A cut above the rest: Chicago's top steakhouses



The meatlocker is full in this carnivorous town that adores its steaks. You can  easily ignite a conversation about "the best steak I ever ate" when you bring up red meat, a stiff drink and the celebratory experience of a night at a great steakhouse.  

Downtown Chicago claims at least 25 steakhouses with more scattered in the neighborhoods. The popularity could be the city's connection with the now-shuttered Chicago stock yards but perhaps it's the weather or our immigrant legacy. The best steakhouses are like Chicago's inhabitants - down-to-earth and cheerful but sophisticated. Expect generous portions of familiar food with each eatery's distinctive flairs. 

Smart steak lovers will be sure to make a reservation at least a few days in advance at perennial favorites like Chicago Cut Steakhouse and Gibson’s. For a slice of old Chicago, Sinatra style, don't miss Gene & Georgetti's and the new, stylish Gibson's Italia  that combines the best of sophisticated Italian food and steakhouse classics in a most delicious way. 

You can't beat III Forks, with its stunning rooftop spot near Millennium Park, and Benny's Chop House is is locally owned and one of only a few Chicago restaurants to serve real Japanese Tajima Kobe beef. 

Other restaurants serving great steak include Brazilian churrascarias  featuring bands of smiling men wielding sizzling, seasoned meats impaled on swords as they roam the dining room in search of empty bellies of enthusiastic eaters.

Toss any modern guilt about beef and get ready for the big, vital flavors waiting at some of Chicago's righteous steakhouses featuring the highest quality ingredients and scads of personal service. 

 



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A classic, Chicago restaurant, open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, Gibson's shines with its convivial bar and clubby dining room and its own USDA prime label. Portions are massive across the menu and staff expects sharing so there aren't any unfriendly extra plate charges. The signature steak is W.R's Chicago Cut, a 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye named for Bill Rice, former food and wine columnist for the Chicago Tribune and there are plenty of takers for Gibsons Dry Aged "42" Tomahawk Chop (32 oz). It's nice that a different house-made soup is available every day of the week, the menu lists plenty of seafood, sandwich and chicken options and every bartender knows how to make a proper Manhattan. Save room for dessert. The Essee Kup Cake is a gargantuan favorite. Gibson's is your happy place for steak.


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When you're looking for a meaty protein punch but prefer something outside of the steakhouse culinary experience, a Brazilian churrascuria is a fun samba of steak. The salad area is more akin to the entire produce and prepared food section of a Mariano's, teeming with plates of greens; veg like chubby spears of asparagus in a shimmer of vinaigrette; composed grain dishes; sushi; smoked salmon; charcuterie and cheese. There are also hot items such as fish stew, Brazilian black beans and lobster bisque to mull over. Meats sizzle over an open flame using natural wood charcoal for a deep, smoky flavor. Up to 16 varieties are available daily: try top sirloin, filet mignon wrapped in bacon and Brazilian piece de resistance, Picanha sirloin, seasoned simply with rock salt, skewered and grilled over the smoldering coals. Prices are reasonable considering the absurd amount of tasty food available.


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Gold Coast


 

A steakhouse with plenty of buzz, this stylish restaurant serves dry-aged steaks prepared over a wood fire and served with "arm candy" like roasted bone marrow or blue paradise cheese. The seafood is equally outstanding, some of which is served in roasted towers and finished with garlic butter and chili oil. A 5,000 bottle wine program complements every dish. You'll need to make advance reservations - this place is in a trendy neighbhood and fills up fast. If you're stuck waiting for a table, enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink at the adjacent Eight Bar and Patio, which sells fun drinks. If you can't decide, they'll give you a Magic 8 ball with the drink listings that will pop up.


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Chicago Cut Steakhouse
Photo courtesy of Official Website


 

With so many steakhouses in town, how can Chicago Cut be packed night after night? It's probably the excellent service and USDA-certified prime beef, as well as jovial general managers working the room, stopping to greet newcomers along with CEOs and law firm partners who are regulars. Oh, and the stunning views of downtown and the Chicago River. A suit and nice outfit work, but you'll be welcomed in jeans. Starters and sides are sufficiently innovative that you could make an outstanding meal out them: Lobsterscarot - Maine lobster tail pieces in garlic butter with Havarti and crostinis; tripe cut Nueske bacon; sushi; lollipop lamb chops; and Prime beef sliders among the lot. An outstanding bone-in rib eye, prime burger and bone in prime rib are among the popular dishes and there's a whole list of "Chicago Favorites" from an Iowa pork chop to Chicago Cut style barbecue ribs.


