Gibson's Last Night (Long)
I recently moved to town and have been keeping an eye on the steak debates on the board. When I was previously living in the Chicago area (Evanston) I frequented Morton's and have never been to Gibson's, the Chop House, or Gene and Georgetti, so I decided to tackle the one that has peaked my interest for many years now with its mixed reviews and "power" atmosphere. A note: I love steak and my favorite dinner could be a Strip (or occasionally a rib eye or porterhouse) medium rare with a nice salty char, shrimp cocktail, creamed spinach, and a scotch or martini, and have no problems visiting steakhouses once a week to get my fill. Anyway- hoping to find a place I would be delighted to frequent somewhat often I called and secured a last minute reservation at Gibson's.
When I called they stressed the importance of arriving on time since they would only hold the table for 15 minutes. Lo and behold, as is par for the course I have read, we walked into a 20 minute wait at the bar where the bar-back was much more helpful than the bartender.
I don't know if this is the case in restaurants in this area, but I felt pandered to as if I wasn't that important all night. Be it the cold shoulder from the bartender who stood there talking to his buddy while I waited to order drinks, to the long-winded schpeil by the server (as if I were at a Fridays,) to the grotesque patronizing smile by the server when we asked to have some food wrapped up, to being seated in the narrow back room (seemingly Siberia)- the overall tone was not overly hospitable and made me feel like a tourist.
On to the food- starters of shrimp cocktail and spicy lobster cocktail were right on the ball. Good portion sizes, proper snap to the shrimp and consistency of the Lobster. House salads were a nice treat since back home absolutely nothing comes free at a steak house.
Large 19oz strip was cooked perfectly and had a decent char. Needed some salt but overall was a very good steak. Other entrees at the table included the pork chop- which was tasty but perhaps a bit over-seasoned, and the salmon that was well received- a nice surprise. Sides were cream spinach- which I found to be overly creamy to a fault, and mushrooms which were too vinegary and disappointing. Maybe they can be salvaged in an omelet.
All in all, the food was very good with the exception of the sides, and I hope to return but will certainly make visits to the Chop House and G&G (as well as Morton's) in order to find a steakhouse more to my liking. I ate at N9ne in Vegas and was pleasantly surprised, and I have never had a good steak at David Burke & Donatella in NYC. Perhaps these were anomalies?
Thanks for reading,
Great review, I have experienced similar in visits to Gibsons. Good food, but not the best service, and the "Viagra Triangle" vibe, really does not impress me.
> I'm new to the board, so I'm not up on the great steak debate
Welcome! You'll find the most comprehensive discussion of steakhouses in the Chicago area in the topic at www.chowhound.com/topics/359377
Cliff's Notes version: No single steakhouse in the Chicago area is the consensus favorite (contrast this to New York, where 95 percent will tout Peter Luger's). For every place that has a lot of fans, there are at least a few detractors.
AGREED! and I sit in the Gibson's bar at least once a month with friends for dinner.
Next time you're looking for a great steak and wonderful service try the Saloon Steakhouse (behind hancock). You will be treated like royalty whether you're a regular or a first-timer. Not to mention the Kansas City strip is phenomenal.
Thanks for such a pointed and accurate review of this wildly overrated place. If you are not a celebrity or on the "A" list, the staff at Gibson's treats you rudely and with utter disdain, making clear they do not really care whether you are there. I take complete umbrage at a place that demands reservations, yet always makes you wait at least 20-30 minutes -- sometimes an hour or more -- after you arrive on time for your dinner to get around to seating you. The steaks and martinis are very good, but I can get others that are at least as good at several other places in town where they manage to act as though they are pleased you chose to patronize their establishment.
I find that the staff at Gibson's in Rosemont does not treat people as described above. I eat there several times a year with both small and larger groups and have found over the past 2 years that the staff has not been rude, the service fantastic and the food outstanding. Maybe this is because the location basically caters to business people on the run and not the want-to-see-and-be-seen crowd on Rush Street. Check it out but not next weekend. I plan on eating their twice and don't need the competition:) On another note, Morton's in Rosemont is very close in distance to Gibson's and we have also had several meals there in the past few years. All in all I suggest that if you are looking for a quieter dinner, Morton's is your choice. Gibson's is big and brawny while Morton's is much darker and quieter with excellent food.
