If you wanted to see someone famous when you went out to eat in Chicago this year, Chicago Cut Steakhouse was your best bet — especially if you know your athletes. While there are a small number of places in the city that hosted bigger names, none hosted more stars than this River North restaurant. And that’s why it comes in at No. 3 on the list of “Top Celebrity Hangouts of 2013.”
Many athletes made Chicago Cut part of their postgame routines, including the Bears’ Jay Cutler and Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane. Some saved Chicago Cut for special occasions, including Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, who celebrated his birthday there this year. It’s the kind of place where standing ovations for athletes have become the norm. According to Chicago Cut managing partner David Flom, Josh McCown got one when he arrived at the restaurant following his first win with the Bears and the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw got one when he came in with stitches. Even senator and former presidential candidate John McCain got a standing “o” at the restaurant this year.
Chicago Cut joins a “Top Celebrity Hangouts” list that began with No. 5 Siena Tavern and No. 4 Sunda, and will end with No. 1 on Dec. 20. Here’s a closer look at why Chicago Cut made the rankings:
Spotted: Oprah Winfrey, Mark Wahlberg, Charles Barkley, Harrison Ford, Tim Robbins, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John McCain, Robin Thicke, Paula Patton, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Hudson, John Cusack, Jay Cutler, Scottie Pippen, Michael Bay, Joan Cusack, Dennis Rodman, Warren Sapp, Patrick Kane, Kristin Cavallari, David Otunga, Mike Piazza, Kip Moore
Regulars: John Cusack, Jay Cutler, Patrick Kane
Owners: David Flom and Matthew Moore
Back story: “Matt and I were both general managers of different steakhouses in town,” said Flom, a former GM at Rosebud Steakhouse. “We looked at each other one day and decided we should try to do it on our own. We had a business plan in place and brought in investors that are all presidents and vice presidents of major corporations, so they could help market the restaurant. We lived the American dream.”
Celeb story: “The Blackhawks came here after their convention with the man who carried the Stanley Cup in a suitcase,” Flom said. “Kane looked at me and said, ‘We would like for you to pull it out of the case and hold it above your head. We’ll get a picture with all of us together.’ I’m a huge Blackhawks fan. They’re my favorite team in town. So I opened the case and it was a miniature cup, about six inches tall. Kane played a joke on me. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews ran down the walkway holding the real Stanley Cup over his head. The whole restaurant stood up clapping as we played the Blackhawks song.”
Draw: Chicago Cut has benefited from having influential celebs vouch publicly for the steakhouse, including Winfrey and Barkley. “About 95 percent of the celebs who come here have been sent by other celebs. Michael Strahan, Michael Wilbon, Kobe Bryant — they’ve all come here because of Charles Barkley,” said Flom, who added that he picks Barkley up at his hotel when he dines at the restaurant. Chicago Cut also does its homework when it comes to celebs who will be dining with them. The restaurant gets in contact with the hotels where the celebs are staying and finds out if they prefer sparkling or still water, if they like chocolate and if they’re into seafood. That way they’re more than prepared for the visit.
VIP section: Flom said the booth in the southwest corner of the dinning room is referred to as “Oprah’s booth” because it’s where she likes to sit. Celebs are also seated in the southeast corner booth because of its views of the Chicago river and skyline. And if they’d like something more secluded, there are two private dining rooms that can be reached by a private elevator. “Mayor Daley recommended it when we were designing the restaurant,” Flom said. “He said it was important to him. Kanye West has also used the elevator. They can come right in without walking through the public room.”
Discount: “There’s a right time and a wrong time,” Flom said about comping meals for celebs. “Well, not a wrong time, but a better time. When Patrick Kane scored the hat trick in the playoffs last year, we made special crab dishes for him because he loves crab and found him a special aged prime rib in the back. We have to keep those memories going in their minds. Sometimes we do special stuff for Jay Cutler. He’s a gracious man. He always wants to pay and leaves huge tips.”
Endorsement: Oprah Winfrey recommended two Chicago restaurants during her appearance this year on the “Steve Harvey” show: RL and Chicago Cut. Winfrey called Chicago Cut “wonderful” and added “It’s a little louder, a little noisier, a little more boisterous.”
Sample tweet: “When I am looking for some tender meat, there is nothing better than a Bone In Filet @chicagocut” — Jenny McCarthy
Dish: “Our No. 1 dish is the bone-in filet mignon,” Flom said. “It’s all about referrals. Charles tells one guy and the next thing you know, Michael Strahan orders the bone-in filet mignon. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez order the bone-in filet mignon when they come in.”
Phil Vettel's restaurant review: 3 stars
Impact: “Some people come here just because they know there is a celeb here every night,” Flom said. “There are people in the world who that’s important to when they go out.”
Future outlook: Chicago Cut is one of those rare places whose popularity among celebs is getting hotter each year rather than cooling off. This year it topped longtime celeb favorite Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse in the Gold Coast as the go-to steakhouse for stars in Chicago. Next year? It will face stiff competition from RPM Steak, which will open blocks away and is co-owned by celeb-friendly restaurateurs RJ and Jerrod Melman and reality TV couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic.
2012 ranking: 7
2011 ranking: 8
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