in bacon and pan fried, set atop roast pork should, with apple demi, served over garlic mashed potatoes, $17), filet mignon medallions ($21) and more.
Many aspects of the menu change daily, depending on what’s available fresh and what fancy strikes the chef. Evidence of how fresh the seafood is arrived in the form of a delivery truck that briefly trapped my car in its parking spot behind the restaurant (note the signage warning you not to park in front of neighboring businesses). Specials are posted on the Chowder House FaceBook page.
I stopped by for lunch on a bright, sunny day recently. It was slightly before a lunch rush that never really became a lunch rush. The pace is relaxed and languid, and self-guided tours of the artful maze are encouraged. Go, ahead, there’s no hurry.
One of the lunch specials that day was scallops over penne pasta with a Cajun cream sauce ($12). The lobster roll had caught my eye already and seafood in some form seemed to be in order. Why not both lobster and scallops? So I ordered a cup of the lobster bisque ($5) – the name does say Chowder House, right? – and then the scallops special.
The fresh-brewed iced tea was darker and stronger than you might be accustomed to. But that extra jolt of caffeine didn’t hurt.
The bisque arrived in due time, accompanied by a slice of sturdy bread. There were plenty of bite-size pieces of lobster swimming in a rich bisque of cream and sherry. It tasted fresh. The bread served as a tasty if temporary substitute for the spoon. Another slice of bread and perhaps the larger bowl of bisque ($6) and you’d have a meal. Just as well I didn't – I still had that order of scallops and pasta to manage.
Two ladies at an adjacent table had also ordered the scallop and penne special, and all three dishes arrived simultaneously. While I fiddled with the camera to get a couple of shots, my neighbors gushed about how good their entrée was. This was gonna be a tough sell.
Well, the scallops were cooked to perfection, with a lightly crisped brown coat on top, not underdone. They waded in a creamy sauce with a nice Cajun bite and something else – the waitress confirmed – ginger and cilantro, and perhaps something else I couldn’t discern. A combination you might not find every day, but delicious. Folks who like their pasta al dente (firm to the bite) might want to request it that way. My penne was fully cooked, which was fine by me. The better to soak up that sauce. I was half-tempted to ask for another slice of bread to soak up the remaining sauce.
As for desserts, which change daily, I returned to form and said no, thank you. My bathroom scale has suffered enough.
All told, I paid $18.11 plus tip, which is a bit more than I’d typically pay for lunch out, but this was certainly worth it. And you’ll always pay a bit more for fresh seafood, especially in (mostly) land-locked Ohio.
There is not a bar on premises, but you can bring your own wine or beer. And bring cash or a check. Chowder House does not do plastic. Lacking that choice might turn off some potential customers, but at least you’re not falling deeper into debt.
Chowder House. 2028 Chestnut Blvd., 330-794-7102.
Open Monday - Friday, 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner, Saturday at 5 p.m. for dinner. Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Cash and checks only accepted.