I actually wrote this post the day after while waiting at O'hare after being bumped off my original flight back to Baltimore.
My last visit to Chicago heralded a new level in my dining adventures at two of the best restaurants in America. Those were heady times of abandoned eating and reckless spending. This time, I vowed to be a bit more thrifty.
With only a one night visit, one should only enjoy one dinner. Not to fear, gentle reader, only one dinner ensued.
The Chicago Chop House is, by now, one of my "old Chicago haunts." With the exception of February's visit, I eat there every time I come to this city. It's one of those old fashioned steakhouses where the steaks are big, the sides are big and Al Capone's picture hangs on the wall.
To be honest, I almost didn't eat at Chicago Chop House this time around. A search of the Internet yielded a couple of sites that recommended other steakhouses. But since most of those said that places like Morton's, Smith & Wollensky, Capitol Grille, The Palm and Lawry's were amongst the best in Chicago, I decided against any of those places for the most basic reason that I can go to any of those at home in Baltimore or Washington DC. If I'm in another city, I want to eat at places that I can't eat at home. Morton's? I might as well eat at Applebee's.
It's nice to know that as totalitarianism develops and a police state arises in the United States that you can still find small enclaves of civility in this nation: the Chicago Chop House allows cigar smoking in their bar (if albeit only in the back of the bar).
Regular readers of this blog know that I have a penchant for a meal of meaty steaks and tasty cigars. They're a wonderful pairing and it's becoming all too rare an experience in what once was The Land of the Free. God Bless the Chop House for maintaining some level of sensibility in an insane world.
Oddly enough, The Chicago Chop House (THCC) is located in the heart of the city's tourist district - usually a sure sign to stay away. As such, it's typically dangerous territory to just show up, hoping for a seat. They're open 'til 11pm so I gambled that a seating for one at 10pm wouldn't be too problematic. Luckily, I was right (not to mention that it was a Sunday).
Blanche, my waitress, was attentive, light as meringue but a bit short on the attention span whenever our conversation strayed from menu items to, say, what The Loop is all about.
The First Course.
For starters, Blanche brought out the sauteed butterflied shrimp. Three large shrip sauteed in butter, garlic, lemon and onions. The shrimp were huge and I tore into them. The table bread was equally fantastic. Crusty on the outside, warm, soft and chewy on the inside. Slathered with lots of butter and I wanted to grind the entire loaf - appetite be damned.
The rather unremarkable salad.
The next course was the salad course with a garlic dressing. Hate to say it, but it was pretty unremarkable. Iceberg or romaine? Who could tell since it was mostly the flavorless white ends with a couple baby tomatoes and drowning in dressing. It would have been better if they dropped the salad altogether, although I suspect it's there to appease the tourists who want the most for their money.
Ah, Prime Rib Succulence and the Arturo Fuente Rothschild Maduro cigar. Sublime.
For the main course, I chose the prime rib/ribeye. It's a cut of prime rib that's cooked as a prime rib should and finished on the grill like a ribeye steak. I ordered mine "medium," along with a side order of their fried baked potato.
The crispy potato thingies.
The meat was a perfect medium. Carmelized exterior with a red/pink and cool (temperature cool) interior. Probably the best medium I've ever eaten. And the potatoes? Excellent. Evidently, they're baked potatoes that are sliced and then deep-fried to a crispy perfection with onions.
To top it all off - the cigar. A maduro robusto from A. Fuente just made the experience sublime. To me, there's little finer than a wonderful cut of meat paired with a delicious cigar. It's almost an aphrodisiac. While I say "death" to those anti-smoking gestapo types who deign to smother smoking from God's Green Earth, leave me these little havens where I can enjoy a steak and a cigar and revolution will be thwarted. For now.
Continued on with a dessert course - a chocolate cake. It was good but nothing earth-shattering. Thought for a moment about ordering a coffee, but decided against it.
All in all, the Chicago Chop House lived to my expectations. I got a wonderful cut of meat, excellently prepared and smoked a cigar to boot - what more could I ask for? I was happy and took half the cut home with me.