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4 nights of Chicago fine dining

t
timNYC Aug 26, 2007 08:30 PM

I'm headed to Chicago for a conference in Sept and setting up 4 nights of dining. I lived in Chi-town from 97 to 00. It's going to be a Monday through Wednessay, so I wanted to keep to downtown area. I was thinking about mk and Topo, then Morton's, Joe's (which I was initially surprised when some of my friends recommended it), or David Burke's Primehouse for a night of steaks. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Alinia would be out on price (a bit too steep for their expense accounts).

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  1. blondie60614 RE: timNYC Aug 26, 2007 08:36 PM

    MK is amazing, and on Mondays during the summer they have a three course prix fixe.

    You might also want to consider Capital Grille - a great steak place that always has an abundance of business people. Fultons on the River is also upscale and business-like and with outdoor seating near the river, a great summer spot

    1. t
      timNYC RE: timNYC Aug 27, 2007 03:06 AM

      Thanks blondie. I used to go to Capital Grille when I lived in Chicago since I worked about a block away. Does anyone think Mortons, or another steakhouse, is better?

      Tim

      2 Replies
      1. re: timNYC
        w
        wak RE: timNYC Aug 27, 2007 05:42 AM

        Personally, I prefer the more independent restaurants that you would not find elsewhere, so I would avoid Mortons, Capital Grille, Ruths Chris, etc. I have not been impressed with any of them. Of the chains, I have had the best esperience at Smith and Wollensky - its certainly a great location right on the River. But instead, I would recommend Dave Burke's, Saloon, or Keefers.

        http://www.saloonsteakhouse.com/
        http://keefersrestaurant.com/index.html
        http://www.smithandwollensky.com/chic...

        If you are interested in spreading your wings a little beyond Steak/Seafood standards (and your inclusion of Topolobampo and MK makes me think you are), then consider:

        160 Blue - http://www.onesixtyblue.com/default.htm
        Everest - http://www.everestrestaurant.com/
        Blackbird - http://www.blackbirdrestaurant.com/
        Naha - http://www.naha-chicago.com/

        All are excellent restaurants a step down in price from the Alinea/Trotters/Avenues stratosphere.

        1. re: timNYC
          blondie60614 RE: timNYC Aug 31, 2007 11:59 AM

          I have had great meals at Mortons. My only critique is the atmostphere is terrible. Dark and depressed. For steak houses, I like Smith and Wolensky or Gene and Georgettis. Keefers is good as well, but again, I don't like the atmosphere. A little too generic for me

        2. b
          BRB RE: timNYC Aug 27, 2007 05:59 AM

          For steaks, it depends somewhat upon whether you prefer wet or dry aged. For dry aged, I don't believe anyone does better than David Burke's Primehouse. It's my favorite steakhouse in Chicago. For wet aged, I would suggest Keefer's (former GM at Ruth's Chris in Chicago). They cook the steaks perfectly and the sides are the best of any of the steakhouses.

          In terms of other recommendations, I agree with MK but I'm not sure what type of food you like. Blackbird is outstanding, as is NAHA. If you want something a little different, try Vermilion (Indian/Latin fusion) which I think is very good . . . somewhat comparable I'd say to Tabla (formerly in NY).

          1. nsxtasy RE: timNYC Aug 29, 2007 01:01 PM

            Just to clarify - it sounds like you are considering:

            - one night for contemporary American, casual fine dining cuisine (MK)
            - one night for creative Mexican (Topolobampo)
            - one night for steaks

            Which makes three nights. Am I missing a fourth?

            For the contemporary spot, I would avoid MK. It's noisy, it's crowded, the service is rushed (we joked that MK stood for "mangia kwik"), and there are other places where you can get better food without the hassle. wak's four suggestions (one sixtyblue, Everest, Blackbird, and Naha) are excellent alternatives; along with those four, three more worth considering are Aigre Doux, Custom House, and North Pond.

            I think Topolobampo is a good choice.