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Gene & Georgetti's, serving steaks and Italian specialties in the shadow of Chicago's El tracks since 1941, is still lovingly owned and operated by the original family. Imagine nearly eight decades of tradition and you'll appreciate the clubby atmosphere steeped in history, plus weathered photos on the walls illustrating the biz's Chicago story. The T-Bone Steak is a G & G classic, but plenty of other beefy options are served nicely crusted with little seasoning allowing the meat's flavor to star. You can't go wrong with broiled lamb chops, 11-ingredient garbage salad, spicy Chicken alla Joe or any old timey Italian-American dish like Chicken Vesuvio or Eggplant Parmigiana. Portions are unsurprisingly large and there's enough variety to please pasta, seafood, steak and even liver lovers. In addition to the expected steakhouse veg and sides, G & G offers mounds of Vesuvio potatoes, meatballs and even thick cut bacon.


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Downtown


 

Deviating just enough from the usual steakhouse selections makes Steak 48 a joy for fans of the cuisine. Just consider the starters: Chef's "PB&J" paté, fig jam, and Woodford reserve bourbon; crispy shrimp deviled eggs; and a cool King Crab & Avocado Stack. Not only is there a"Super Colossal Shrimp Cocktail" but a Maine lobster rendition, too. Offset the cholesterol with a Superfood Salad chock full of seeds, berries and kale (natch). Prime steaks and chops are responsibly farmed and wet aged 28 days then hand cut in house by a master butcher. You'll say, "You're the master"after your first bite of domestic Wagyu NY strip or filet (limited availability) or a bone-in ribeye topped with black truffle sautéed Maine lobster. There's also fresh seafood and non-steak choices such as meatloaf made with rib eye, filet mignon, pork and black truffle green peppercorn that will make your mama's eyes cross.


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Steps off Michigan Avenue and across from Millennium Park, III Forks is a bastion of Certified Angus Beef Prime (42 Day Age cuts), USDA prime steaks, fabulous seafood and local favorites like Braised Short Rib with ancho Bordelaise and roast chicken. Executive Chef Hans Aeschbacher (formerly of Chicago Cut) helms the kitchen that turns out an impressive 46-ounce Tomahawk Ribeye made with Durham Ranch Wagyu by the Strube Family. Salads, seafood, sides and sweets are equally thoughtful dishes that showcase the best ingredients. An extensive, global wine list ensures there's a glass o' grapes to complement your order. In a town rife with rooftops, III Forks' Prime Roof Lounge stuns in summer with views of the illuminated skyline and flavorful bar bites. II Forks plans superlative events and holiday spreads such as a Derby Day party and Mother's Day brunch.


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Chicago has an outpost of practically every chain steakhouse so it's nice to assess a locally owned concept that aims to be a cut above in the very full meatlocker. Benny's Chop House focuses on impeccable service and incredible quality and it's one of Chicago's only steakhouse menus with all USDA prime meat and one of only a few Chicago restaurants to serve real Japanese Tajima Kobe beef. To top it off, ole Benny offers a wine list with over 1700 labels (recognized by Wine Spectator Magazine for five years in a row) and some of the best live jazz in the city Wednesday through Sunday. Seafood is flown in daily and vegetables and sides change with the seasons ensuring a true Midwestern taste experience. Don't miss the Banana Cream Pie with caramelized bananas. There's a full menu for little steak noshers, too.


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One of the newer steak places in town, Prime & Provisions sports a black and white distressed floor and the main dining room's rounded ceilings will make you feel as though you are dining in an old train car. Travel up the staircase to the second floor, and you'll spy a two-story wine tower cascading through the bar. The beef program features All Natural Creekstone Farms that dry-ages in-house for 45 days, free of hormones and antibiotics resulting in better tasting cuts of beef. Try some of the most interesting steakhouse starters in the city: Fried Chicken for the Table, house-flared thick cut bacon or refreshing Lump Crab & Cucumber Gazpacho. The Kansas City Strip with a side of Truffle Mushrooms and Properly Whipped Mashed Potatoes may become your best meal ever. Options for non meat eaters include Broiled Wild Salmon and a blackened cauliflower steak with roasted garlic.


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Gibson's Italia is an overachiever. There's not just that great Gibson's steak but platters of crudo, towers of shellfish and ethereal house made pasta. On three levels. With two fireplaces and a roof deck that wows with skyline and river views. Everyone's offering a crudo app these days but Gibson's tempts with Bigeye tuna, Ora King salmon toro and wild striped bass and the antipasti selection is equally seductive. Pasta is hand made daily with Italian heritage organic stone-ground flour. If you're indulging infrequently or it's a special occasion, consider the pure Japanese Kobe cut to order or another international selection. It's all fabulous since everything is USDA Gibsons Prime Angus. The 16-ounce, bone-in New York strip or a 22-ounce Chicago cut up your iron count in a most pleasurable way. Choose among 25 wines by the glass or a Midwest whiskey from a small-batch distillery.


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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

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