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Aug 22, 2011 04:38 PM

Oysters, steak, scotch: suggestions for where to find the best combo

Hey all, I beg your advice/experience. I have been researching this so hard, on CH and the web, that my brain feels hot. :)

Quick two-day trip in a couple/few weeks for a late anniversary. One night will be at Next; the other, a steak for my husband. His desert-island meal, fortunately, is available in Chicago in multiples:

Oysters (raw) (Kumamotos, Wellfleets a bonus)
Beef carpaccio
Lobster bisque
Steak (dry- or wet-aged, he likes sirloin and ribeye; I like filet)
Single-malt scotch, more obscure selection the better

The carpaccio and bisque are negotiable, even disposable. And any place will have at least an acceptable scotch.

We're staying in the Loop and would enjoy walking to and fro for dinner, but can transit or taxi; will eat early (around 6:00 p.m.) on a Wednesday. I don't mind higher-end chain steakhouses. $$ not an issue but not interested in 'scene' over food.

Shortlist so far (not married to any of these):
McCormick & Schmick

Does anyone have experience on this combo of overindulgence lol? Appreciate any thoughts.

McCormick & Schmick's
1 E Wacker Dr Lbby 3, Chicago, IL 60601

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  1. For steaks, I would stick to a steakhouse, rather than a seafood restaurant like McCormick & Schmick. Not that you can't get a good steak, prepared as specified, in a seafood restaurant, but the chances are better at a steakhouse. (FWIW, I also haven't been all that impressed with McC&S lately.)

    David Burke's Primehouse would be my first pick. Their dry aged steaks may be the best in town. Their seafood is good, and they have East Coast and West Coast oysters. And they have a creative flair to their entire menu that makes them a bit more unusual.

    Gibson's and Hugo's also do a good job. Hugo's Frog Bar and Gibson's Steakhouse are next door to each other, and share the same ownership and the same kitchen. So you're getting the same food in either place, including the wet aged Gibson's steaks. Eating in Gibson's is a bit more boisterous and somewhat cramped feeling. Also, it's often easier to get a reservation at Hugo's than at Gibson's. (Gibson's books up well in advance, so if you decide this is where you want to go, I recommend reserving as soon as possible.)

    I have another suggestion, though. Would you consider making more than one stop? If you really want the very best oysters AND the very best steaks, here's what I would do. I would start the evening in the Oyster Bar at Shaw's Crab House. The Oyster Bar is the bar side of the restaurant, where food is also served. They may have the biggest variety of oysters in town, always fresh too. (Check out the selection on the menu on their website.) So I would start at Shaw's for the oysters and a drink. I would then walk to David Burke's for dinner starting with their lobster bisque. (As you can see on the map to the right, they're only about four blocks apart.) A variation on this would be to call Burke's before leaving the hotel, to ask them about their oyster selection that evening; if you like it, just go there, otherwise stop at Shaw's first.

    David Burke's Primehouse
    616 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611

    Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House
    1024 North Rush, Chicago, IL 60611

    Shaw's Crab House
    21 East Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60611

    Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
    1028 North Rush, Chicago, IL 60611

    8 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for that (detailed and very helpful!) reply, nsxtasy! I hadn't even thought of splitting the dinner, but the Shaw's/Primehouse itinerary sounds kinda perfect. Plus the little walk will be good for us. :)

      Dang. If I go with that, I'll have to spoil the surprise and show him the Primehouse menu. He'll need time to pick his steak. lol

      1. re: DuchessNukem

        Any of these places will have a few bottles of decent Scotch whisky, too. If you want to seek out a larger list with a wider variety, there are a few great options in the River North area. It would mean another stop - so maybe something to consider after dinner at Next, rather than fitting it into your seafood/steak itinerary.

        Sable has a huge list with some really nice bottles. Lots of American whiskey and bourbon, too. It's also one of the best places to get a cocktail in the city, in case single malts aren't on the menu for the both of you. Clark Street Ale House also has a great selection of single malts but the rest of their drinks program isn't quite as exciting. You can get a decent martini, but I wouldn't look for cocktails much more advanced than that.

