The Art of Dining
January 2023 Issue
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen
Owner Robert Saxton of Chophouse 119 emphatically stated, “You’re not going to get a better cut of filet in America.” And after savoring every bite of the 12-ounce, center-cut, cooked to medium rare perfection filet, I agree. I am not a connoisseur of beef, but Robert and Executive Chef Daniel Williamson are, and they have brought their expertise and passion for high quality and excellence to Hilton Head Island.
“We are all about the steaks. We source them from New York City and Pat LaFrieda, America’s most celebrated butcher. The beef is cultivated from small specialty farms, which offers our dining patrons a higher experience overall,” Robert explained.
I sat down with Robert and his wife, Egle Saxton, to experience Chophouse 119 like never before. This wasn’t my first time dining here, so I knew I was in for a gastric delicacy. We started the meal with bread and caviar service. The housemade bread is a perfected recipe that Chef Daniel worked on for years. It is dense and thick, perfectly soft in middle, delightfully crispy on the crust—definitely the best bread basket offered in the Lowcountry. As far as the caviar, well, this too is unique to our area, offering up 50g of Kaluga Hybrid caviar (or you may choose Osetra) served along side homemade blinis, shallots, whites and yolk chopped egg, chives, onions with a vodka black pepper crème fraîche.
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet that you’re going to have an experience at Chophouse 119 that, according to Chef Daniel, “isn’t available within 500 miles of here,” then I’m not doing my job as a writer. When Robert, who is a life-long restauranteur, set out to change his Shelter Cove Towne Centre space from his popular and successful New York City Pizza chain (6 locations) to a fine-dining chophouse, he left no detail unturned. His goal was to create a classic, old school steakhouse, adding a modern twist. A native of New York City and a world traveler, who makes it his purpose to visit and dine at Michelin-starred establishments wherever he goes, Robert knew the caliber of restaurant he was out to design.
“When you think of a steakhouse, you think New York, Chicago, getting dressed up. It’s not just going out to eat, it’s a full dining experience,” Robert explained. To add to the experience, standards crooner Bobby Ryder peppers the atmosphere with live music every Tuesday and Friday nights. The atmosphere is the coziest of cozy, combining elements of glass, brick, wood, chandeliers, and metro and sexy art. One would think the Rat Pack is sitting in their regular back corner table surrounded by women like Marilyn, Angie, Shirley and Lauren. Chophouse 119 is a place to get dolled up, enjoy perfectly mixed cocktails, get swept up in the atmosphere, and get wooed by the food.
However, we have to discuss the service. After all, service can make or break a dining experience. Our waiter was Guillermo Lelkes, and he was the ultimate professional. Even though Robert was at my table, Guillermo never broke professional protocol. He attended to every need before we realized we needed it. He kept a close watchful eye and knew the menu inside and out. He, along with the entire staff, knows the intricacies of the beef and understands the art of dining.
Our caviar service was accompanied by the Seasoned Cured Meats board, which is offered in both small and large sizes. With a selection that included Soppressata, Toscana, Chorizo, Pastrami cured and Smoked Duck Breast, along with a creative array of nuts, mustards, pickled onions and more, this appetizer is an excellent value. The smoked duck breast is delectable.
After a delicious Baby Iceberg Salad with housemade buttermilk bleu cheese dressing, the well-known question of where’s the beef was finally answered. In front of me was the aforementioned filet mignon AND a 4-ounce Miyazaki A5 Tenderloin of Wagyu. I had never eaten Wagyu, and certainly not of this quality. Of course I knew it existed, but I had no idea the difference would be so astounding. Dining at Chophouse 119 is definitely a lesson that all beef is not created equal, and you get what you pay for. Honestly, If I’m not mistaken, I heard angels sing when I took my first bite of that Wagyu, but I am a steak lover and my angels know it.
One of the best parts of the meal was how excited Robert and Chef Daniel were to share it with me and see me understand their passion. These two men, along with General Manager Jorge Villalobos, live to share their love of first-class, uniquely and creatively prepared food to bring exalted delight to their patrons.
If you love fine dining, crave the highest quality beef prepared to your perfection, or just want to settle into a place where you can be a regular (and treated as such), Chophouse 119 is for you. Is Hilton Head ready for Chophouse 119? Well, it depends on how good you’re willing to let it get. If you’re looking excellence, you’ve found your place.
Pictured Left to Right: Executive Chef Daniel Williamson,
General Manager Jorge Villalobos, owners Robert and Egle Saxton
When You Go
Offering a delectable array of finest quality beef, fresh fish, creative sides, fabulous fries, extensive wine list and decadent desserts.
Outside Oyster & Raw Bar
Shelter Cove Towne Centre, Unit 119, Hilton Head Island
For reservations: 843-785-4200 | Open Daily 5:00 p.m. to Close
Live Music: Bobby Ryder—Tuesday and Friday & Dean St. Hilaire—Saturday