            For your steakhouse choice, there are many opinions about Chicago steakhouses, and no clear consensus favorite. In addition to the posts in this topic, you can read lots more opinions (and see a fairly complete list of website links) at www.chowhound.com/topics/359377

            2 Replies
            1. re: nsxtasy
              b
              BRB RE: nsxtasy Aug 29, 2007 01:47 PM

              Well, my only area of disagreement would be with MK, which I have to defend. It sounds like you had a bad experience. I have always found the service excellent and never rushed, and while there are certain areas of the dining room where diners might be close to one another (I've seen, haven't experienced), I must say that Blackbird is tight throughout the restaurant. And Blackbird is much, much noisier than MK (I hardly find MK loud, but I believe that also depends upon where you sit). But don't get me wrong, I love Blackbird and I'm simply arguing that MK deserves more credit.

              In any event, I think MK's food is excellent and I love their focus (like Blackbird's, North Pond's and NAHA's) on locally grown ingredients.

              1. re: BRB
                blondie60614 RE: BRB Aug 31, 2007 12:00 PM

                I agree - I love MK. I've never noticed it being noisy, crowded or rushed. And their fries with the truffle butter sauce is out of this world!

            2. abf005 RE: timNYC Aug 29, 2007 02:28 PM

              I will second (or 3rd/4th) the rec for Keefer's, they have probably the best customer service of any steakhouse I have EVER visited. Last time I was there the steak was overdone, they fixed the situation quickly and without pause, and then shockingly comped me the steak!!

              I am also a huge fan of both Gibson's/Hugo's Frog bar as well as the Original Morton's on Rush St. and think that they are both excellent choices with one caveat;

              It's true that Morton's is a national steak chain, and that the experience can pretty much be duplicated at any Morton's location (cudo's to them, eg. Uno's failed miserably in this area). But since it is of Chicago origin so you shouldn't be made to feel as though you didn't get to do a quintessential Chicago steak by going there, the Rush street location is the place where the "big" steakhouse phenomenon was pretty much born.

              I have not been to Burke's (yet) but I've heard nothing but great things about it.

              As to Topo... Personally I think it's highly overrated and would just caution you from going in with unrealistic expectations such as I did.

              8 Replies
              1. re: abf005
                t
                timNYC RE: abf005 Aug 30, 2007 06:50 PM

                Here's the agenda so far:

                Monday- mk the rep already set up reservations for 6 of us and it shouldn't be too noisy on Monday. I was there once in 2000 and had a good meal and a good time on a Thursday night.

                Tuesday- Topo the last time I went out with this rep (a different company) in NYC she ordered each app and each entree at Mario Batali's Del Posto. So, I expect we'll be trying Rick's entire menu.

                Wed- going to the Cubs game. Yes, bleachers. So, it's an early dinner (5pm) with a science liaison from Queens, NY who loves Frontera Grill when he's in Chi-town. A quick dinner and it's up to Wrigley to cheer the Cubbies on to the playoffs.

                Thursday- here's the wild card. I just had lunch with this science liaison at A Voce in NYC (A Voce is fantastic, and I highly recommend it if you're headed to NYC). I don't think she's a big steak eater. Would Primehouse be too much of a steak place for her. It looks good. But, how's the menu if you're not eating steak. They don't have the menu on-line. I could guess they'll have a salmon and/or lobster. But, does anyone have an idea if they will have much more?

                I'm thinking Joe's would be a safer bet for her. But, if I can get some good feedback on Primehouse, I might go for it.

                Keefer's also looked pretty good from the responses and web site. She's staying at the W so it's a little further out.

                Thanks for the suggestions. I always liked Blackbird and One-Sixty Blue, but they are a bit further away to get these people to. Naha was okay when I went there on a recent trip to Chicago. I wasn't too impressed, but it was pleasant enough a spot.

                1. re: timNYC
                  nsxtasy RE: timNYC Aug 30, 2007 07:05 PM

                  Regarding David Burke's, they have some seafood entrees, including a couple mentioned on their website at www.davidburke.com/primehouse.html You can view their complete menu at http://chicago.menupages.com/restaura...

                  My attitude towards steakhouses is that they are all very similar in a lot of ways, everything from their menu (*every* steakhouse has lobster on the menu, but not every steakhouse has prime rib - go figure; they all have shrimp cocktail, they all have creamed spinach, they all have huge desserts, etc) to their atmosphere, to, well, just about everything else. No, they're not all the same, in terms of the food or service, but there are a lot more similarities than differences.

