Guest Post: The Definitive Review of Urban's Chophouse
Bill DiFilippo and Patrick Mayhorn start with a Shelleytini for two. It can only go up from there, right? Also: the bathroom from Hell.
When the Urban Meyer story broke, I felt a responsibility. It was time to perform some journalism, even if it meant putting beloved colleagues in mortal peril.
Enter our two heroes: Bill DiFilippo (associate editor, Uproxx Sports and Dime Magazine, also Roar Lions Roar) and Patrick Mayhorn (associate editor of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, creator of The Outside Zone, co-host of Flipping the Field).
These intrepid reporters set out to answer the question on all of our minds since last weekend: will a Giant Shelleytini for two and a variety of Urban Chophouse’s small plates kill or merely maim?
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Urban Meyer’s resumé as a college (IMPORTANT DISTINCTION) football coach is unimpeachable. Do I like the guy? Not really, no, I’d go as far as to say I am decidedly not a fan! But he’s won a lot of games and some national titles and yeah, whatever, no one needs me to go through this.
But how is he as a restaurateur? Well, folks, we’re here to find out. Recently, a bunch of pictures and videos began popping up on Twitter of Urban Meyer after a few too many Giant Shelleytinis (I swear those two words will make more sense in a bit) as a way to be less sad about how bad the Jacksonville Jaguars are. It’s led to a lot of people getting jokes off, but I fell into six figures of debt from a rival Big Ten institution to do journalism.
As such, the Michigan Man™ behind The Bucket Problem asked if I would be interested in going and eating some of the food from the place where Urban had his big night out, Urban Chophouse by Urban Meyer in the Short North district of Columbus, Ohio. It is a restaurant that has, by my count, 11 pictures of Urban in it.
I tell you this for two reasons: 1. That is far too many pictures of any one person in one restaurant and, 2. It makes all the more funny that one picture that went around was of Urban with his arm around someone and the caption “WHO IS THIS HE KEEPS FLIRTING WITH ME.”
Anyway, hi! I’m Bill, I’m here as a favor for Ace, who is graciously paying for me to do this. I am accompanied by Patrick, who joined me in presenting thoughts on the meal and experience that we had. Let’s eat some food that is very expensive. We will list out exactly what it says in the descriptions of the items on the menu. But first, a beverage.
1. The Giant Shelleytini, $40
BILL: There is a drink on the menu named after Urban’s wife, Shelley, who famously had a quiet night at home last Saturday. It is served in a huge martini glass and is comprised of: Finlandia, aperol, agave, pineapple, lemon, and hibiscus. After these ingredients are poured out of a monstrous shaker into the glass that is placed on your table and garnished with dried lemons and limes, along with a pair of presumably edible flowers, someone pours half a bottle of sparkling rose into it. It is for up to six people.
You can place two and two together here but it is Not Good. Just absolutely wretched. I understand I am not the target audience here but you cannot taste alcohol in it, it just tastes like bad sweet nonsense with some fizz in it. You are given a straw, although it seems to make the most sense, to me, to serve it in normal sized glasses and not have a bunch of people ritualistically sipping out of it. It did lead to some good dudes rock moments with my pal, so at least I have that, and really, if you can’t have that at a restaurant named for a college football coach, what can you have?
PATRICK: To fully explain the experience of drinking this, I have to detail the first time I ever drank so much that I threw up.
I was approaching my 21st birthday but had not yet hit it, and my ex-girlfriend's mom, in some sort of misguided act of pity, decided to gift us with about half a bottle of orange Triple Sec. Beyond approximately one beer, I had never consumed alcohol prior. I think you know where this is headed.
I drank far, far too much, straight from the bottle, with no mixer or chaser. I did it on an empty stomach, because I was cooking some chicken and rice and thought it would taste better if I was drunk.
Three hours later, I actually ate my dinner. I spent the time between my first drink and my first dinner as a drunk person on the bathroom floor in my apartment.
Drinking the Giant Shelleytini was in almost all ways an identical experience to that, except I didn’t get drunk at all, and the entree was worse.
2. Deviled Eggs (crowned w/ voodoo shrimp), $11
PATRICK: I actually didn’t mind these. The Chophouse has decided on a very strange combination here, pairing some perfectly fine deviled eggs with some extremely good shrimp. Both pieces were quite good on their own, and as I told Bill, I would happily eat an entire dish of the shrimp. It had a really nice General Tso’s taste to it, that kind of sweet and savory combination that you get at a Chinese takeout place.