        The Aviary (the cocktail bar adjacent to Next) has a small selection of single malts but they're all good choices. When you sit down - or at any point during your meal, really - you can ask your server about getting a table next door at The Aviary once you're done eating. My group had no trouble walking in (after talking to our server during dinner) and I've heard many people experience the same. The Aviary also some other unusual offerings, such as a "vertical flight" of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons - the 10, 12, 15, 20 & 23 for $125. I personally don't think it's worth it since the 20 and 23 year olds are a little too mellow for my taste, not to mention the pricetag, but it's certainly something you don't see anywhere else.

        Clark Street Ale House
        742 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

        1. re: danimalarkey

          I was going to mention Clark Street Ale House as a good option for Scotch as well. It's not too far from Primehouse and might be a nice addition if you wanted to add another stop on the night's agenda.

          Clark Street Ale House
          742 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

          1. re: danimalarkey

            Second Sable. Impressive Scotch collection from what I could see just sitting at my seat at the bar. Impressive liquor collection, period. Great cocktails, too.

            I was definitely able to get a seat at Aviary after Next. But the point of Aviary though is to try the unusual cocktails on the menu, not get scotch, neat, which you can get anywhere else. It depends if the husband is a pure scotch guy or is willing to try some cocktails.

            BTW, is Aviary now excluding the 13 yr rye from the Van Winkle tasting?

            1. re: kathryn

              I didn't think the rye was part of the tasting. At least, I didn't see it listed on the menu when I was there. It would certainly make a very nice addition to the line-up.

              And agreed that The Aviary is more about the cocktails. However, the whiskies they have are very good so if someone didn't want a cocktail, there are some good alternatives.

              1. re: danimalarkey

                It was when they first opened, it's possible they took it out.

                1. re: danimalarkey

                  I went a few nights ago and the Van Winkle tasting was:
                  10 year and 12 year Van Winkle Whiskey, 13 yr rye, and the 15, 20, and 23 yr Pappys.

          2. re: nsxtasy

            I second Primehouse, have always had a great meal there, and most everything you want will be available..the suggestion to split it is also fantastic

          3. Thanks to all!

            I have a reservation at Primehouse, everything there looks excellent. We'll try Shaw's beforehand, I called to check how crowded it might be for walk-ins, they were reassuring (but no disaster if too crowded).

            Both Clark's and Sable sound great for an after dinner Scotch. I'm still debating. They seem very different sort of places.

            We'll try for Aviary after Next the next night.

            Will report back. Appreciate ALL the input. :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: DuchessNukem

              I would go for Sable. The Scotch selection is much better especially if he likes more unusual selections. They even have Octomore. CSAH is a great drinkers bar, Sable is more in line with the ambience of Shaws and Burkes.

              1. re: Chihab

                Shaw's has pretty good steak even though they focus on seafood.

            2. Please forgive my reviving this thread, just wanted to give a belated thanks to all! The visit was wonderful and I can't wait to get back to eat more. :)

              So we did:

              Pizanos -- delightful sausage/mushroom pie
              Shaws - two dozen assorted oysters. My husband gets misty when we talk about this place.
              Primehouse -- 55-day aged, every bite a little different. Exquisite.
              generic drinks on pier during fireworks

              O'Brien's on Riverwalk -- right near hotel, convenient forgettable early lunch, pretty setting
              Sable -- he sampled bourbons incl Pappy Van Winkle; my first Rob Roy. Nate= best bartender ever.
              dreadful quesadilla on pier (before hilarious EXTREME SPEED LAKE CRUISE)
              Next -- (Thai) can't describe it any better than has been done; pork belly was incredible; great experience.

              Garrett popcorn @ airport -- DAMN YOU CHICAGO AND YOUR DELICIOUS GARRETT POPCORN! I just ordered another batch this week.

              Husband said to tell y'all, everything was perfect. Thanks again. :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: DuchessNukem

                Love when people report back! And your brought back memories of summer and eating outside so thank you!