Carl's Chop House is no more. Never again will a steak thrill me so.
It's been closed for several months now, Carl's has. But the familiar sign is still there, visible as you head down the Lodge Freeway, near Grand River.
All you non-Detroiters, keep reading. Because no matter where you live, you need to know that once upon a time sat a steakhouse where I nearly ran into the kitchen and yanked the chef into the dining area.
Don't worry; it wasn't to throttle him. Instead, I wanted to reveal to the customers that there existed a man who knew how to cook a steak "well done" while, at the same time, preserving its juices and flavor.
I first dined at Carl's, in its old, unimpressive from the outside brick building, in 1990, while courting my future wife. I had heard about it, along with the other famed steakhouse in Detroit, the London Chop House, for years but never had the occasion to eat there.
So I took the future Mrs. Eno to Carl's, ordered me a steak well done, and when I cut into it, my plate filled up with juices so fast I was afraid the steak was hemorrhaging.
Then I took a bite and that's when I harbored thoughts of marching into the kitchen and dragging the chef out by his ear.
"See?? See this man?" I would have yelled in the middle of the dining room. "This is a man who should immediately be deified and you should all bow to him. For this man has made a steak well done that doesn't resemble charcoaled beef!"
I still don't know how they did it at Carl's. The steaks were as thick as a New York telephone book, yet they were as tender and juicy as medium-rare prime rib. It tempted you to eschew the steak knife, or a knife altogether, and simply use your fork to cut off a piece, as if you were eating pancakes.
If they had any bottles of steak sauce at Carl's, then they were around merely as knick knacks, like conversation pieces. For if anyone dared pour steak sauce on a Carl's steak, then they should have been condemned to eternal damnation.
They started you off at Carl's with a relish tray that resembled a personal salad bar. It was also the only relish tray I ever saw at a restaurant that had pickled herring on it.
I used to order my steak with hash browns, because Carl's also had the best hash browns in town, so you know.
There was a salad, of course, but I didn't need any of it. Just give me the steak, a fork, and fill my water glass occasionally.
The service was terrific, too. The staff kept on top of you, and there was never more than a 15, 20 minute wait before your meal arrived. Even on their busiest nights.
So my wife and I made Carl's our "place" ever since our initial visit. We would go there on special occasions, like a birthday, or whenever I wanted one of their steaks and had the dough to pay for it.
Carl's wasn't cheap. It was hard to get away for less than $100 for two people. But I would have paid more. I would have paid it gladly, for there was never a steak like a Carl's Chop House steak. No sir.
I can see them now, thick and juicy and just about the finest thing ever plated. For $36 a pop.
Then the casino moved in across the street and that was the beginning of the end for Carl's.
They even dickered with the idea of turning Carl's into an adult night club, if you can imagine such a thing.
Sure would have put a new meaning into the term "New York Strip".
Carl's Chop House is gone. If you never got a chance to eat there, I'd consider suicide. Because your life is drastically worse off now.
You had your chance; Carl's had been opened since the 1940s, you know. So where were you?