Chicago Steakhouses: Catering to the Carnivore
By Megy Karydes
Chicago Local Expert
In Chicago's world of restaurants, steakhouses are undoubtedly a favorite. The spread of choices across the city grid is overwhelming. Perennial favorites like Chicago Cut Steakhouse and Gibson’s still require reservations made way in advance to score a coveted table.
Chicago sports celebrities like Mike Ditka and Michael Jordan each has his own namesake steakhouse with impressive menus. Creative chefs keep things exciting and fresh and they introduce unique ways to prepare their steaks like David Burke’s Primehouse does by dry-aging its meat in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room.
Other restaurants serving great steak fly just below the celebrity-status radar and steak aficionados like to keep them a secret because they don’t want to deal with the long wait times. Unfortunately for them, those in the know often like to share so South American joints like Tango Sur and their large generous portions are giving the classics relentless competition.
We all know it's not just about the steak and ambiance matters. Gibson's speakeasy layout is only missing a cloud of smoke floating over dinner booths and Mastro’s live entertainment adds yet another element to an already classy establishment.
These picks are distinguished by outstanding chefs, engaging staff, decor and, most importantly, top-tier selections of sirloin.
10 Mike Ditka's - Chicago
Although Ditka's offers both a lunch and dinner menu, diners will only find its trademark steaks during dinner. However, its signature pork chop with apple chutney, cherry jus and mashed sweet potato can be had anytime of the day. Props go to the prime filet mignon and bone-in filet as well as the Linz Heritage Angus Prime Rib which is heavily aged, slow-roasted and served with roasted mushrooms. A 12-page drink menu includes handcrafted cocktails, signature martinis, craft beers and an impressive wine list. Sunday brunch features its own brunch menu in addition to the full lunch menu. It's not unusual to spot Mike Ditka since he makes regular appearances at his namesake restaurant. (3125878989)
9 Lawry's The Prime Rib - Chicago
Lawry's seems to get overlooked in a sea of great steakhouses in Chicago but when you bring it up to a steak lover, it's like you've re-kindled a love affair that never ended. Perhaps that's because it's been around forever (it opened in 1974), the wait staff is dressed as if they haven't changed their uniform style since the 80's and it's a bit off the beaten path although it's just steps from Michigan Avenue. For those who don't want the fussiness of trendy new places, Lawry's is a welcome relief and lives up to its reputation. Most people know the name for its seasonings but the prime rib is really want attracts diners. (3127875000)
8 Michael Jordan's Steakhouse
For all accounts and purposes, it would be easy to dismiss Michael Jordan's Steakhouse as reaching and gimmicky. It bears the mega-athlete's name and it is located in the lobby of the Hotel Intercontinental on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. For those of you who won't even try it for those reasons, it's too bad because you'd be missing out on why this place has staying power: the bone-in filet with bone marrow. It gets crowded in the evenings (after work crowd) so it's best to make reservations ahead of time. Don't forget to order a Manhattan and, if you have room, there is always the 23 layer chocolate cake (no, that's not a typo). (312-321-8823)
7 The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant
Since The Chicago Firehouse was built in an old fire station, it has loads of character, complete with a sliding pole and exposed brick which lends a certain warmth (no pun intended) to its atmosphere. As a steakhouse, it offers some of the best bone-in rib-eye. For those who like seafood, from Alaskan king crab legs to lobster tails, you can't go wrong. Oyster fans will rejoice as it offers regular oysters and Oysters Rockefeller. Their wine selection is fantastic, especially their Rieslings. Lest we forget, the side dishes are worth noting (try the macaroni and cheese). Service is timely ~ not overbearing but not sporadic either. (312-786-1401)
6 Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
This classic dinner club-style restaurant boasts a vaulted ceiling, dark wooden furniture and excellent lighting, making it an ideal place for a power lunch or entertaining important clients. Celebrities and athletes are routinely spotted at this River North spot. Partner of the famous Joe's Stone Crab in Miami, this gem features a selection of fresh seafood and steaks. Of course, rumor has it that the stone crab claws alone are worth the trip. Get the best of both the surf and turf worlds by ordering the petite filet mignon and jumbo Alaskan king crab or petite filet mignon and broiled lobster tail. (312-379-5637)
