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Wilmette Chop House is located 1162 Wilmette Avenue Wilmette Illinois. Rack Lamb with mint jelly is served there. | Tom

Wilmette Chop House is located at 1162 Wilmette Avenue in Wilmette, Illinois. Rack of Lamb with mint jelly is served there. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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1162 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette

(847) 278-2462

Prices: Appetizers: $10-$16; entrees, $24-$48; desserts, $6-$8.

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Try: Smoked pork chop, rack of lamb, caramel bread pudding.

Tips: Full bar. Reservations accepted. Street parking. Seasonal patio. Private party space.

In a bite: As Wilmette Chop House celebrates its first anniversary this month, the classy North Shore steakhouse looks to a promising future.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary;
★★★ Excellent;
★★ Very Good; ★ Good;
Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: April 16, 2013 3:01PM

Since opening in late March 2012, Wilmette Chop House has built a following for appetizing fare, attentive service and comfortable ambience.

The intimate, 42-seat storefront space in downtown Wilmette, whose previous occupant was the short-lived French restaurant Bluette, also has developed status as a special-occasion dining venue.

Meals at the steakhouse, which is open for dinner only, command special-occasion or expense-account prices. With Prime New York strip going for $42, veal chop with brandy cream peppercorn sauce, $44, and an 8-ounce filet with a 12-ounce lobster tail selling for $72, it’s not hard to ring up a $100-plus dinner tab for two — excluding drinks.

Nightly specials often are more wallet-friendly, as were a handful of other regular entrees on the menu ($26-$18), including farm-raised salmon, popular shrimp de jonghe, Parmesan chicken breast and eggplant Parmesan.

A recent dinner began with an order of escargot — six delectable beauties immersed in a buttery herb sauce that was perfect for dipping with slices of the fresh, warm loaf of bread brought to the table while my guest and I reviewed the list of mostly California and Italian wines.

Among other appetizer options were mussels, crab cocktail and meatballs and two soups, lobster bisque and cheese tortellini.

Chef Rob Wallace thoughtfully split the a la carte house salad. A standout, its fresh greens, dressed in a white balsamic vinaigrette, featured a strong supporting cast: artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, kalamata olives, pepperoncini and hearts of palm.

Rack of lamb, a definite splurge at $42, was expertly prepared, grilled medium rare and tasting of herbs and garlic. Mint jelly came on the side.

My tablemate reveled in the bone-in double cut smoked pork chop — a hefty piece of good-eating meat glazed with sweet plantains. Both of our entrees were plated with smashed potatoes and steamed broccoli during our visit.

A handful of desserts are available, some made in-house, others outsourced to local vendors. We shared the caramel-glazed bread pudding, which was prepared on the premises and served piping hot. The texture was dense and with just the right measure of sweetness — a tasty if unremarkable confection.

Other selections that night were a fresh apple tart, a mousse-like peanut butter cup confection and mixed berries with vanilla ice cream.

Wilmette Chop House offers diners comfortable seating on tall-backed white upholstered chairs. Unfortunately, some of its tables for two are overly narrow and ill-positioned against a wall adjacent to the entry.

Its mix of contemporary recorded music is pleasant, and the modern decor provides an understated touch of elegance and offers a soothing counterpoint to the day’s otherwise irrepressible hubbub.

Service, which can go a long way to make or break a restaurant’s future, is up to snuff.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.

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