by Christopher Hicks
Class. Class used to mean something. Class as a concept used to be respected. These days it rarely exists in our dining establishments in its pure form. Often class can only be found these days as a supplementary adjective…and usually erroneously applied.
“The new muckety-muck steak house is fabulously contemporary with a touch of class.”
“So-and-So’s Café has modernesque lighting with neveau artwork that combine to give the dining room a classy feel.”
Well what in the hell happened to those places that didn’t feel classy, and weren’t just a touch classy, but were actually nothing but classy? Those soft, warm, comfortable places that secrets never left, where cigars and dames were equally appreciated for their quality. Those places where a man understood and respected the value of a firm handshake and where complimenting a woman was taken for what it was meant to be, a compliment. Mackenzie’s Chophouse affords the residents and visitors of Colorado Springs just such a haven.
Tucked in the basement level of the Historic Alamo Building, I began my descent beneath a classy green awning depicting the Mackenzie’s Chophouse logo. A few carpeted steps later and I was entering the foyer through a set of double doors to be immediately greeted by a young lady with a smile that actually seemed genuine. I was escorted to a quiet table near a window that looked out onto the patio, with the hostess all the while nattering away frivolous social inanities that were equally amusing and disarming.
The server was prompt in greeting me and helpful with suggestions, although there was some confusion about what the soup d’jour was. Having made an ordeal out of it, I felt obligated to order a cup as a starter which turned out to be a horrible mistake. It was called Chicken Tortilla soup but the taste was more akin to rubber and asphalt. Fortunately, things got much better. I ordered the Ahi Salad, ($11.95) as my entrée and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. I was worried that the miso-wasabie vinaigrette might overpower the Ahi, but my fears were groundless. Everything balanced perfectly, and with a gently warmed cognac as my digestif, I left satisfied. Over the course of the next few weeks I was able to sample the Salmon Club ($9.95), Center-cut Pork Chop which I asked to be made Au Poivre ($12.95), Carpaccio ($10.95), French onion soup ($6.95), Tuna Chop ($23.95), and the 22-oz bone-in Ribeye ($33.95). I popped in for the Tapas Tuesday special as well wherein I was able to sample the Beef Gratinee, Bruschetta, and Lamp Chops, for a meager nine bucks. The French Onion Soup that I sampled had been overdosed with salt, but aside from the negative saucier bits…everything I tasted was over the top and I felt that the prices were more than fair.
Overall service was above average, drinks were refilled in an anticipatory fashion, and server inquiries as to my satisfaction, while usually rote, were delivered in a sincere fashion. Occasionally a floor manager would stop by and ensure that all of my needs were being met. Flatware, dishware, and glassware were always impeccably clean and polished. In fact, for such a low-key and old style ambience the management has done a wonderful job of making sure that everything in the joint is clean and polished to a bright and wondrous sheen.
Touring the building I was surprised at how much space was available in what initially seemed a moderately small area. There are private dining rooms tucked away just east of the common room, and romantic booths and tables are located towards the back of the restaurant near an inviting gas fireplace. There is a sizeable patio that is exceptionally popular in the warmer months, and for which Mackenzie’s has won multiple awards. Some of the walls are lined with pictures of various autographed celebrity photographs, and tucked back behind the private dining rooms was something that almost brought tears to my eyes. There was a closet-sized utility humidor now left empty and barren due to this generations proclaimed anethma on smoking.
The brightly polished wooden bar-top was a delight to patronize. Lacking only loitery space the bar area itself delivered the necessary atmosphere where strangers converse freely with strangers, ladies wrap themselves around the after-work martini, and varying degrees of gentlemen sat in friendly discourse with manhattan in hand (unfortunately sans cigar). There was a Ramsey (name, not title) behind the bar who was attentive, witty, and charming. She readily introduced strangers to regulars and vice versa and helped to sort of keep the level of conversation to an acceptable murmur. I’m always a little uncomfortable in a restaurant that is absent that white-noise type of background utterance.
Mackenzie’s Chophouse afforded me the opportunity to make a few pals and eat some great food all within an absolutely marvelous setting. Don’t be surprised to see me there if you should happen to stop in for a bite to eat. Come up and say hello if I’m there, and I’ll offer you a handshake and maybe even a secret.