Chicago's Steak 48 Is More Than Just Sizzle

In a city full of steakhouses, this one aims to up the ante.

Don’t be fooled by its relaxed, luxurious vibe, the Chicago steakhouse landscape is a battlefield—and Steak 48 just entered the fray. Like any good general, Marc Lupino, the executive chef of Prime Steak Concepts (the company behind three Steak 48 locations as well as famed steakhouse chain Mastro’s) has scoped out his competition.

“I’ve probably gone to every steakhouse in this town,” he said “But the way we do things and what we do will make us stand out.”

Moving into Chicago was not something Lupino took lightly—after all, steak is in our fair city’s DNA.

“It’s the mecca of steakhouses,” Lupino said. “If you can make it here as a steakhouse, you can make it anywhere.”

Which leads to the main question: How can Steak 48 make it in such a crowded and competitive meat market?

First, Lupino installed local Brian Key (formerly of Gibsons) to helm the kitchen. Then, the duo focused on atmosphere and precision. Unlike its dimly lit, brown leather-clad competitors, Steak 48 is proud of its more feminine feel—think brighter lights, large works of art on the wall, an entirely glass-enclosed kitchen, an 800-square-foot, second-floor patio and a staff that’s always smiling, as opposed to the stereotypic nose-to-the-sky waiter.

“We are guest-oriented, not bottom line-oriented,” Lupino said.

Marc Lupino and Brian Key

That’s not entirely true: Lupino is most of all detail-oriented. His proprietary steak rub is almost insanely precise: It’s a gluten-free mix of more than 120 herbs that took him months to perfect. It’s so popular that he has to order it in 1,500-pound batches, despite each steak only using about a tablespoon—you can do the math here: they’re movin’ a lot of steaks.

The attention doesn’t stop in the kitchen, it goes all the way until the plate lands at the table. When that meticulously rubbed steak arrives, it’s on a 500-degree, German china plate.

“There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your meal and it’s cold,” Lupino lamented.

As Steak 48 gears up for its (surf and) turf war, it won’t be any one thing that will guarantee victory, it’ll be everything. It will be the oversized shrimp, “They’re like mini lobsters,” Lupino boasted. It will be the decadent desserts like a metallic tree decorated with fresh beignets. But mostly, it will be a red-hot passion for prime cuts that will let them stake—err…steak?—their claim. 615 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312.266.4848 

Zak Stemer
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