Any other city might be offended by the generalization of being a meat-and-potatoes town, but Chicagoans know better. Between the Civil War and the mid-1920s, Chicago was the world’s largest producer of meat, and while the Union Stock Yards—where much of the meat originated—closed in 1971, the steak tradition has sizzled on throughout the city. Chicago steakhouses represent decades of style, service and, of course, juicy perfection. We present a few institutions as well as the newcomers that are shaking things up.
And for the record, this is only a sampler of the more than 50 steakhouses in Chicago. We know, it's a lot to chew.
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
A conversation about Chicago steak typically starts with this institution, the king, if based on the sheer financials: In October 2014, Restaurant Business Online reported that it was the top-selling independent restaurant in Chicago with sales of $22.3 million. Regulars, which run the gamut from moguls to movie stars (Matt Damon has been spotted in the red banquettes), come for the USDA Gibsons Prime Angus Beef. In fact, Gibsons claims to be the only restaurant in the country to be awarded its own certification. The signature charred-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside flavor make a huge first impression, but power through that carnivore’s coma for the skyscraper-high desserts. 1028 N. Rush St., 312.266.8999
Tavern on Rush
Gibsons' across-the-street neighbor is a powerhouse in its own right: a classic steakhouse that embodies the rich vibe of the Gold Coast. Come summer, Tavern's patio is the hottest real estate north of the Mag Mile, with luxury cars zipping by and shoppers swinging bags from nearby stores like Barneys and Prada. But back to the steak: Ask your server to bring out the platter of cuts of meat available, a decadent tease to the main attraction. Eating on the expense account? Splurge on the 32-ounce Tomahawk American Kobe Ribeye Chop ($95.50) — just make sure to close the deal. 1031 N. Rush St., 312.664.9600
Gene and Georgetti
Founded in 1941 by Gene Michelotti and Alfredo Federighi and run today by the Durpetti family, this steakhouse defines tradition. Tucked underneath the El tracks on Franklin, Gene & Georgetti's positioning isn’t as high-profile as the meat meccas of the Gold Coast, but that hasn’t deflated its appeal. From icons like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope to the current roster of Chicago elites, nearly everyone has come in for a timeless experience. Technique-wise, broiling is the house specialty, coaxing tenderness and rich flavors out of cuts like T-bones, strip loins and filet mignons. Sides like sautéed mushrooms with sweet peppers enhance the experience. 500 N. Franklin St., 312.527.3718
If there’s a million-dollar account on the line or a diamond ring to present, err on the side of ambiance. A few chophouses go the extra mile on sumptuous surroundings.
Morton’s The Steakhouse
When Arnie Morton opened his bespoke steakhouse in 1978, he envisioned an upscale experience. While the Morton's chain—more than 70 locations globally—is now owned by Landry’s Restaurants, the luxe vision is still in place. The Wacker location drips in Art Deco glam: Think oversized chandeliers in the main dining room flanked by mini chandeliers hanging over the gleaming bar. Request a booth by one of the backlit murals, order the prime ocean platters and a stiff Belvedere Martini, and hammer out a contract over a Chicago-style prime cut. 65 E. Wacker Pl., 312.201.0410
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
Grab a meal with a view: Chicago Cut boasts one of the city's best patios right on the Chicago River. During those oh-so-precious-and-few balmy days, sit outside and watch the tour boats cruise by while you order a bone-in prime rib and a glass of wine (use an iPad to sort the list by by region, type, vintage, name, price and bottle). 300 N. LaSalle St., 312.329.1800
The brainchild of celeb power couple Bill and Guiliana Rancic and restaurateurs R.J., Jerrod, and Molly Melman, RPM Steak doesn’t miss a beat. The well-heeled crowd bites into perfectly cooked cowboy steaks (with bone marrow butter) before heading up to the exclusive nightclub Studio Paris. Also make sure to try this restaurant's older sister, RPM Italian for an equally glam carb-loaded dinner. 66 W. Kinzie St., 312.284.4990
Maple & Ash
When it comes to luxe décor, nobody does it better than Maple & Ash. The main dining room is draped in rich gray and purple hues giving a contemporary, romantic feel. But the real breath-taker is the dangling chandelier, which shines like a giant pearl necklace in the middle of the room. Carnivores can chow down on a variety of dry- and wet-aged steaks, but seafood lovers rejoice: This chophouse is just as concerned with its daily catches as its cuts (try the whole branzino ($55) or the roasted wild swordfish ($42)). 8 W. Maple St., 312.944.8888
A Dash Extra
Most Chicago steakhouses tout their cuts as prime, but that can hardly guarantee the holy grail of flavor. Other factors lock it in: preparation, cooking method and, yes, seasoning.
Calling the chic James Chicago hotel home, this intimate steakhouse takes that little extra bit of TLC long before its cuts even get fired. On the premises: a Himalayan, salt-tiled room to dry age rib eyes from 28 to 75 days. The result is a marbleized texture and tender, rich flavor that stand out from typical steakhouse fare, as do stunning sides such as mac ‘n cheese and tempura vegetable. Curious about the room? Primehouse offers tours. 616 N. Rush St., 312.660.6000
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
Feeling adventurous? Book a private party for Steak 101, an interactive lesson and seven-course meal with wine pairings to school diners on the variations of steak, side by side. If the standard three courses are more your speed, you still have plenty of options: The restaurant (named after the famed Cubs announcer) features a diverse lineup of beef, including dry- and wet-aged, grain- or grass-fed cuts. Holy cow indeed. 33 W. Kinzie St., 312.828.0966