MORRIS – Downtown Morris has a unique, homey feel with all of its shopping options.
But heading to the Morris Chop Shop, I was uncertain what to expect.
Judging from the website, employees were serious about their food and ingredients.
Upon arrival, it was clear they were serious about their service too.
We showed up in the early afternoon, not a busy time by any means, and the service was quick and professional as we were led to a booth in one of several large dining areas.
I’m told that groups, including the Morris Rotary Club, meet in one of the other rooms regularly.
Even holding the firm menu in my hands, it was clear the Chop Shop has done the work to be a fine dining establishment.
They pride themselves on locally sourced ingredients, and you can get anything from a reasonable lunch item to a $50 20-ounce porterhouse steak.
Since we were there for lunch, we went for the reasonable options, testing out a few unique appetizers too. We started with candied bacon and cigars, which have pulled rotisserie chicken, black beans, sweet corn, scallions, Monterrey jack with chipotle-apricot aioli in two large cigar-shaped shells.
It was a great place to start, though eating two of those also put a bit of a dent in my hunger.
The candied bacon was the perfect sweet and tasty option, with its brown sugar and chipotle glaze, to set us up for the main course. It was crispy, sweet but not too sweet, and perfect to bring home some for another treat later.
As for the main course, it’s clear you can’t go wrong with the burger and the portion size. The burger came perfectly cooked and was as tasty and juicy as you can imagine with a rather large baked potato on the side.
That was what my dining partner ordered.
I figured I’d go away from the norm a bit with a daily special, the soft shell crab sandwich. The server had the list of daily specials on a tablet that he left at the table so we could decide.
I’m the type of person who is many times skeptical of going after seafood when I’m in middle America with winter approaching. It just is hard to imagine that food getting here efficiently or an ocean at a time like this.
But wow, was I wrong.
The sandwich was outstanding, as I mentioned earlier they’re serious about their ingredients, and took me away to weeks spent on vacation a lot closer to the beach. And the smashed red potatoes on the side were the right choice too.
I wasn’t in the mood for fries and I was happy I chose something different.
I was also happy I headed to downtown Morris that day, despite the fact the weather all around was getting a lot colder.
Inside, we found a relaxed atmosphere with top-of-the line service and a menu so diverse I could have ordered anything from a smoked brisket gyro to a Maine lobster and wedge sandwich, from Ahi Tuna Hawaiian Poke as an appetizer to a filet sliders trio, watermelon bruschetta or Maryland crab cakes on the appetizer menu or even fresh shucked oysters.
The menu leaves you with options for most tastes, including seven different salads, using fresh ingredients from local family farmers.
And it will also likely leave you happy you made the trip.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at The Herald-News. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Morris Chop Shop
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: 701 Liberty St., Morris