Went with a group of 8 people to Morton's Steakhouse on West Wacker Place.
What a huge disappointment. First off, it was hard to understand the waiter, he was Hispanic with a thick accent. Noise level in the room was also high.
Speaking of high...oh my, the prices for everything were sky high, as expected. How the average American can afford to eat out at a place like this is questionable, or any of the other downtown steakhouses, prices really do not vary from the high end places.
That being said, for a 36 dollar Cajun ribeye, I would expect perfection. Was not to be. This steak that should have been full of flavor was tough like shoe leather and boring. Another person ordered a steak medium rare and it was medium well, sent it back, the next piece of meat was raw in the center.
Salads and side orders were good. Nothing special. I don't mind eating out at a high end place, I just thought Morton's left a lot to be desired. Table of 8, the bill was 620 dollars. The next time I want a great steak, I will go to the Paulina Meat Market, buy it and cook it myself.
As it happens, we were just at the original Morton's - the one on Rush St, last Friday, and although our meal possibly was better then your's sounds, it was still far less than a grand experience. The bone-in ribeye seemed like choice grade (at a "prime" price), and the sides were mediocre (even the creamed spinach was tough, as if the spinach wasn't cooked enough), and the drinks were expensive.
My reaction is often the same as yours - "I could do this better at home" - but fortunately there are plenty of steakhouses in Chicago that will serve up a great steak. I tend to like other chain places, like Smith & Wollensky and Ruth's Chris (the latter is our favorite steakhouse so far, but then we haven't yet tried all the independents, like Gibson's or Keefer's). Personally I feel it's a shame, because for me going to Morton's was always a sentimental journey (we used to celebrate many an anniversary there, and I once worked for Arnie Morton at the *original* original Morton's - the place his parents opened in Hyde Park, many years ago). Sad.
I'm not a native Chicagoan (is that even the term? sorry, in advance...) but I'm there for a good part of the year, and I've been to the original Morton's and Gibson's. In my opinion Morton's was not very special - and the sides weren't so great in my experience, either - whereas Gibson's was really fantastic. Long wait, even with a reservation, but delicious steaks (we got a huge porterhouse) and a decent lobster tail as well. I remember a very yummy strawberry shortcake dessert there (made with actual shortcake, not the pound cake that most places use now).
Sorry but I have to disagree with several of you.
Last Saturday, my wife and I went to eat at Gibson's, the wait was a ridiculous 2+ HOURS long! With the first seats opening at 11 pm., or to try stake out the bar tables, how tacky! So after waiting at the loud smoky bar, we went over to Morton's across the street to see what the wait was and got seated in 10 mins.
My wife sees the disappointment in my eyes, knowing that I had wanted to try Gibson's for years, so she says to me "lets do a taste test" a true chowhound!
Since we had almost 2 hrs to kill for the Gibson's table we decided to order the same cut of steak at both places; a Chicago Bone-in rib eye.
Morton's won, hands down. The char crust was done to perfection and had a better carmelization and beefer flavor, and the meat was more evenly cooked throughout the cut.
Sure Gibson's was great and maybe its the second best place I've been to, but with a bar crowd menu that runs all over from burgers and ribs to steaks and seafood, it was apparent that they try to do too much for too many people. Whereas Morton's is what it is; a high class steakhouse.
One last thing; Ruth Chris is not even in this league of steakhouses, oh maybe the prices are, but the food certainly is not!
Well, abf005, this raises another question. To my taste, a bone-in Ribeye is not the test. I judge 'em all by their NY Strips. Ribeye is too rich (read also: fat...not that a strip is lean). If I can get that capital S Steak-y, mineral-y flavor at the right temperature (Med rare), then they've got a friend for life. Morton's just comes up a bit short to my taste. The others I listed (Gibsons, Chi Chop House, Keefer's & The Palm) all qualify in that regard as top-notch. I even give bonus points to The Palm for their willingness to prepare their strips blackened (although they are also a little less consistent than the others). We absolutely do agree, however, on Ruth's Chris. They're just not in this league. Good, just not outstanding.
Strip vs Rib Eye, now that's an interesting thought! I had never really thought of breaking it down to the exact cut of steak experienced, but I suppose it seems very plausible. At ant rate I'll still stick with my fatty bone- in rib eye though ;) I have on my short list the Chicago Chop House (will be my 1st visit) for next month, and I might add in Keefer's this month since its pretty close to my office. Have you been to the new Palm in Northbrook? The kid friendlier menu is intriguing to me since my oldest might really appreciate an upscale steakhouse. Let me know your thoughts.
One comment to the home cookers; as a very serious BBQ & Grill expert myself, I have found that one of the hardest things to do consistently right on a grill is to cook steaks that over 1-1/2" thick. The mistakes that are made are endless; undercooked, dried out, overchared or siting in it's own pan grease (like Ruth's) varieties are all over. And anyone who thinks that they can duplicate the upscale steakhouse experience is not fully aware of all the variables involved. From obtaining fine USDA graded prime dry aged Angus or better beef (which is less than 2% of the total US beef supply) from reputable meat purveyors, to properly trimming the meat and using specialized infrared cooking grills to sear and separate grill ovens to cook evenly to the proper level of doneness is a challenge. In fact,asking for a rare steak isactully easier on the steakhouses than getting a correctly cooked medium or medium well is reven tougher since the cook times are increased!
Oh, I don't dispute that a tasty steak can be had at home, its just that its not possible to compete with a Morton's/Gibson's without making a serious cooking equipment investment, high end training, or though trial & error. Face it, you just cant fire up the Weber and do it.
Now I know I can do a killer steak at my house that easily beats out at least 80-90% of the steakhouses out there, but I have yet to experience at mine or anyone eles house, a steak that rivals the big boys. And that is why I willingly pay the big bucks to eat out there, because over the years I have gained a greater appreciation of the subtle things that a Morton's does that makes them worth double the extra dollars, over what I would typically pay at a Jimmy's Charhouse or on some great choice/prime meat that I could cook at home.
Now to pick the best? Well now, that's like watching someone pick apart playboy bunnies on the Stern show, and you have to really be looking for the flaws, and tiny ones at that!