Gus’s Chop House in Brooklyn

Service during a recent friends-and-family dinner at Gus’s Chop House.
Photo: Jonah Rosenberg

When chef Chris McDade and sommelier James O’Brien opened Popina in a postage-stamp-size Columbia Street space, they approached their food in a way that felt unique, even if it was difficult to immediately grasp: classic Italian cooking filtered through the lens of a chef reared in the American South. (Turns out the idea of spicy fried chicken cutlets makes sense in both regions.)

On the surface, their next project — Gus’s Chop House — seems much more straightforward, but take note that it is a chophouse and decidedly not a steakhouse. “A chophouse is different from a steakhouse because it’s neighborhood-y,” says McDade. “It’s not an expense-account place. It’s a lot of meat, but it also focuses on fish and vegetables.”

When it opens next week in the old La Cigogne space on Union Street — a leafy block lined with shoulder-to-shoulder brownstones — it will manage to bring something new to the neighborhood by looking back at places like Quality Chop House, a working-man’s tavern in London that dates to the early 1900s, and restaurants that offer straightforward food and comfortable surroundings (white brick, dark banquettes, a working fireplace) without sacrificing a sense of occasion. “There is so much old-school, staunch Brooklyn Italian, which we love,” says McDade. “But we didn’t want to replicate Popina and do more Italian or Southern — we wanted to offer something different.”

Gus’s is scheduled to open on August 31.
Photo: Jonah Rosenberg

McDade’s menu will offer three cuts of prime dry-aged beef and a rotating bar steak, all cooked on a plancha; two to three cuts of heritage pork; lamb from Elysian Fields; and a dry-brined, head– and feet–on chicken served with onion jus that’s heavy on the sherry. There will be a couple of fish dishes too — like trout cooked on the binchotan — and charred Caraflex cabbage with dried black lime grated over the top. “That dried lime is a little surprise that we want for every dish,” McDade says. “A taste that’s maybe unfamiliar that will get the table talking and guessing.”

As for other vegetables, a starter called leeks à la wedge combines two classics into a singular new idea. Plate-size hash browns will be topped with smoked trout roe. An eggplant pave is a layered casserole of eggplant and zucchini that’s pressed down, cooked in tomato béchamel, and topped with fresh tomato and a sprinkle of cheese that gets browned under the salamander.

Roasted chicken with French-onion jus.

Yes, there is plenty of steak.

Starters include anchovy toast and leeks à la wedge, which combines two classic dishes into a single new idea.

Hash browns with trout roe.

McDade and O’Brien want Gus’s to become a regular stop for the neighborhood’s many families.

Photographs by Jonah Rosenberg

What to drink? By the glass, O’Brien is planning three sparkling wines, four whites, four to five reds, an orange, and a rosé that will rotate all the time. By the bottle, he has assembled a one-page seasonal value-driven list of wines under $100 —“fun stuff that pairs well with chops and steaks.” There will also be a full wine book for anyone who wants to spend a bit more or nerd out. Or have a cocktail! Freezer martinis will look nice on the cherrywood bar, or go for one of the drink specials that’s printed on a butcher-paper list.

In the end, McDade and O’Brien want Gus’s to be an easy choice — a place where you can drop in for bar steak and a pile of fries on a weeknight or go big for a Saturday feast. “Our neighbors became such a source of support during COVID,” says McDade, an Atlanta native who speaks with a soft drawl. “We wanted to do a restaurant that would continue to give back.”

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