DO NOT eat at J & J Chop House, and not just because the food is hit or miss. Long winded reviews are only read by about 20% of people scanning reviews. I am going to go into detail about my experience at J & J Chop House, so if you don’t read any further just know in conclusion I am going to say you’ll waste your money on inconsistent food and patronize a restaurant owned and operated by a complete jerk.
I’ve owned a vacation home in West Jefferson in Ashe County North Carolina since 2005. I have tried to support every restaurant that has tried to take root in the surrounding area for the past seven years by eating there myself as well as encouraging friends, family and employees, clients and vendors who use my cabin to support the local restaurants as well. With Matthew’s and Sweet Aromas having closed within the past year I was initially thrilled to see a place like J & J Chop House had opened.
My wife and I read some reviews of J &J Chop House and saw they’d received about 50% positive ratings from their reviewers over the past year. But knowing that it sometimes takes 1-2 years for a new establishment to hit its stride, we lowered our expectations and set out to visit J & J Chop House on the evening of August 11.
What Went Well
J & J Chop House is located at 327 Main St in Jefferson, NC. They’ve up fitted an old house and made an attractive restaurant with a nice deck for an outside dining option. We were greeted by a friendly hostess and despite reading a few poor reviews about service our waitress was very cordial and attentive and made good recommendations for sides and dessert. The wine list was small, but had nice selections. We had two nice glasses of wine and the crab dip appetizer. My wedge salad was excellent (served with two dressings to satisfy either the blue cheese lover or those wanting something in the sweeter side). The coleslaw accompanying my wife’s entrée was excellent. Unfortunately I cannot include the rest of the entrees in the “What Went Well” section. For dessert we had the chocolate cake and it was very good: moist and delicious.
What We We’re Willing to Overlook
The J & J menu has a steak cooking guide printed in the menu. I like “Medium - Warm Pink Center” and double checked it in the menu to see that it was described just that way before ordering. My 6 ounce fillet arrived cold and what more closely matched the “Well Done – No Pink” description in the menu. But I was just happy to be out of the house so I accepted the A1 Steak Sauce the waitress had offered and put in the effort to eat the steak with no complaints. My wife ordered the fish and chips. What arrived were cold, overcooked French fries and two, small, overcooked pieces of fish with two smaller pieces– about the size of a silver dollar with almost no fish inside. My wife forked through the thick doughy batter and to find rubbery, hard fish inside. My guess is in a town where restaurants close by 9 PM our 8:30 PM arrival required the kitchen to turn the deep fryer back on and it didn’t get up to temperature well enough to cook the fish properly. My wife never sends anything back, but the fish wasn’t edible so she called the waitress over to explain. She said she was happy to just finish the coleslaw and maybe have dessert. The waitress said she was sorry and would take the fish and chips off the bill. A few minutes later the owner arrived at our table (recognized from his picture on the table as the second “J” in the J & J name, Jerry). He asked in what sounded a rather stern tone, “What is the problem with the fish?” I thought this was slightly odd way to handle the situation, but gave him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t being rude. My wife said it wasn’t edible; that it was overcooked and hard and that she would just eat the coleslaw and he didn’t have to replace the fish. He asked if she wanted another order and she replied, “No. I am not upset about the fish, I am just not going to eat it. We’re fine – everything else is very good.” Jerry, still without a customary apology, spun on heel and returned to the kitchen. My wife and I both were reconciled to forgive the bad entrees. She just wasn’t going to eat hers, but didn’t want anything other than what the waitress had already offered – to not be charged for the inedible fish and chips.
We finished the meal with the nice dessert mentioned above. At this point we didn’t have the greatest experience, but we were talking about how we’d definitely come back since some things were good and they’d maybe do better on the couple of lackluster items next time. I was planning to leave a note at our vacation home recommending J & J Chop House to all of our visitors.
What Was Inexcusable
When our bill arrived the total was $90.24 and it included the $15 fish and chips. I assumed it was an oversight by the waitress and told her so. She turned ghost white and nervously asked if the owner had come to our table and I told her he had. Her voice trembled as she explained that the owner had told her to put the charge back on our bill. She apologized and asked if I wanted to speak to him. I initially said yes to which she replied he was on the phone. I was furious, realizing that his demeanor when he’d come to our table earlier was exactly what it appeared to be, defensive and hostile. I decided not to wait for him to get off the phone and to simply pay the bill in full (adding full tip for the faultless waitress) and leave, never to return.
As we went out to our car we found Jerry behind the restaurant on the phone. My wife approached him and asked why he’d reversed the waitress’s offer to remove the fish and chips form our bill. He replied that the fish had been cooked perfectly, she should have been satisfied with it and he expected us to pay for it. He said something else indiscernible to either of us and resumed his phone conversation while walking away. We were awestruck. We have never experienced such behavior from a restaurateur before and he’d totally soured our experience.
You are welcome to confirm by checking my Yelp reviews that I have reviewed both high end and lower end of the spectrum restaurants. I’ve only given one other negative review and that was to a restaurant that got lots of bad reviews and closed within a few months. The point is that I am historically positive about restaurant experiences and give a lot of latitude. As you see from this recounting of our experience at J & J Chop Shop that they do some things well and others might in fact have a good experience there. But based on our encounter with the second J in J & J I will never set foot there again nor advocate anyone else do so.
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