Chicago is right up there with New York City and Washington, DC, as one of the country’s quintessential steakhouse cities. Despite the onslaught of hot new restaurants that continue to broaden Chicago’s dining scene, the steakhouse tradition is alive and well, anchored by a handful of time-worn gems. Here are five old-school steakhouses you need to check out (or revisit) in Chicago.
Gene & Georgetti
It doesn’t get more old-school than the oldest steakhouse in Chicago. Founded in 1941 by Gene Michelotti and Alfredo Federighi, whose nickname was Georgetti, the River North icon looks and feels just as it probably did on opening day. It’s a classic, serving hulking plates of shrimp de Jonghe, wedge salads and rib-eye steaks amid walls lined with autographed celebrity photographs. The steakhouse’s enduring legacy is attributable to the “customers are family” mentality instilled by its founders — a sentiment that has been passed down through the generations, making it still one of the best family-run institutions in Chicago.
Must-order: Start with the garlicky shrimp de Jonghe and follow up with a broiled fillet for the main course. It's even better when capped off with demi-glace sauce.
500 N. Franklin St.; 312-527-3718
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
It may not be the oldest, but Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse reigns supreme in its own way. Not only is it routinely ranked the highest-grossing independent restaurant in Chicago, and among the most profitable in the country, but it's known for welcoming legions of famous guests and regulars. Just glance at the walls by the staircase, a veritable shrine to the hundreds of celebs who call Gibsons their local favorite. The place bustles with clinking martini glasses at the bar, while OG servers bring pomp and circumstance to the packed dining room along with colossal cuts of steak, seafood platters and enormous slices of cake.
Must-order: Go big with a shellfish platter and share the dry-aged tomahawk chop with a hungry friend. It clocks in at a whopping 36 ounces, so you'd both better come hungry.
1028 N. Rush St.; 312-266-8999
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Another old gem, Morton’s The Steakhouse opened in 1978 in the Gold Coast, paving the way for other steakhouses to follow (Gibsons is across the street, as is Tavern on Rush and Maple & Ash). Founded by Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch, the subterranean stalwart made a name for itself with its 23- and 28-day custom-cut aged steaks. These include the peppercorn-rubbed prime strip and the bone-in rib-eye, two longtime customer favorites. Decked in Chicago-centric art like jerseys and sports memorabilia, the lively space blends comfort with formality.
Must-order: Lobster bisque is particularly habit-forming here, but be sure to save room for one of Morton's superlative steaks, especially the peppercorn-rubbed prime strip.
1050 N. State St.; 312-266-4820
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
What started as a pint-sized crab shack on Miami Beach is now a Chicago institution worth its sea salt. Since partnering with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in 2000, Joe’s has celebrated its humble coastal origins while infusing a bit of Chicago character via steaks and chops. The sophisticated River North locale, with dark woods and white tablecloths, is now one of the city's most action-packed (read: crowded and clamorous) restaurants, where tuxedo-clad servers wield towering platters of stone crab claws, thick slices of steak and wedges of Joe’s famous Key lime pie.
Must-order: It would be blasphemy to come here and not order a platter of stone crab claws to crack into. These are best followed by a porterhouse or fried chicken (or both) and of course a slice of Joe's famous Key lime pie. Diets have no business here.
60 E. Grand Ave.; 312-379-5637
Lawry’s The Prime Rib
Of all the legendary Chicago steakhouses, Lawry’s The Prime Rib is the only one housed in a (purportedly) haunted house. Built in 1890, Downtown's McCormick Mansion was home to the legendary McCormick family and later to a puppet theater. Since Lawry's opened there in 1974, staff members have occasionally reported seeing McCormick clan ghosts, albeit friendly ones. The space is less creepy than grandiose, however, with the main dining room occupying the mansion’s grand ballroom. There, some of the city’s most established servers deliver classics like lobster, dirty martinis and Yorkshire pudding. The namesake prime rib, made from corn-fed Midwestern beef, is hand-carved to order.
Must-order: Prime rib is an obvious go-to that lives up to the hype, especially considering the tableside carving. Match it with one of Lawry's expertly stirred cocktails.
100 E. Ontario St.; 312-787-5000