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Aug 26, 2007 08:30 PM

4 nights of Chicago fine dining

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. 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. 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?


      2 Replies
      1. re: timNYC

        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.

        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 -
        Everest -
        Blackbird -
        Naha -

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

        1. re: timNYC

          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. 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. 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

            2 Replies
            1. re: nsxtasy

              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

                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. 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

                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

                  Regarding David Burke's, they have some seafood entrees, including a couple mentioned on their website at You can view their complete menu at

                  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

                    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):


                    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

                      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:


                      1. re: jbw

                        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

                          Is Blackbird still a good bet?

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

                          1. re: Cookiefiend

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

                            1. re: BRB


                              Thank you for letting me know!