There are three things on every block in Chicago: a Walgreen’s, a Potbelly and a steakhouse. Ok that might be an exaggeration, but steakhouses are so ubiquitous here that I’d have fatally high cholesterol well before I could ever try them all out, yet they all manage to stay in business. I guess Chicagoans like their beef.
I’ve never been a huge fan of steakhouses. I always felt like the meal is just a massive slab of meat + a butter-drenched veggie + an unbelievably rich starch that leaves me feeling like “Da Bears” guys on SNL. The fact is, most steakhouses serve nearly identical menus.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, loves a good steak. Rumor has it Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf is the best steakhouse in Chicago. That’s not a designation that comes lightly in a city inundated with steak-serving restaurants, so it was fitting that I surprised him with dinner at Bavette’s for his birthday. (I had a lot to live up to after the surprise birthday dinner he gave me.)
Turns out, the rumors were right. So right that Bavette’s has me changing my thinking about steakhouses.
So what makes Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf the Best Steakhouse in Chicago?
Bavette’s is classy, yet unpretentious.
Bavette’s is not like most steakhouses. Somehow the pretentious atmosphere that plagues most steak places is simply not there. It still has classic elements of a dimly-lit wood-paneled interior and servers with white shirts and black vests, but they are there with an inviting warmth that other places lack. Not to mention if you’re seated downstairs like we were, it has that speakeasy feel of getting in on a place no one else knows about.
That speakeasy feel is enhanced by the excellent cocktails. A whiskey-heavy cocktail menu caught my attention, and the Old Fashioneds we ordered did not disappoint, nor did the Boulevardier I paired with my meal.
Bavette’s serves more than steak.
The menu mimicked every other steakhouse menu in the city: a long list of beef differentiated by cuts and age (from petite filet mignon, $38.95; to dry aged bone-in ribeye $69.95), the typical sides of vegetables (creamed spinach $12; broccoli, $10) and carbs (mashed potatoes $12; baked sweet potato, $9), plus starters leaning toward seafood (salmon tartare, $13.95; shrimp cocktail, $18.50) and other non-beef entrees.
Except those non-beef entrees actually sounded good, like they existed for more than just the beef-adverse: Spiced Fried Chicken ($12.50), Black Label Meatloaf ($18.50) and Broiled Salmon ($24.50). I was tempted to order the Short Rib Stroganoff ($19.50) until our server mentioned the two magic words in my book: pork chop. I’m a sucker for pork chops and couldn’t help but order the Double Bone Berkshire Pork Chop ($38), cooked perfectly and deliciously well-balanced with mushrooms and herb jus.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Among the starters, a few jumped out as unique: roasted bone marrow ($18) and foie gras terrine ($21.50), no doubt slight variations of dishes served at Bavette’s sister restaurant, Au Cheval. (Psst! Those famous burgers are served here, too!) But we couldn’t pass up Garlic Shrimp de Jonghe ($18.50), a Chicago specialty served in the city for over a century: shrimp in a garlicky, buttery, herby sherry sauce served with slices of thick toast. The toast was not only satisfying, but a mandatory vehicle for getting the incredible sauce into my mouth.
But Bavette’s steaks are amazing…
As for the steaks, Bavette’s serves a variety of “enhancements” to add to any dish. Roasted garlic, roquefort, even bone marrow are optional toppings for their prime cuts of beef, which already come with a side of bearnaise. But these are not “enhancements” — Bavette’s steaks are flavored so perfectly on their own that even the cup of bearnaise will go untouched. Kyle, the steak connoisseur, declared his 10 oz traditional filet mignon ($55.95) the best he’s ever had — in Chicago or anywhere else.
…And Bavette’s sides aren’t an afterthought.
But for me, it was the truffle mac and cheese ($12) that earned a “best ever” designation. Despite not being a huge truffle fan, something about the combination of white cheddar and the crispy cheesy crust balanced out the admittedly rich truffle flavor in a way unlike I’ve ever had. Similarly, the brussels sprouts ($12) were deliciously charred with a sweet dijon sauce and tiny hints of parmesan.
Despite our server’s repeated warnings that “sharing is caring” — meaning the portion sizes are massive — we ordered the two side dishes, although one would have definitely satisfied both of us.
And what would a birthday celebration be without dessert? After several servers mentioned the Chocolate Cream Pie ($12), we knew it had to be good. With the densely chocolatey Oreo crust and mound of thick whipped cream, it was definitely the right way to end an amazing meal.
Most of all, Bavette’s doesn’t overdo it.
I echo those that have come before me in saying that Bavette’s is the best steakhouse in Chicago (at least that I’ve been to). Like its sister restaurant Au Cheval, Bavette’s isn’t doing anything decidedly unique or creative with its food, just perfecting classic dishes to the point that they taste unlike anything else you’ve ever had.
Go to Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf for :: the best steak in Chicago with service to match. Pair it with insanely rich truffle mac and cheese. Notes :: Dinner only. Reservations are accepted online and recommended. Open Monday-Thursday 5pm – 11:30pm, Friday-Saturday 5pm – 12:30am, Sunday 5pm – 10:30pm.
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