Nashville has seen a ton of elevated steakhouses open over the past few years, so it would seem like a risk to build yet another shrine to beef anywhere near the urban core. But the team behind E3 Chophouse in Hillsboro Village at 1628 21st Avenue South is pretty fearless when it comes to competition. After all, one of the owners is Adam LaRoche, a former major league first baseman who played a dozen years in the big leagues. In fact, the name of both the restaurant and the E3 Ranch in Ft. Scott, Kansas where they raise all the beef served at E3 is named after the baseball scorekeeping abbreviation for an error on the first baseman. It’s an ironic inside joke because LaRoche is a former Gold Glove winner as the best fielder in the league at his position. Adam’s father Dave and brother Andy also enjoyed long MLB careers.
Adam is partners in the family business with his wife and two other families who you might have heard of. Another LaRoche project is the Outdoor Networks television show Buck Commander which is filmed on the family ranch. Among his partners in that venture are country music superstars Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. Through their association with the show, LaRoche shared many meals with the pair at the original E3 restaurant location in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Over drinks and dinners, the trio suggested the possibility of opening a second E3 Chophouse in Middle Tennessee, specifically targeting the Brentwood as their first expansion. When a new development with premium frontage on Hillsboro Village came available, the partners switched gears and poured their energy into developing an urban steakhouse like Nashville has never seen.
Valet park your car at the garage beneath E3, and you’ll immediately be transported to a mountain mecca of meat. The ground floor doesn’t feature the expected host stand; instead a greeter will check in each party and lead them upstairs or on the elevator to the dining room above, or you can pass some time in the cozy lounge and bar area at street level. In addition to rustic design elements like plenty of dark natural mushroom wood paneling and stone accents native to both Tennessee and Colorado, little details playfully fool guests into thinking they are dining in an elegant mountain chalet. Those unique handrails that run alongside the steps to the second level? They are recycled ski gondola lines. The custom metal screens that divide the private booths in the main dining room? They mimic branding marks from the cattle that once roamed the west.
There are actually three bars at E3, but guests only see two of them, the downstairs lounge and a spectacular rooftop set-up with an expansive outdoor patio, firepits and the best view of the bustling Hillsboro Village three stories below. The second floor bar that serves the main dining room is actually hidden away in the kitchen to keep the focus on the food. That doesn’t mean that all three bars aren’t extremely serious about their cocktails, though. In addition to one of the best selections of top shelf spirits in town, the cocktail program features innovative recipes including several drinks that incorporate smoke in one form or another into cocktails, a wholly appropriate addition considering the focus of E3. Other drinks are novel takes on classic cocktails such as the “Palabra,” an agave-based goof on the venerable “Last Word” cocktail. The wine list at E3 is extensive and filled with bottles that you won’t find at other restaurants around town. Don’t be afraid to ask the knowledgeable staff for advice to help you find a new favorite.
Although E3 Chophouse is mainly about, well, the chops, some of their most impressive appetizer options are seafood-based. Their version of a shrimp cocktail comes to the table with prawns the size of small lobsters accompanied by a delicious yuzu cocktail sauce and sharp fresh horseradish. A Fruits de Mer seafood tower offers lobster, crab and shrimp, while an old-school Crab Louis dish features Alaskan king crab with the traditional accompaniments of asparagus and Old Bay mayonnaise and avocado. On the cooked seafood side, check out the grilled octopus or seared scallops.
You’ll need at least a somewhat healthy salad to accompany the upcoming meat courses, and their version of a traditional wedge salad fits the bill nicely thanks to crispy iceberg lettuce sprinkled with Gifford’s Bacon bits, cured egg yolk, chives, radishes, tomatoes and a creamy buttermilk dressing. A charred Caesar salad can be ordered with a tableside preparation for a small additional charge, and the show is worth the price of admission.
But now it’s time for the stars of the show to emerge, steaks cut from beef cattle raised on E3’s ranchlands in Kansas where they are grass fed, grain finished, given ample room to roam and never subjected to antibiotics, steroids or added hormones. The steaks are dry-aged for at least four weeks locally at Prime South Meats, the same company that provides the delicious bacon that accompanies the salad and which is available on its own as an appetizer.
The primal cuts emerge from the dry aging process to be hand-cut in the kitchen at E3 into massive steaks like the 16 oz. ribeye, 8 oz. petite filet, (which really stretches the meaning of the term “petite”) and two other cuts that weigh in at a pound and a quarter, their KC Strip and a Cowboy Cut ribeye. While the aged beef is delicious and tender on its own, the steaks do benefit from the addition of some exotic sauces and toppings available from the menu. E3’s signature steakhouse sauce provides just the right amount of sweet and tanginess to amplify the umami of the beef, and toppings such as pinot shallot lime butter, foie gras or king crab Oscar-style with bearnaise sauce elevate the experience considerably.
Other entrees worth a look include a tomahawk pork chop, roast duck pappardelle or the domestic lamb served with Bordelaise sauce. Entrees are served as composed plates, but the steaks come à la carte, so they benefit from the availability of family-style side dishes like a hedonistic lobster mac n’ cheese, crispy truffle fries or a prototypical steakhouse dish of creamed spinach. If you possibly have any room for dessert, the pastry team at E3 creates some delectable sweet dishes to finish off your meal as well.
Did Nashville really need another steakhouse? Possibly not, but it never hurts to have more of a good thing, and E3 Chophouse is a great thing!