Restaurant review: So Chopped a welcome addition to Janesville food scene
JANESVILLE—Our group was quite excited to try So Chopped, a unique restaurant located in the Bodacious Shops of Block 42—the newly renovated area on North Main Street in downtown Janesville.
Getting there proved to be a bit difficult, however, because it was a cold and rainy day, and parking was a problem. There are lots on both sides of the building, but they were filled up.
Apparently, at noon on Monday, this place is a happening spot for lunch. Street parking was hard to come by, too, but thankfully there is a city lot just up the block.
Once inside, we found an empty table and settled in. The atmosphere was bright and clean with high ceilings and big windows at the front.
So Chopped offers sandwiches, wraps, homemade soups and specialty salads with a huge selection of dressings from traditional (ranch, Italian, gorgonzola) to exotic (raspberry walnut vinaigrette, basil oil and strawberry fig vinaigrette).
It took us a while to decide what to try.
Once we made up our minds, we stepped up to the counter and placed our orders, watching as our servers mixed and chopped the salads in front of us.
We chose bruschetta steak salad from the “Special of the Day” list (basic $10.20/small $8.09). The moist, tender steak, mixed greens, tomato, onion, shaved Parmesan and croutons with a balsamic reduction dressing were to die for. Balsamic dressing is one of Jennifer's favorites, but it was the steak that won the prize.
The Southwest signature salad ($7.50) looked good, so we ordered that, as well. Served with citrus ginger vinaigrette, the spring mix with corn, black beans, red onion and red and green bell peppers really did have a Southwestern flair. It was the tangy, sweet and refreshing dressing—prominently flavored with ginger—that made this salad special.
Our final salad choice was the fruit, cheese, nut salad (basic $9.25/small $7.25), which contained apples, walnuts, grapes, Gorgonzola cheese and Craisins, interspersed with mixed spring greens. Also served with the sharp citrus ginger vinaigrette, it was a perfect accompaniment to the tangy apples and sweet, juicy grapes.
So Chopped features a daily soup special ($3.95). Tomato basil, the offering of the day during our visit, had small chunks of tomato with just a slight hint of basil. We guessed the fresh, bright soup was made with basil-flavored olive oil from the adjacent Bodacious Olive shop.
The soup was a unique take on an old stand-by, and it was very comforting on a cool, gray day. The week before, we had picked up a to-go order of So Chopped's mushroom and onion bisque, which was a hearty, earthy soup with firm, sliced mushrooms in a rich broth. The addition of rosemary made it exceptional.
From the specialty sandwich menu, we ordered the Philly wrap ($9.95). It came with the choice of chicken or steak and tortilla options of tomato, spinach or wheat.
We went with the steak in a wheat tortilla. Served warm, it was packed full of goodness: chunks of meat, gooey, melted pepper jack cheese, roasted red pepper, mushrooms and onions served with creamy, out-of-this-world spicy Gorgonzola sauce. The wrap came with crunchy kettle chips and a side of pickles, which were thinly-sliced cucumbers coated in balsamic dressing.
We agreed we also wanted to try the pimento-grilled cheese ($4.95), another one of the eatery's signature sandwiches. The menu listed Asiago bread and pretzel bun as options, but they were out of Asiago.
We weren't keen on the pretzel bun, so we asked for an alternative and ended up with a multigrain bread instead.
Featuring velvety melted cheese with chopped pimentos, the sandwich had a hint of spice to it and was served on perfectly crusted bread.
Even though we were stuffed and had plenty of leftovers to take home, a little something sweet was in order. We split a chocolate chip cookie ($1), which was soft and delicious. If we'd have had a little more time, we would have browsed and sampled the olive oils next door or maybe walked through to the Bodacious Brew coffee shop and lingered over a latte. Unfortunately, our lunch hour was ending, and we had places to be.
There were a few bumps in our experience. The service was friendly but slow, and the server forgot one of the main ingredients in the special. But the restaurant offers a back patio with riverside seating that is open year-round and equipped with a heater and fire pit for cooler months. It will be fantastic come warm weather, too.
So Chopped and the other Bodacious shops are much-needed treats for Janesville. We hope they do well.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.