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Nov 6, 2007 06:03 PM

Charred on the outside, Pink on the inside

Yes the topic of steak has been discussed many times before. Folks have their own preferences. My dilemma/request is to find a more "old-fashioned" type of quality steak. I have been to Ruth's Chris steakhouse and yes the meat was of a good quality but I found it to be pretty flavorless and dry. I like a steak au jus and with a bit of char on the outside.

Our friend is coming from England for a visit and is hoping to find a nice juicy steak here on this end. Can you help me find a suitable place? A few friends have suggested Joe's Seafood and Steaks and another few The Chophouse. I'm a bit leery about Lettuce Entertain you restaurants as I have found them to be inconsistent in the past. We were very disappointed in Wildfire in Lincolnshire. We had one good meal at L. Woods and one very average meal there.

I'm more interested in the food than a Chi-Chi environment. What say you steaklovers out there?

Much Obliged, Twodales

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  1. You talk "old-fashioned" but I have to say -- the real old fashioned steaks were the dry aged steaks that everyone used to serve, and you simply don't char dry aged beef unless you've got a few screws loose. Now most Chicago steakhouses have become wet aged palaces and most will char the beef with their high temperature broilers. A strong chart actually adds to the flavor of wet aged beef but ruins the intense flavor of dry aged beef.

    On to your choices. I have never ordered a steak at Joe's so I can't say how good it would be, but their existence is not in steak alone, and for that reason I would go elsewhere for the perfect steak. I have not been to the Chophouse in some time, but I've always thought it was very good and I know that they could probably give you the charred crust you seek. But I think you can do better (and you're not going to get high end beef at Wildfire -- nor will they charge you for high end beef).

    In terms of quality of the beef, I don't think that you will find significant differences in most of the top end steakhouses -- for the most part, they're offering top quality steaks, albeit largely wet aged beef. The exceptions are the few places that offer almost exclusively dry aged beef (David Burke's Primehouse, Smith & Wollensky and Capital Grille).

    I prefer the dry aged because the process results in a more concentrated, intense flavor (i.e., gamier) than wet aged beef. Of course, many in Chicago and elsewhere prefer wet aged and the process is considerably less expensive -- dry aging takes longer and results in a smaller piece of meat. In my opinion, the true beef connoisseur will much prefer the dry aged beef versus the wet aged. But if you absolutely want a strong char, you'll choose wet aged beef which is the only type to char.

    And regardless of whether you prefer dry or wet aged, you must choose a place that knows how to properly cook the steak. If you decide you definitely want that char, I'd suggest Gene & Georgetti's. They serve wet aged beef and they use a very high temperature broiler that gives a very heavy char. Although Keefer's is my favorite spot in Chicago for wet aged beef, they don't char like G&G does.

    If the char is not as important (and I don't think that it should be the main consideration), head to David Burke's Primehouse for the most perfect dry aged steaks, always cooked to perfection. Simply put, the most perfect beef I have ever tasted. I've typically ordered their 40-day dry aged beef and it has no rivals. You want more flavor? Call ahead and make sure that they will save one of their 50- or 75- day dry aged beef for you. DB's is the place for the beefaholic.

    2 Replies
    1. re: BRB

      Thank you for your detailed comments. When I say "charred" I don't mean well-done. Just a bit of char on the outside from the flame/grill. By describing it this way I was hoping to avoid a Ruth's Chris type steak which is baked (?), grey and without a puddle of natural juice. Is this type of steak wet or dry aged? I don't really know. Como Inn used to have really great steaks. I suppose this is why I use the term "old-fashioned". I don't know about many of the new restaurants and I'm hoping to avoid making a mistake by going to a place that has another grey but "perfect" looking steak without much taste. Is Ruth's Chris the only place amongst all reccies that have this bland type of steak or are there others to watch out for?

      1. re: twodales

        "When I say "charred" I don't mean well-done."

        I know -- and there are definitely steakhouses that will give you the rare/medium rare steak with a heavy char, G&G for one, and there are others that do not employ the higher temperature method. I think you'd be happy with the G&G steak if you insist upon a heavier char. Otherwise, I'd say give Keefer's a shot. I have always found that they cook the steaks properly, although I must say that I am not anti-Ruth's Chris like you are. They are using a good cut of beef and I think they typically cook it well. But my feeling is that at any steakhouse on any given night, they might not cook a steak perfectly.

        But I love a good steak, and the only place that I will go these days is David Burke's . . . the quality of the dry aged beef is just that good.

    2. You can find lots of opinions about Chicago steakhouses, and links to the websites of the best-known ones, in the discussion topic at

      1 Reply
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks nsxtasy. I appreciated your comments on the Black Ram. They've been doing a fine job for many years. That would be a good idea for us but we want our foreign friend to experience Chicago on a Saturday night. A good steak and some great local music.

      2. My current favorites for prime steaks:

        Saloon Steakhouse - best steak i have ever had, a 21 day dry aged k.c. strip

        Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks, and Stone Crab - great steaks, stone crab claws, and service
        Morton's - old school classic steakhouse

        I am going to David Burkes in a couple of weeks, and can't wait to try their dry aged beef. I have heard they are the best steakhouse in the city, and I just hope they live up to their reputation.

        1. I'm not sure that any of the aged beef places make steak that is oozing juice. The only place I can think of where the steak is really charred and really juicy is Tango Sur, which is a completely different experience. The meat definitely is different than at the more traditional steak houses.

          1. For the most part, you have to define your taste in cuts of steak. I would take a wet aged ribeye over a dry aged filet any day of the week. the marble is the key factor, as well as making sure that the meat in question is prime graded(top 3% of all beef) as this will ensure the consistant and edible fat content in the cut itself. A filet is virtually marble free, and as the old saying goes, more fat equal more flavor. saloon does a great steak as soes primehouse. It just depends on your taste, and if you aren't specific in your cuts then I wouldn't worry a whole lot about how it is aged or the temperature of the broiler.

            3 Replies
            1. re: mitch cumstein

              "I would take a wet aged ribeye over a dry aged filet any day of the week."

              Try the Bone-in South Side filet at David Burke's Primehouse and report back. While I would typically agree with your assertion, I think DB's filet is better than some wet aged ribeyes around town.

              1. re: BRB

                I will give it try and report back. One suggestion to the original poster: a bit of char and jus on the plate = rosebud steakhouse on mag mile or rosebud prime in the loop. prime wet aged cuts, good char, served on veal demi-glace. It should be what you are looking for.

                Rosebud Prime
                1 S. Dearborn
                Chicago, Il

                Rosebud Steakhouse
                192 E Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60611

                1. re: mitch cumstein

                  I cannot speak for Rosebud Prime, but if it is at all like the Rosebud Steakhouse off of North Mag Mile then I must strongly disagree. The steak and meal that I had there last year was one of the worst meals in memory. Not only were the steaks flaccid, flavourless crap, all of the sauces and sides were too.

                  You won't get the front of the house to cop to it, I am sure, but I learned from a corporate exec in their Wabash office that *all* of the sauces, gravies, and sides are batch-processed in a central commisary kitchen and shipped to the various outposts each day.

                  The place is fine for a burger, sure. Great even. But stay away from everything else.