5 Tango Sur
This Argentinean steak house offers diners a mix of traditional South American appetizers and grilled meats. It has an old-school vibe from the authentic décor to the service. It's BYOB so bring a nice bottle to enjoy and try to snag a coveted spot in the outdoor patio if you can. Start off with one of their notable deep-fried empanadas, stuffed with any number of tasty fillings from beef to cheese and ham. Then, order the Steak Parillada - a mixed grill sample platter. Save the best for last and order the flan, creamy custard topped with a drizzle of gooey caramel. The waiters are practically family and know the menu's offerings inside and out and can easily answer questions about the food they serve. (773-477-5466)
4 Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse
Gibson's is what you would imagine a steak house to have been like during the speakeasy era. Big, aged cuts of the finest steaks, huge, ice-cold martinis, bartenders with bowties who have been there forever and, of course, crowds of fascinating people. Celebs and celeb wannabes make Gibson's a must-visit and a definite place to see and be seen. In the event you're not heading to Gibson's for the steak, its seafood is just as impressive as their steak selections. There is outside seating (if you can snag a coveted spot) which makes people watching that much more enjoyable. Valet parking is available. (312-266-8999)
3 Mastro's Steakhouse - Chicago
With roots in the West Coast, Mastro's finally made its way to Chicago. The 12oz Bone-In Filet and Tomahawk Waygu Bone-In Ribeye both get high marks among meat lovers. For those who enjoy their seafood as much as their steak, opt for the Seafood Tower which allows you to create your own seafood platter. As is typical with Mastro's locations in other parts of the country, live entertainment is available and the piano bar is open until 2:00 a.m. The ambiance is elegant and sophisticated with an almost supper club feel. The dim lights provide an intimate setting but it does get louder in the main dining room as the evening continues which can make it hard to carry a conversation if your party is large. (3125215100)
2 David Burke's Primehouse in the James Hotel
David Burke's Primehouse's claim to fame is that it dry-ages its meat in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room on its premise. Whether you choose the 28-Day Ribeye, 40-Day Rebeye, 55-Day Ribeye or 75-Day Ribeye, you're sure to feast on a perfectly marble-ized, tender beef with a rich, if varying, depth of flavor. Its 55-Day Aged Ribeye, Bone-In 20 ounce "South Side" Filet Mignon and Butter Poached Lobster is a standout. Primehose is known for doing things differently and its desserts are no exception. Order the Red Velvet dessert at the beginning of the meal as the chef prepared the cake in a tin which is then placed in an oven. The cake is iced at the table. (3126606000)
1 Chicago Cut Steakhouse
Chicago Cut Steakhouse redefines Chicago's steak-centric dining scene with signature USDA-certified prime beef, which is hand cut and dry aged on site. A variety of made-to-order cuts are joined by eight different fish options, shellfish, chops, an array of hearty side dishes and more on the extensive dinner menu. Chicago Cut's expansive surroundings feature a lively bar area framed by dramatic wine display cases; vibrant red velvet banquettes and spacious dining tables; and sweeping views of the Chicago River. A sprawling outdoor patio lining the riverside attracts diners throughout the day and well into the evening. Special touches abound, such as the restaurant's global wine list, which is presented to the guest via an interactive iPad program. (312-329-1800)
About Megy Karydes
Megy Karydes has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. While she’s traveled extensively internationally, visiting each of the 50 states is on her bucket list. An adventure seeker, she’s game for anything from mixed martial arts training to competing in obstacle course races. A self-proclaimed coffee snob and “greenie” who loves farmer-grown food and locally-grown craft beers & wine. She’s yet to find an outdoor beer garden she doesn’t like. Mixing writing and food/drink is her specialty, especially when it involves travel. Visit her musings on her insatiable appetite for life at www.WanderingTastes.com or www.KarydesConsulting.com.
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