But, together, they just took away from each other. It felt like I was eating two different appetizers at the same time.
BILL: Important I mention this from the jump, I fucking hate deviled eggs. The only reason I got this was because I wanted the picture. The eggs have goddamn shrimp shoved in them. They are fried and tossed in a sauce. The shrimp, lovely, absolutely fantastic. The deviled eggs, no. Shoved together and it just does not work. The shrimp rock! They are not, however, rock shrimp ha ha just some humor.
3. Crispy Rice (spicy tuna, jalapeno, spicy mayo), $16
BILL: Weird dish. It’s a brick of rice that is fried on the outside but soft and pillowy on the inside, then there’s tuna and some spicy mayo and a single thinly sliced bit of jalapeno on it? The waiter (we’ll get to him later) said it would be the final thing he ate before he died. Someone on Twitter called it the worst thing they’d ever eaten.
[Barack Obama voice] The answer is somewhere in the middle. Just confusing, the stuff on top was kinda strange and tasted like most tuna you’d get in sushi, while the jalapeno was far too much for the dish and the spicy mayo was fine. The rice cake thing was nice! I’d probably not eat this dish again but that rice cake, we’ve got something going here.
PATRICK: I really liked the texture of the rice cake, but I also like the burnt rice at the bottom of the rice cooker, and it had that exact quality to it. Kind of crunchy, not really anything beyond that - more than serviceable for a man that has eaten, and will again eat uncooked ramen noodles (the texture is nice, leave me alone).
But everything else here, again, just didn’t really fit. The tuna atop the rice cake was also fine on its own, but it was glazed with a sweet and spicy mayo that would have been quite a bit better on a more savory cut of fish. The jalapeno on top was useless. I really don’t hate the idea here, but I think that some eel on top with a sweet soy glaze would work a whole lot better. Almost like a deconstructed, white person version of nigiri.
4. Urban Sushi Roll (tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, seared filet mignon, wasabi mayo, eel sauce, wasabi tobiko), $27
PATRICK: Not good. It was going for something resembling surf and turf, with beef on top and some sort of mystery fish within (maybe shrimp? I couldn’t taste it), alongside avocado, with wasabi on top. The wasabi was overpowering, and the only other piece of it with any flavor was the avocado. The dish improved when Bill recommended drenching it in soy sauce, which he was correct about, but this was actually quite a bit worse than what you’d get at the Kroger.
BILL: Drek. Absolutely awful. It was weirdly smoky. The seared filet mignon on it is literally a paper-thin strip that is, like, tossed on a flame for 10 seconds and then draped onto the roll. It is as unsatisfying as a press conference after you were a very bad boy at a steakhouse with your name on it. My honest-to-god guess is that Urban wanted to Football Guy™ this (or, rather, the person making this dish for Urban wanted to do that) and add STEAK MANLY STEAK DELICIOUS STEAK RED MEAT STEAAAAAAK to something that never has steak on it for a reason. Just bad.
A BRIEF INTERMISSION TO TALK BELLS AND WHISTLES
BILL: Our waiter was lovely. The experience of being at the restaurant and interacting with people was terrific — every staffer, from our waiter (honestly, highest possible marks for dude) to the person who made it a point when Patrick went to the bathroom to fold up his napkin, was great. Easily the best part of the meal, we made sure to tip well and they deserved more.
Ambiance, not great. There are no fewer than 11 pictures of Urban Meyer, between actual pictures of the man (there might have been paintings, too?) and the gigantic mural that wraps around the ceiling. Patrick had a better sense of this than me because I sat facing outside since we were worried about me being parked illegally (I wasn’t but the gosh darn parking meter wouldn’t print something for me to put on my dashboard, I do not break laws, I respect our troops). There is a chandelier that has to weigh more than an airplane and is the gaudiest thing I have ever seen.
Then there is the bathroom. I’m gonna let Patrick talk about this because this is the thing to which he had the strongest emotional response. You ever see someone walk out of a bathroom laughing before? Me neither until tonight! Patrick straight up said “you are not prepared for what you are about to see,” and he was right.