                  So the question of "too much of a steakhouse for her", to me, seems to apply to *every* steakhouse, not just Burke's. They all have non-steak menu items, including seafood and even the obligatory vegetarian entree. But they will all still "seem like a steakhouse".

                  If that's a concern, then you might be better off accompanying her to a place that's not a steakhouse per se. Perhaps a seafood restaurant (seafood restaurants are a genre, too, and all seem to serve steaks, as well), such as Shaw's Crab House or Hugo's Frog Bar. Hugo's is the sister restaurant of Gibson's Steakhouse next door, so they serve darn good steaks in addition to their seafood offerings. Shaw's is a bit closer than Hugo's to the W Lakeshore as well as to the W in the Loop (you didn't mention which W). Both are excellent.

                  1. re: timNYC
                    b
                    BRB RE: timNYC Aug 30, 2007 07:45 PM

                    Good news: MK offers their "market" menu Sundays and Mondays, with the emphasis obviously on finds from local producers. It's excellent.

                    David Burke's: Definitely my favorite steakhouse in Chicago. Here's a link to their menus (sorry, the rest of the address keeps getting cut off in the post, but you'll find a link to their menu on the website):

                    http://www.brguestrestaurants.com

                    As you will see, the emphasis is on dry aged beef but there are items for the non-meat eater. A friend of mine loved her Chilean Sea Bass on a recent visit.

                    My only disappointment is that on my last two visits they have not had any of the beyond 40-day aged steaks. But the 40-day aged ribeye is amazing. If you are a fan of aged beef, you're in luck. I don't love their sides though -- hash browns and creamed spinach are my favorites, but I don't like either of the whipped potatoes at all. The Kobe beef sashimi is excellent, and I also enjoyed the beet and goat cheese maki. Since their opening, they have offered the pretzel crusted crab cake and I have liked that both times I tried it I liked it quite a bit.

                    As for Keefer's, it's my favorite of steakhouses serving wet aged steaks, but I much prefer DB's. I think you'll find that they offer enough dishes for the non-meat eater, including chicken.

                    1. re: BRB
                      j
                      jbw RE: BRB Aug 31, 2007 06:24 AM

                      Based on previous posts here and elsewhere, Keefer's would seem to be one of the better steakhouses for non-steakhouse proponents. Here's their site and menu:

                      http://www.keefersrestaurant.com/

                      1. re: jbw
                        j
                        jmiller07 RE: jbw Aug 31, 2007 11:20 AM

                        Make it easy on yourself. Make a reservation at Sepia and don't worry about anything else. Ate there 2 weeks ago and it is some of the best food in teh city. Kind of like Blackbird a few years ago.

                        1. re: jmiller07
                          Cookiefiend RE: jmiller07 Sep 6, 2007 02:07 PM

                          Is Blackbird still a good bet?

                          We'll be in Chicago next weekend and have reservations there Friday.

                          1. re: Cookiefiend
                            b
                            BRB RE: Cookiefiend Sep 6, 2007 03:47 PM

                            Absolutely -- it's one of my very favorite spots in Chicago.

                            1. re: BRB
                              Cookiefiend RE: BRB Sep 6, 2007 06:04 PM

                              Excellent!

                              Thank you for letting me know!

                2. t
                  timNYC RE: timNYC Sep 30, 2007 06:53 PM

                  So, here's the review after completing a week of eating in Chicago. mk was fantastic on a Monday, it had a vibrant crowd and was as slick as I recall from a visit in 2000. I had a buffalo porterhouse which was outstanding. Everyone loved it and the New Yorkers were still talking about it 2 weeks later. Topo was good, but service was a bit slow and ackward. I had the seafood tasting which had some high points, but nothing exceptional. Wednesday we had a fantastic meal at Frontera before heading to Wrigley to see the Cubs beat the Reds. Thursday, I went to Capital Grill for a lunch meeting and had the porterhouse from the dinner menu. I ordered medium rare and there wasn't the slightest suggestion of red in the center. The steak also wasn't particularly flavorful. (I did have a great burger for lunch at the bar at Capital on Monday though.) I ended up at David Burke's Prime House on Thursday night. I had the shrimp with bacon appetizer which was fair, however the dry-aged bone-in ribeye was outstanding. Fantastic flavor and perfectly cooked at medium rare. The popovers were interestingly presented in their little pans, but were no where as good as BLT Steak's.
                  Thanks for everyone's help.
                  Tim

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: timNYC
                    s
                    swsidejim RE: timNYC Oct 1, 2007 08:11 AM

                    Thanks for the reviews, I have not had a good steak at Capitol Grill either, they seem to not understand proper cooking temperatures.

