This summer, we explored some of Michigan’s highways and byways. We ended up on US 12 Heritage Route, an east-west corridor, from Detroit to New Buffalo, which leads history buffs and automotive enthusiasts on an adventure through time. About mid-way, near Jonesville, the family and I decided it was time for lunch. That’s when we discovered Olivia’s Chophouse.
Olivia’s Chophouse serves upscale gourmet meals that include steak and seafood specialties. That said, you’ll find more casual daily specials like Taco Tuesday and Pizza Thursdays. Be sure to ask about daily specials.
We had a daily special, house-made red skin potato chips for our appetizer, which resulted from a purchase of too many red skin potatoes, with a house-made ranch dip. We almost ordered a second order; they were just that good!
Part of what makes Oliva’s special is presentation. The chef presented the bowl of chips and dip on a rectangular white plate lined with black paper napkins. The ranch dip, with a consistency of dressing, came in a small square dish. The presentation elevated what could have been ho-hum to elegance.
Olivia’s Chophouse is a 7,800 square-foot restaurant decorated in blue, brown, and cream shades in a cheerful, modern atmosphere. The painted concrete floors add to the contemporary vibe. If you want to host a special occasion dinner, their banquet room seats 60 people comfortably.
Olivia’s Chophouse History
In 2001, Hillsdale county native Wayne Babcock opened the Chicago Water Grill, named after the intersecting streets where it stood. It was also a prime location on the famous Sauk Trail (US 12 Heritage Route).
For eight years, the Chicago Water Grill was a destination restaurant where people came to enjoy a night of fine dining. Unfortunately, in November 2009, a fire destroyed the restaurant. The community devastated by the misfortune rallied behind Wayne to rebuild another restaurant.
Wayne collaborated with various designers and architects to create a modern atmosphere with a fine-dining experience during the rebuilding. A year-and-a-half after the fire, Olivia’s Chop House opened in the same location. Olivia’s Chophouse is the namesake of Wayne’s daughter Olivia who was born during the restaurant’s construction.
In 2018, Jason Bugbee, a long-time employee, purchased Olivia’s Chop House. Jason worked for Wayne since he was 16, so he planned to continue the vision of being the premier dining destination in the county. He looks forward to expanding on the foundation Wayne built.
Deciding Dessert First at Olivia’s Chophouse
While munching on those warm potato chips, I asked to see the dessert menu. Thankfully, I didn’t receive any raised eyebrows from the server. The server seemed to understand the importance of dessert. Here were our choices.
- White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
- Lemon Crème Brulee
- Peanut Butter Pie
- The Colossal Chocolate Cake tempted me, but I wanted each of us to select a dessert and taste the others.
- Classic Tableside Bananas Foster
Next, we took a look at the lunch menu. We decided to split an entrée salad, so we chose the Romaine Waldorf. The salad starts with chopped romaine lettuce, tossed with halved purple grapes and cubed gala apples. Candied pecans and blue cheese crumbles accent the salad. The ingredients create a salad with lots of color, but what’s unusual is the maple-cider vinaigrette. The slightly sweet dressing compliments the various fruits.
Since three of the desserts had a fruit element that would compliment my salad, it was a bit difficult to decide. I thought the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake would be a bit heavy. I wanted to try several dishes from the main course menu. While the lemon crème brulee would have been a nice light dessert with a touch of citrus, I decided on the classic tableside Bananas Foster for the entertainment value. I thought the flames would intrigued the kiddos.
Since my dessert was on the lighter side, I decided on The Conquest sandwich for my entrée. It started with grilled sourdough bread that resulted in a crunchy bite. On top, they layered pieces of thinly sliced prime rib, crisp bacon, and Colby Jack cheese for an abundance of protein. Then they added tomato, cooked peppers, onions, and mushrooms that gave the sandwich a Philly cheesesteak feel. All of this came topped with just the right amount of Thousand Island dressing. The sandwich comes with your choice of fresh-cut sea salt and pepper fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, side salad, soup, or homemade coleslaw. I chose the baked French onion soup, and it was terrific.
And for dessert, my daughter had the chocolate peanut butter pie to complete her lunch. Then, we all enjoyed the entertainment of my Bananas Foster made tableside. The chef designed this recipe for maximum fun with two alcohol additions, resulting in two awe-inspiring flames. Check out the video to see how entertaining making dessert can be!
Check out my post on Deciding Dessert First for more dessert fun!
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