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Ellwood Steakhouse is fine dining, DeKalb-style

It was Saturday night, and my dining companion and I had a couple of hours to spend, so we decided to try the Ellwood Steakhouse in DeKalb.

It was a great way to spend a chilly evening and toast life.

There’s a lot that they get right at Ellwood. For starters, the atmosphere was just right for a steakhouse at dinner. There’s intimate lighting, dark wood and Sinatra songs in the air. The menu is diverse, with a long list of aged steaks and seafood dishes – as are the options for sides.

Ellwood Steak and Fish House also has a great sense of place. The restaurant is named for one of DeKalb’s early barbed wire barons (and the 1879 lounge for the year he built the historic mansion near downtown). Some of what they offer is locally produced fare, from drinks to entrées.

It’s fine dining – DeKalb County style. There’s an upscale feel, but no one’s going to look sideways at you here if you’re not wearing a dinner jacket. You can easily drop $100 or more on dinner and drinks for two here, but you can spend much less and have a great experience.

We didn’t make reservations, and it was about a 30-minute wait for a table. So my companion and I found a couple of stools at the black stone-topped bar in the 1879 lounge.

The bar has an extensive collection of aged scotches and a long list of signature cocktails. But they also had more than a dozen $2 beers available, covering a wide range from domestic to imports, and craft beers, too.

We later were seated in a cozy booth in the dining room, which was packed, but not so tightly that we had to listen to others’ dinner conversation. Someone near us ordered saganaki, and the smell after the quick burst of flame from the cheese filled the space with a mouth-watering aroma. I only occasionally order this flaming cheese appetizer, but I always appreciate when others do.

I ordered the filet of pork at $22, which comes wrappped in smoked bacon and topped with rosemary, olive oil and lemon sauce, with beef vegetable soup (I wasn’t feeling the baked french onion this night) and a sweet potato. Again, keeping with the sense of place, the pork comes from the DeKalb butcher Inboden’s, a staple here for decades.

It knocked my socks off. The soup was hearty and delicious. The pork filet was well presented, tender and well seasoned. The bacon wrap added a satisfying savory flavor. I’m a sucker for sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar, and this one was cooked just right in the skin.

My companion selected the Chef’s Sampler plate at $26, which came with breaded shrimp, sirloin medallions and salmon cakes and a side of roasted vegetables. The medallions were tender, and the shrimp were all you’d expect, but the big hit was the salmon cakes. You know you’ve had a good meal when you’re talking about the food after you leave – and that’s what happened with those salmon cakes.

I think I’ll have to try some for myself next time.

• The Mystery Diner is a Daily Chronicle employee who reports on their experience at local restaurants. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.

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