Also there was one dude who walked into the restaurant who had the Hulk Hogan wraparound hairdo thing but with the Sid Vicious curls, I have never seen anything like it, nor will I ever see anything like it again.
PATRICK: I had a viscerally negative reaction to the bathroom, followed immediately by actual, full-on laughter. I’m hoping that Ace will let me attach a picture of it [Ed: sure did!], because my words cannot possibly do it justice. After a brief walk through the gallery of Urban pictures all over the restaurant, the bathroom is in a bit of an enclave, with these absolutely bizarre pictures — essentially classic paintings, done up to be… quirky and random? There’s a Mona Lisa, but she’s blowing a bubble. You get the idea.
Once into the bathroom, I was met with what I described immediately to Bill as we were leaving as “The Ska Bathroom.” Black bricks with white caulking. Acid vision backsplash. A gold bordered mirror. Two fairly standard sinks, bisected with a dish that offered, among other things, mouthwash. The toilets are all black. It could not possibly be more different than the rest of the restaurant. I cannot imagine Urban Meyer was terribly pleased about this bathroom.
(Quick Bill note here: The restaurant shares a lobby with another restaurant that gives off a vibe that matches what the bathroom was going for, but still, can you imagine Urban Meyer walking into a bathroom and looking at a goth Mona Lisa blowing bubble gum? Try, it is very funny.)
5. Pigskin Potato (note: it didn’t say what this is but it’s a twice-baked potato, more or less), $14
PATRICK: This was wonderful. The bacon, cheese sauce and potato all worked well together, and though it became immediately inedible as soon as it cooled down, it was extremely good when they first brought it out.
BILL: Best part of the meal by a country mile. It was terrific. It’s a twice-baked potato with cheese sauce and bacon on it so the odds it’d stink were like +75000, but in fairness, once it got cold and congealed it was kinda weird. Still, outstanding. I like to think Urban Meyer cooked this one for me himself :).
6. Seafood Bucatini (lobster, shrimp, mussels, asparagus, spicy tomato cream, pecorino, ciabatta), $42
BILL: Called “coach’s favorite” on the menu, I got this because my last name ends in a vowel. It STUNK. The pasta needed another like two minutes to cook, it was firm and chewy and just underwhelming. Honestly, I can go cook up some Barilla right now and it will be better. The spicy tomato cream was not spicy at all and needed salt. The whole thing needed that little bit of salt that you need to make something taste good, really. Lot of asparagus flavor because there was a whole heck of a lot of asparagus in it, which, asparagus rocks, so I generally liked it but it felt a bit out of place.
The shrimp were huge and cooked mostly fine, but the tails were still on. Didn’t like that, not one bit. If you ever cook shrimp, take the dang tails off, you sinner! The mussels were very snotty because they were eaten in Ohio and not in a place where you get fresh mussels. The crostini served with it tasted like fire. As I am writing this up I am getting more and more upset. Gonna stop now, thank’s.
PATRICK: I only had a few bites of it, and I’m not Italian, so I’m going to defer largely to my compatriot here. The pasta was fine for me, but I like my pasta a little undercooked. The shrimp was, similarly, pretty good. The “fresh Ohio mussels”1 made me feel physically ill. I didn’t mind the sauce, but I think that’s largely by virtue of only taking a few bites of it.
7. “THE” 7-0 (red sauce, seven cheeses, zero meat) (note: it specifies that there is zero meat on the menu, I swear to god), $17
PATRICK: My first piece was excellent. It came out hot, looking quite a bit more like a cheese pizza than a flatbread, but the sauce was warm, the cheese, while abundant, wasn’t overwhelming, and the bread, even while weirdly chewy, worked pretty well with the other flavors involved.
Each piece that followed was immeasurably worse. About five minutes after my first foray, I took a trip to the other half of the flatbread to nab another corner piece, expecting something of a similar experience. Good lord. It was just awful. The cheese, like in the potato, had immediately congealed and turned from heavy but tasty enough to cover it, into just heavy. It felt like eating bubble gum on top of a wet piece of toast. The sauce was completely gone, absorbed by the cheese, and I was left with approximately 500 calories of absolute dogshit.
Because I respect the readers of this newsletter and take seriously my responsibility as a journalist, I dived back in for one more piece after several sips of the Shelleytini as punishment for accepting this invitation from Bill and Ace. The second corner piece had been disappointing, but I didn’t want to count out the entire dish without trying one of the inside pieces. The way it was set up, every piece was a crust piece, but I wanted one that was primarily flatbread, not crust as the corners were.