                    David Burks is on my short list of the next steakhouse to try in Chicago, dry aged beef is the way to go. Perhaps on your next visit give Saloon Steakhouse a shot. I had the best steak i have ever eaten there. A Dry aged Kansas City Strip a couple of weeks ago, and want to go back

                    1. re: swsidejim
                      ChefJune RE: swsidejim Oct 1, 2007 08:15 AM

                      interesting. David Burke is from New York, and his Chicago restaurant is the start of a chain, I understand.

                      when I go to Chicago, I go to a Chicago steak house like the original Morton's, or Gene and Georgetti's. I want to make sure I'm getting midwestern beef!

                      1. re: ChefJune
                        s
                        swsidejim RE: ChefJune Oct 1, 2007 08:24 AM

                        I was a huge fan of Mortons until I had a steak at Saloon Steakhouse, in my humble opinion dry nothing beats dry aged beef. I do not believe Mortons offers dry aged beef on their menu.

                        I have also heard that David Burke has many dry-aged offerings on the menu unlike Saloon where there was just one choice. I have eaten at pretty much all of the steakhouses in Chicago, and my top 3 are:

                        1) Saloon Steakhouse (21 day dry aged K.C. Strip)
                        2) Joes Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab (bone in Filet)
                        3) Mortons (filet & porterhouse)

                        1. re: swsidejim
                          jpschust RE: swsidejim Oct 1, 2007 08:46 AM

                          I'm surprised Gene and Georgetti isn't on your list.

                          1. re: jpschust
                            s
                            swsidejim RE: jpschust Oct 1, 2007 08:49 AM

                            Good steak @ Gene & Georgetti's, they make it into my top 5. I have only been once, and they were very good.

                        2. re: ChefJune
                          j
                          jesteinf RE: ChefJune Oct 1, 2007 09:03 AM

                          After eating the 40 day dry-aged bone-in ribeye from Primehouse, I could care less about any of that. The meat (allegedly) all comes from the same line of bull in Kentucky, not a bunch of cows living on the Upper West Side of NYC.

                          1. re: ChefJune
                            b
                            BRB RE: ChefJune Oct 1, 2007 04:34 PM

                            The fact that the steakhouse had its origins in Chicago has nothing to do with where the beef is from. In fact, many Chicago-based steakhouses and imports are getting their beef from Allen Brothers: http://www.allenbrothers.com/whoservi.... By the way, the Stockyards are no more. In any event, Chicago is primarily a "wet aged" town so if you prefer the more intense flavor of beef, like I do, you'll go to one of the steakhouses selling dry aged beef. In my opinion, David Burke's is the premier destination for dry aged beef because they consistently (unlike Capitol Grille and S&W) cook the steaks to perfection -- I also prefer the more modern, less clubby, decor and the great service, but the amazing dry aged beef is my primary reason for always choosing DB's.

                      2. b
                        bellewinter RE: timNYC Oct 1, 2007 04:44 PM

                        One place I would never miss going is Bob Chinn's Crab House. That was a real dining experience for me. A+++++ they have a website http://www.chicagofun.com/bobchinn/

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bellewinter
                          nsxtasy RE: bellewinter Oct 1, 2007 05:28 PM

                          Well, Tim has already taken his trip, so any advice at this point would be directed to others reading this. And his interests like in steakhouses and meat-oriented places. But for anyone looking for great seafood, I think there are better places to get it than Bob Chinn's, where I've found the seafood to be fresh, but the preparations not all that exciting. For classic seafood dishes, you can start with the seafood restaurants, like Shaw's Crab House, Hugo's Frog Bar, and Fulton's on the River. For a more creative flair, I think some of the best seafood in the entire Chicago area is at Spring, in Wicker Park, and Oceanique, in Evanston.

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