I recall reading once that it's Gibson's policy to make its customers wait (with reservations), in order to make them fully anticipate the experience. Personally, it's a policy that always has irked me, and I think that it's more of a policy that's designed to get patrons to spend money at the bar. However, I personally really enjoy Gibson's food (steaks and otherwise). And, FWIW, we dine at the Hugo's in Naperville regularly (same ownership), and the management and staff are very nice, and treat their regular customers very well (and I can assure you that my wife and I are not celebrities).
My husband and I cancelled our reservation to eat at Joe's Stone Crab to eat at the Rosemont Gibson's because it was right across the street from our hotel. We had a tough time navigating Chicago's subway and bus system and decided on ease, instead. I'm sorry that we did. We were in and out of that restaurant (after waiting about 10 minutes to be seated after our reservation) in 45 minutes. Our server brought out the meat tray before we had even ordered drinks. The steak was decent, but it wasn't "out of this world", like I was expecting for paying 42 dollars. Next time, we'll go to Joe's or Morton's.
If you are new in town and are a carnivore you might like to try the Brazilian places downtown. Not steakhouses in the sense you mean, but meat all the way to the horizon and the salad bar is very nice. Previous threads here have pretty much agreed with me that the best churrasqueria for meat is Fogo de Chao (see their website). And if you can get there for lunch M-F, it's half price and a great bargain. There is something wonderfully surreal about having four guys hovering over you urging you to please please please have some more filet mignon.
I spent most of last year hitting up a variety of steakhouses in Chicago, because there were several I had never tried and a few more I hadn't been to in years. As nsxtacy noted, there is no odds-on favorite in Chicago, but I think there are quite a few voices that have agreed with you about Gibson's. My notes on last year's experiences:
Gibson's - Entirely frustrating experience. Overcrowded, poor treatment of customers, and honestly, an unimpressive steak for the money. I don't go here anymore.
Morton's - Still the most reliable place, in my opinion. I used to frequent the Westchester location more often than the downtown one, but both of them always consistently delivered great service and food.
G&G - Last visit, had a horrible experience. Steaks were actually cooked incorrectly, a first for me at a high-end steak place. One fried ordered medium rare, got medium well, had to send it back. Mine was ordered medium, came medium-rare, I dealt with it because I was hungry. Waiter disagreed with us about our order, on top of that.
Pete Miller's - Probably the best on the way north side, but I don't truly get the hype. It's a good steak, but I will choose Morton's over it any day.
Sullivan's - I'm still convinced people are kidding themselves when they rate this place in the same category as the others. It's the equivalent of a Wildfire experience to me.
Capital Grille - People seem to forget this place, and I'm not sure why, because they make one fine ribeye. Great service & food.
N9NE is still on my list, I haven't made it there or to Keefer's yet, and I didn't get to the Chop House or Ruth's Chris last year. But thanks for the lengthy review; for one, I'm pleased that my Gibson's opinions are validated.
Last night, we found ourselves in Chicago for about 6 hours after a brief stop on our way back to NJ, so what better place to go for dinner than Gibson's? My wife has heard me rant and rave about Gibson's for years, and the last time we visited it was a real treat, so we hopped off the plane and caught a car into the city from Signature at O'Hare. Thankfully an old friend got us in with no problem after I called him and said we’d be there in about 40 minutes. Met 2 old friends at the door and were immediately seated.
We started off with a bottle from of one of our favorite pinot noir producers, Fiddlehead, and their '05 Lollapalloza. About 100% markup on this wine, which is pretty good compared to the 200-300% markups we pay in Philly or NYC if we’re not at a BYO. Kathy and her team at Fiddlehead make solid wines year in, year out, and she is one of the most talented pinot producers in the Santa Rita Hills. I really enjoy her Pink Fiddle rose and sauvignon blanc as well. This bottle was not a letdown in the least, with great cherry, blackberry, cola, and spice on the nose. The palate showed a ton of jammy raspberry and cherry, with subtle hints of vanilla and spice, with a nice soft finish. This wine is drinking incredibly well right now for being so young, and I look forward to a few that we have in our cellar, but really like these with a little more age on them. The '03's are drinking really nicely right now! This one was worth of 93-94 points, and can easily get another point with cellar time.
