I love steak. Part of me feels a bit guilty about admitting this fact, as if it’s not cool. But try as I might to bury this affection, I simply can’t hide my pleasure in sitting down with a massive hunk of tender beef in front of me. Perhaps it’s the fact that steak was always a celebratory meal for me growing up, so I naturally associate the two. Regardless, after mostly avoiding the topic on this site for the past two years, I decided that it was time to feast.
Chicago is known as a steakhouse town, and you only need to take a walk around River North to recognize this obvious truth. Every other block seems to house some glittering and ostentatious temple to beef, where men in suits unabashedly wine and dine clients, and ring up ridiculous checks to expense later.
Most “best steak” features take the seemingly logical path of visiting all of Chicago’s iconic steakhouses. Thing is, while I love steak, I’m not sure how I feel about the steakhouse. There’s part of the ritual—the fawning service, the uncomplicated and straightforward menu, the enormous portions of meat—that I occasionally find appealing, even if I never want to spend my own money for it. I mean, there’s no getting around the fact that steakhouses are expensive. But it used to be that the only place to get a genuinely great steak was at a steakhouse. Don’t they have access to the best cuts and the best equipment to get the job done? Fortunately, after eating steak for the past six months, it’s my belief that this assumption is not completely true. (I’ll be talking more about my feelings on steakhouses later in the week.)
I had a hunch that the many of Chicago’s best steaks weren’t in steakhouses. So I took a more circuitous route, one that still allowed for some traditional heavy hitters, but left just as many behind.
#3: 38 OZ. PRIME DRY-AGED BISTECCA FIORENTINA AT RPM ITALIAN ($118)
This sounds crazy, I know. Not only is RPM an Italian restaurant, it’s one that is primarily known as a great place to spot celebrities. (After all, it’s co-owned by reality TV stars, Bill and Giuliana Rancic.) That’s to speak nothing of the steak’s price, which is a seemingly ludicrous $118. To be fair, it’s also enormous and meant to share with two to four other people. But still. So what is it doing here? Because it’s a stunning piece of meat. It also looks amazing—I giggled like a six-year-old when the enormous platter landed on my table.
As I first learned from a random post on LTHForum, RPM Italian sources its steaks from Master Purveyors in the Bronx (click here for a tour of its impressive facilities), which also provides some of the steaks used at Peter Luger. The meat is aged for 36 days and RPM cooks it simply. After a brief trip under a broiler, it’s brushed with melted butter and seasoned with cracked black pepper and Sicilian sea salt. The result is a true spectacle. Obviously, I’m not the only one who feels this way, as the owners are planning on opening RPM Steakhouse soon.
RPM Italian, 52 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL (map); 312-222-1888