Where To Go For A Solid Steak Lunch
By Audarshia Townsend
You know someone means serious business when you receive a lunch invitation to a steakhouse. And not that it’s all about the “suit & tie” experience, but it makes matters easier when you have a less-complicated menu. At our favorite power-lunch steakhouses, you’re also guaranteed exceptional service, so you can concentrate on more important issues at hand. Here’s our Top 10 list of where to go:
Capital Grille. One thing we can honestly say about Capital Grille is that it’s consistent across the board. While each location offers its own vibe and “chef’s suggestions” menu, it runs like a machine and in this case at the Streeterville location, that is a very good thing. Service is solid whether you’re meeting for cocktails at the bar or dining in and it’s filled with a mostly dressed up crowd. There’s also three recently renovated private dining rooms for those who need a more hushed environment; rooms accommodate 10 to 30 guests. And though it offers a modern steakhouse vibe, this location errs on the traditional side when it comes to steak selections and portion sizes. The dry-aged Porterhouse and double cut lamb rib chops are some of the more popular choices.
Chicago Cut Steakhouse. Located at the base of a highly populated office building and adjacent from the Chicago River, Chicago Cut also gets the early-bird crowd by serving full-service breakfast. During lunchtime, however, the bustling spot attracts a sorted business crowd, from suit-wearing politicians to casually attired techie types. The venue offers two adjacent private dining rooms (which can be connected to hold up to 100) and three specialty lunch menus that range $29 to $60 per person. The “LaSalle Street” menu is a great deal for $60 per person and is comprised of four courses, including hearty portions of family-style side dishes.
(Photo: Chicago Cut Steakhouse)
David Burke’s Primehouse. The restaurant located on the lobby level of the James Hotel underwent some major renovations in 2013. The dining room is more open, so it’s appropriate for those looking for a casual business lunch dining experience. For those needing more privacy, another room is set aside that accommodates up to 20 guests. It’s as sleek as the main dining room, which makes it feel as an extension to Primehouse. The private lunch menu is $25 per person and three courses, with entrée options such as an aged marinated filet salad, prime dry-aged ribeye sandwich and petit filet mignon.
Ditka’s. The interior is exactly what you’d expect from “Iron Mike” Ditka: two levels of hypermasculine accents such as deep hardwood, memorabilia from Ditka’s glory days and oversized portions of EVERYTHING. The Chicago location is on the first level of the Tremont Hotel, so you’ll find both locals and visitors patronizing it. Every lunch here should begin with a heaving plate of pot roast nachos, which are loaded down with cheddar jack, jalapenos, sour cream, scallions and tomatoes. Definitely share because you’ll want to leave room for ginormous dishes like the USDA prime meatloaf stack, The Fridge burger or smoked beef brisket. In need of private dining? Ditka’s offers four choices on the second level.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse. The original location is situated in River North and continues to draw a large number of locals and visitors. During lunch, you’ll find a casually dressed crowd, who look in awe at all the sports and celebrity memorabilia throughout the space. Lunch consists of generous portions; some of the more popular items include sandwiches, steakhouse burgers (10-ounce sirloin, turkey, Wagyu) and wet- or dry-aged steaks (e.g. grass-fed New York strip, bison filet). Three private dining rooms accommodate up to 100 guests each.
Gibsons Steakhouse. No list would be complete without the Gold Coast’s reigning steakhouse. While nighttime remains a gathering for the glitterati, the lunch crowd is much more subdued and conservative. You'll find cuts here larger than its competitors; averaging 14 ounces to 26 ounces for filets, sirloins and Porterhouse. Adding to that, sides large enough to share, enormous desserts and famously large martinis are almost incidental. Six private dining rooms hold 12 to 200 guests.
Keefer’s. Proprietor Glenn Keefer doesn’t bite his tongue when it comes to hot-button issues regarding the restaurant industry, so count on him to have his customers’ backs when it comes to their dining experiences. Guests may choose from the livelier lounge side or the more formal dining room for serious business matters. Steaks are all USDA prime and are classic cuts: filet mignon, Kansas City strip, New York strip, Delmonico ribeye, bone-in ribeye and Porterhouse. Each is served with a choice of sauces like béarnaise, bordelaise and peppercorn. Executive Chef/partner John Hogan is especially proud of his "I must be in Chicago" smoked grilled pork chop with a cherry cola BBQ sauce and corn pudding. Three private dining rooms accommodate up to 64 guests.
Morton’s The Steakhouse (Wacker Place). The original State Street location only serves dinner, but you get the same menu at the downtown outpost right off the Chicago River. Morton’s menu is pretty much the blueprint for classic and modern steakhouse concepts. The best bet during lunch is the three-course, prime lunch special for $29 (served 11:30am-2:30pm). Guests choose selections such as a nine-ounce grilled ribeye steak, crab BLT and prime sirloin chopped steak with mashed potatoes. The restaurant also offers gluten- and soy-sensitive menus during lunch. The location features a few choice private-dining options.
RL. The Oprah reign may be over at this chic Mag Mile eatery, but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter a celebrity sighting or two. RL’s located a stone’s throw from luxury hotels Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, Peninsula and the Ritz-Carlton, so it’s highly likely you'll see many famous faces. RL's setting is classic—in true Ralph Lauren style—yet very clubby and contemporary. The menu almost never changes, with favorite entrees ranging from the lobster BLT to the top sirloin grilled steak sandwich on the lunch menu. Unfortunately RL doesn’t offer private dining or buyouts of its dining room.
Smith & Wollensky. Located on the river in the Marina City complex, Smith & Wollensky is another national chain that has found much success in Chicago. The daytime menu attracts many a well-heeled Loop luncher and the “Liquid Lunch” special is no exception. For $30 each, guests get a Samuel Adams beer, split pea soup and an entrée (choices include braised lamb shank, prime beef pie or crispy pork shank). Smith & Wollensky features eight private dining rooms, with one holding up to 200 guests.