For apps, we started with a shrimp cocktail, and the tomato and goat cheese. Both were gorgeous, and the shrimp were large and fantastic with a nice cocktail sauce. The flavors in the tomato and goat cheese were absolutely perfect, and complimented each other very nicely. Perfect sized portions for the 4 of us without ruining dinner, and a nice little snack to keep us occupied over great conversation while catching up with the old gang.
From here we ordered an '05 Kosta Browne Koplen pinot noir from the secret squirrel cellar. This doesn't appear on their regular wine list, but this is a fine wine that we really enjoyed in the past on multiple occasions. Typical KB nose that is so distinguishable, and could be sniffed out double blind. Nice black cherry, raspberry, boysenberry, and spice on the nose, with fine caramel hints. On the palate, this wine is singing a beautiful song, and is at a gorgeous stage. I really don't see this getting any better with time, so feel free to drink them up if you are cellaring them. This wine is HUGE! Monster cherry, raspberry, cola, and earthiness on the palate. The alcohol has all integrated, the heat is gone, and the finish is a good 30 seconds and a pleasure. 94-95 points now. Happy to still have a few different ’05 Kosta Browne’s in the cellar. They did wonders with this vintage IMHO.
Salad course was Caesar’s for everyone at the table, and that is not a bad thing in the least. They are still good, and still the perfect sized portion, if not a little large as I was starting to fill up, and wanted to be sure I finished my dinner.
From here we wanted a big juicy Bordeaux with dinner, but there was nothing really "affordable" so to say in the reserve cellar. They do have some nice First Growth Bordeaux and some killer Burgundy, but I didn't want this to be a billion dollar night, so instead we opted for a '97 Phelps Insignia, which is yet again drinking in a beautiful place. Great blueberry and raspberry on the nose, with subtle leather hints, wet stone, cedar, mocha, and menthol on the nose. The fruit was actually kind of subdued compared to past experiences, but the palate made up for it. On the palate, this was hands down the wine of the night. A classic Cali Bordeaux blend with cherry, blackberries, raspberry, cassis, currants, and a bit of spice. This wine is still showing its youth with a bit of tannin and thinning towards the rim, but the alcohol has integrated nicely, and the finish is soft, subtle, and lingering. Let the neigh sayers complain about Insignia, this is still a solid wine, and a true pleasure. 97 points.
Out came the entrees just in time to enjoy the vino. Nothing better with a big juicy hunk of cow than a nice, bog, bold cabernet based wine! I opted for the large filet rolled in peppercorn and garlic, and it was cooked medium to perfection. Nice, juicy, hot pink center, I couldn't have cooked this any better, but what do you expect from Gibson's…it’s what they do. Great flavors in the meat, and as much as I hate to mask the flavors of a good steak with anything at all, I cannot resist the peppercorn and fresh garlic. It is just so good. I went for the double baked potato on the side which I barely ate 1/3 of as I was stuffed by this point, and wasn’t about to leave any meat on my plate. It’s been way too long since I have had a Gibson’s steak, and this was a treat.
Other dishes at the table included the stone crab claw dinner which was great. The mustard sauce this was served with complimented the crab very well, but this is pretty much a no brainer. Large portion, easy to eat, and just a treat. I could have sat here all night eating bowl after bowl of these. The prime rib was ordered and very nice as well, with a sort of horseradish sauce that was really nice. How can you not love the taste of horseradish with prime rib? Also had a T-Bone ordered that looked good as well, and was also cooked to temperature. Other sides were a spinach and broccoli with garlic, and a side of mushrooms. I think this is the first time I can ever remember not ordering the colossal lobster tail, but thank God we didn't as we were all stuffed! Skipped dessert tonight as well as there was just no room left.
All in all, a great 3 hours spent having a great meal, and drinking some great wines while catching up with some old friends at the last minute after a non-planned stop. Food was great as always, and the service couldn’t have been any better. The staff was in great spirits, and it was nice to still see some of the old faces that are still there from when I used to frequent over 8 years ago now. Couldn’t pass up a few hours in the great city that used to be home, and I am glad that we thought of Gibson’s for an enjoyable meal. Definitely looking forward to our next visit. Just a mere 3 hours later, wheels hit the ground on runway 10 at Princeton Airport. Thank God I wasn’t doing the flying! Cheers! -mJ