I don’t really think I need to walk extensively through this one. It was still really bad. It was worse, even. The very nice waiter asked as we were paying if I wanted a box for this, and honestly, I think I would have spent more of Ace’s money to keep this out of my refrigerator.
BILL: One slice is good! It’s not a flatbread, more an oval-shaped pizza. The issue is there is just far too much cheese and it sits in your stomach like a brick, although I suppose that might have more to do with the several thousand other calories we ate in this meal. Patrick is right about everything else.
BILL: So, in a thing I don’t think is going to come as a surprise to anyone, this is very obviously a restaurant that exists to get Ohio State fans looking for a nice night out in the trendy area of Columbus to go “oh HELL YEAH this has URBAN MEYER’S NAME ON IT.” The menu features an Urban Meyer seal of approval and, I swear to god, it is in a menu holder made out of a football.
So much of the food really is overkill — the flatbread doesn’t need seven cheeses, the sushi roll doesn’t need a thin strip of steak on it, the Giant Shelleytini doesn’t need to exist, the deviled eggs don’t need shrimp in them, the restaurant doesn’t need a million pictures of Urban Meyer in it, etc. There is so much overindulgence going on at just about every turn that the place cannot get out of its own way.
There is, funny enough, an analogy to be made here between the restaurant and Urban Meyer the person and the football coach. So much of his existence has revolved around the fact that he has not been told he’s wrong since the Clinton administration. At every twist and turn, through sheer force of will and Being Urban Meyer, dude has gotten his way.
This is a restaurant that tries to do the same — you will like this, Buckeye, because it has Urban’s name on it a few times, because LOOK IT’S A PIC OF HIM AND ZEKE THEY WON A LOT HA HA COOL O-H, because the name “Urban Meyer” means to some people what “Donald Trump'' means to some of the same people but largely other people, something synonymous with success and winning and all that nonsense that mostly just means the marketing folks around a person work hard. This is a restaurant that tries to be cool and hip with the least cool and hip person who has ever lived. It is weird trying to square the name on the restaurant with what the restaurant tries to do for that reason.
The food/bev was ultimately not-great-to-meh (except for that fucking potato, christ almighty I’d inhale one right now and my GERD is acting up while I write this from eating at that place), the vibe of restaurant itself was a lot, and there were far too many pictures of Urban, but hey, at least the service kicked ass. I am sure Urban would love to be 1-3 elsewhere right now.
PATRICK: The chintzy nature of, well, everything, reeked of a fancy restaurant designed by a football coach. It was new money “fine dining” for new money people, which happens to be every rich person in Columbus outside of famous pervert Les Wexner. It looked, and felt, like being in a house designed by Urban and Shelley Meyer. It was tacky and shitty and didn’t feel like anyone actually lived (or in this case ate) there, because for the most part, no one does. This house is not for living in, it’s for looking at. It’s an AirBnb for food.
I’m going to compare the restaurant to Urban as well, but I have a slightly different parallel to draw here. Every single thing we ordered, short of the Shelleytini, started off, at least to me, fairly well. The sushi wasn’t very good and the crispy rice wasn’t for me, but I did like the deviled eggs, Bill’s entree was strong in the few bites I had, and as I mentioned, that first piece of flatbread was legitimately excellent.
It’s just that when you eat any more of it, it declines. Sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly. The staple ideology at this restaurant is that, like with Urban as a football coach, it’s probably going to start off really well, and then you need to get it off of your table as soon as you possibly can, because the cheap cheese starts to congeal, and then you’re stuck with Greg Schiano as your defensive coordinator and your best man as the linebackers coach.
Bill and Patrick have my eternal gratitude for putting their stomachs, livers, and lives on the line to bring you this post. You can find Bill’s work at Uproxx Sports and Dime Magazine, as well as Roar Lions Roar. Patrick covers Ohio State at the Buckeye Sports Bulletin, writes on everything Group of Five at The Outside Zone, and co-hosts Flipping the Field.
Ace here: I used this horrific phrase when I saw the menu Bill and Patrick had chosen and nearly caused them to call the whole deal off, which… would’ve been entirely fair.