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A cut above the rest: Chicago's top steakhouses



The meat locker 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 stockyards 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; the romantic GT Prime; and the masculine Swift & Sons in the old meatpacking district of Fulton Market that offers sophisticated 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. For flame-licked steaks and South American dishes from a Midwest perspective, El Che will make you want to up your grilling game. 

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.




An independent restaurant worthy of your time and tastebuds, El Che Steakhouse & Bar is inspired by Chef John Manion's love affair with South America and specifically Argentina's renowned Asado-style eateries. Executive Chef and Owner, John Manion, cooks 90 percent of the menu on the open fire, (a 12-foot custom-built wood burning hearth) furnishing that undeniable smoky flavor to Hangar steaks, beef short ribs, NY Strips, bone-in Ribeyes, and head-on shrimp, among others. El Che's Parrillada, meant to be shared, features a variety of traditional meats, including morcilla, chorizo, tira de asado and sweetbreads. "It's a representation of a Sunday afternoon in Argentina," says Manion. For starters, don't miss award-winning empanadas; grilled Delaware oysters with black garlic, white wine, and fried parsley; or Quilmes pimento cheese to blanket fry bread. Happy Hour takes place daily from 5 pm - 6 pm and Mondays it's half-off all bottles of wine.


8
Gold Coast
Maple & Ash


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. If someone in the party is not feeling steak, there's also fire-roasted chicken, pork Milanese and short rib beef Stroganoff. Finish up with coconut cream pie. A 5,000 bottle wine program makes complementing every dish rather easy. You'll need to make advance reservations - this place is in a trendy neighborhood 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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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.


6
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.




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. III Forks plans superlative events and holiday spreads such as a Derby Day party and Mother's Day brunch.




GT Prime feels like a film set with details like a crystal chandelier and soft faux fur upholstered chairs. You wouldn't be surprised if Allie and Noah from The Notebook were seated next to you. Giuseppe Tentori refashions traditional steakhouse fare by offering a variety of cuts of the finest Filet, Rib Eye, Wagyu, Skirt Steak, Venison, and Bison sliced for guests making steak easy to share without mangling it yourself. The culinarily curious can launch with bone marrow to slather onto sourdough and top with red wine onions and radishes then continue with nettle risotto or seven-day aged Rohan duck breast. There's a robust offering of sides (how about shishito and corn with Parmesan sauce). Consider starters from the ultralight to old-timey (chicken liver mousse). There's a small but impressive dessert and cheese menu plus rare teas, La Colombe coffee and an extensive roster of grapes.




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 meat locker. 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, Benny's boasts one of the largest restaurant wine collections in the United States - 1,800 different selections - 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. Take advantage of half-price drinks every weekday from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., too.


2
Fulton Market


The building in which Swift & Sons calls home was once a cold storage facility in the heart of the meatpacking center of Chicago. It's in the DNA. You can go the light or hearty route with apps: hamachi crudo; decadent Wagyu carpaccio; rabbit ravioli; roasted octopus; potato pierogi. Or launch with shellfish: crispy Rock shrimp; briny oysters; a luscious crab cake; or the interesting Carpetbagger Oysters sharing their shell with beef tartare and pickled mustard seeds. If you want room for your steak, start with a peppery but oh-so-light arugula salad festooned with button mushrooms, fennel and Parmesan sure to pique the palate. There are fabulous non-steak entrees from poached halibut to a titanic one-pound Niman Ranch pork chop. But, if you're here for a steak, go for any of the dry-aged bone-in options or try something new - Japanese A5 Wagyu Strip Loin - or old-school like Beef Wellington.




The main dining room's rounded ceilings lend a feeling of dining in an elegant 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 Kansas City's 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 (with bits of orange peel in the breading); thick-cut bacon with maple syrup and dark chocolate; refreshing Lobster & Avocado with Sauce Louie; and what may be the best clam chowder in Chicago. The Kansas City Strip with a side of Asparagus Milanese and Properly Whipped Mashed Potatoes makes a smashing steakhouse meal. Options for non-meat eaters include Broiled Wild Salmon and blackened cauliflower steak with roasted garlic.


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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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