It’s no secret Chicago is a steak and potatoes kind of town. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another city in America where steak is more celebrated. So, it only follows that The Windy City would have ample offerings to satisfy the cravings of every steak lover west of Lake Michigan. Personally, steak is my go-to meal. When special occasions come around, I’m always going to recommend a place where I can indulge in a good piece of beef.
Over the last seven years or so, Chicago has seen an influx of great new steak restaurants that attempt to re-imagine the concept. These eateries bring in or butcher prime steaks, like all the great Chicago steakhouses do, but serve them in swankier digs, with more nuanced preparations, and (sometimes) more modest portions than their traditional counterparts. As new kids on the block, these restaurants have garnered a lot of well-deserved attention and praise. But this article isn’t about them. I was compelled to mention the new breed to offer a bit of perspective, and acknowledge my awareness of the current state of affairs. That being said, I want to refocus your attention on the tried-and-true spots.
Chicago has a rich history with beef. The restaurant business can often be about what’s new, what’s hip, and what just opened up. When it comes to steak, however, these new concepts owe a lot to those that came before them. The quality and longevity of the old guard paved the way for the new breed. Without their success, and their place within the Chicago dining space, there’s no way we’d continue to see the openings of so many more places for steak, modern in style, or otherwise. While the new restaurants have a lot going for them, only time will tell if they’ll leave a lasting impression. The old guard, however, has withstood the test of time.
Why is that? From my perspective, it’s not that complicated. The traditional steakhouse was (is) a place where you found four things: 1) Comfortable atmosphere; 2) Great service; 3) The highest quality prime aged steaks, seafood, and drinks; and 4) Large portions. Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want in a night out. I want a relaxing environment where I can partake in the finest and freshest fare, and know that I’m going to leave satiated. There’s nothing worse than going to a restaurant and: 1) Feeling like I could have made that meal just as well, for half the price; 2) Receiving service so poor I wonder if they’ll tip me; or 3) Leaving hungry with a need to stop off at Wendy’s on the way home. Traditional steakhouses ensure none of that happens. Come to think of it, why exactly do they need to be re-imagined, anyway?
The short answer? They don’t. Now, I’m not saying I haven’t been to and enjoyed some of the newer offerings in Chicago. I have. However, I think it’s worth keeping 12 of Chicago’s traditional steakhouses in mind whenever that hankering for red meat hits you. Their significance to the current scene alone is worth a trip, if only to keep proper perspective. But that’s really only part of the tale because these storied spots still deliver some of the best steaks, seafood (yes, seafood!), and service around. Without further ado, here are 12 classic Chicago spots for steak.
In 2000, Lettuce Entertain You paired up with Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami to open a winner for the city of Chicago. Consistently the second highest grossing independent restaurant in the city, Joe’s is known for surf and turf, and their bone-in filet.
Their sides, while delicious, are a bit more modest in terms of size, but their substantial appetizer and dessert offerings ensure you won’t leave with an empty stomach.