When I started working at the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, I visited Rich Mountain Electric in Mena and was treated to lunch at the Chopping Block Steakhouse by Leon Philpot, the cooperative’s CEO. I loved it. During a recent Let’s Eat visit, I learned that although many years have passed, the restaurant’s fare is as great as ever.
The Chopping Block began as a butcher shop and deli about 48 years ago, and due to its popularity became a full-service restaurant in 1989 — much to the delight of diners craving fresh, hand-cut meats cooked to perfection. William and Sherri Rainey are the proprietors of the establishment. Sherri’s parents, James and Pat Bates, founded the Chopping Block. Sherri has “been at it” for 36 years, and William began cutting meat for Mr. Bates in 1986. William and Sherrie have been married for 28 years.
“We pride ourselves on serving only butcher shop-fresh, hand-cut, choice meats,” William said. “With choice meats you don’t have to season it much to obtain a perfect flavor.”
The Chopping Block is renowned for its hand-cut steaks, which are outstanding and sure to please a beef-lover’s palate. Sirloin, ribeye, filet mignon, New York strip and prime rib cuts are offered. And, you can add ribs, grilled shrimp and crab legs to accompany your steak. My favorite is the sirloin cooked medium-rare with grilled shrimp. The steaks and other dinners are served with a salad or soup and choice of baked potato, fries, mashed potatoes, green beans or broccoli. Regardless of your choice of cut, the steak should exceed your expectations.
William and Sherri asked me if I liked hamburgers. I said of course. The next thing I knew, the Chopping Block’s Huge Burger was wheeled to my table. This mammoth, 2 lb. creation is made of top-grade, fresh ground round beef loaded with American cheese, nine strips of bacon and a buffet of fresh toppings nestled between a fresh bun. The hamburger is easily a six-hander as it covers an entire serving platter!
Sherri said the Huge Burger is popular with groups, but they have had individuals consume them in a sitting. Although I couldn’t devour the whole burger, I was tempted to try by the divine taste of the beef. The burger combined with the wonderful coverings result in an impeccable marriage of flavors.
A few years back, William and Mr. Bates held a competition to see who could cook the best barbeque. As with many family competitions, the friendly contest spanned for more than a decade until it was decided that the William’s Wild Willie flavor was the victor over Mr. Bates’ Jim Dandy entry.
Patrons of the Chopping Block are the real winners as they enjoy the winning recipe for mesquite-smoked ribs, beef brisket and pork loin. The barbeque offerings come with a choice of dry, classic or spicy barbeque sauce.
“We have guests from across the country that visit. But I have had a few Texans begrudgingly admit that our beef brisket is better than they get in Texas,” William said with a grin.
I tried the smoked barbecue ribs and they were “fall-off-the-bone” tender and featured a nice smoky flavor that tells one’s taste buds that the cook knows what he is doing. I’m glad Wild Willie won!
The Chopping Block offers a variety of appetizers, seafood, pasta, steaks, barbeque, chicken, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Lunch specials are offered daily.
Dessert options are plentiful at the Chopping Block. Sherri said the sweet treats vary by the season and include cakes, pies and cheesecakes.
I recommend the French Silk Pie, which is a piece of chocolate heaven, and the Strawberry Daiquiri Cheesecake, which will remind you of sitting on the beach.
“We keep it steady,” William said. “We smoke our meats right, cook our meats right and serve our customers with a caring, personal style. At the end of the day consistency is important, and our goal is to deliver a consummate product to our customers.”