Phil Vettel recommends steak houses

Tired of turkey? Steak houses offer refuge to help balance the bird

Last week it was turkey on Thanksgiving, turkey sandwiches for Friday's lunch, turkey tetrazzini for Saturday dinner and — you get the idea.

Poultry in motion. Who could blame you for racing out for a first-rate steak dinner? Here are some good suggestions.

Mastro's Steakhouse 520 N. Dearborn St., 312-521-5100: Everything about this California-based chain (Chicago is Mastro's sixth steakhouse location) is big. Big dining room, big lounge (live music nightly), big steaks, big drinks, big tab. Yes, you pay a lot at this River North outpost, but the value's there in the top-quality steaks and the beyond-generous cocktail and wine pours. Steaks are dry-rubbed before cooking and dabbed with butter after, brought to the table on plates so hot you can feel the warmth on your face. There are some great side dish and raw-bar offerings, over-indulgent desserts and excellent service. No wonder this place is popular. Recommended: Lobster-mashed potatoes, veal chop, lamb chops, warm butter cake. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $25-$51. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.

Michael Jordan's Steak House 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312-321-8823:No matter how many steakhouses a city may have — and Chicago sure has a ton — there always will be room for one this good. The prime, dry-aged steaks are outstanding, especially the 45-day-aged MJ Delmonico, but chef James O'Donnell offers some real cooking on the rest of the menu, and Hillary Rikower's desserts are sweet indulgences. Recommended: Garlic bread, crab cake, merguez-crusted lamb chops, shrimp and grits, 23-layer chocolate cake. Open: Dinner and lunch Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $25-$48. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.

Benny's Chop House 444 N. Wabash Ave., 312-626-2444: A classic steakhouse (and sister property to Volare, in Streeterville) that offers the expected range of beefy choices, along with a short list of "all natural" steaks. Distinguishing features include chef Jonathan Lane's clever menu touches, a relatively quiet dining room and a very pleasant front lounge with piano bar. Recommended: Fish salad, tater tots, filet mignon, Cajun tenderloin. Open: Lunch and dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $21.99-$52.99. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.

Chicago Cut Steakhouse 300 N. LaSalle St., 312-329-1800: This 2010 arrival quickly established itself as one of the top steakhouses in town, and in Chicago, that's saying something. Prime steaks are dry-aged on the premises (the filet mignon is wet-aged) for more than a month, and the beefy payoff is evident in every bite. Very good side dishes and desserts are pluses, and I love playing with the interactive, iPad wine list (a first for the area) but outstanding service is what makes this place so very easy to love. Recommended: Tuna tartare, bone-in filet, steak au poivre, Key Lime pie. Open: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $18-$51. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.

Chicago Firehouse Restaurant 1401 S. Michigan Ave., 312-786-1401: Since installing chef Kendal Duque (ex-Sepia) in the kitchen, this South Loop veteran, built into a former firehouse, has moved up in class. Duque has left the steak part of the menu intact (though he has added some in-house dry-aging), but he has done nice work with seafood options and some accompaniments, adding a sweetbread and cipollini-onion ragout to the veal chop, for example. Service seems energized by the new menu as well. Recommended: Truffle-crusted Kansas City steak, walleye with cashew vinaigrette, charred octopus, lobster bisque. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday, lunch Monday-Friday. Entree prices: $21-$47. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible; valet parking.

Ratings key:
Four Stars: Outstanding
Three Stars: Excellent
Two Stars: Very good
One Star: Good
No stars: Unsatisfactory

Reviews are based on no fewer than two visits. The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.

pvettel@tribune.com
CHICAGO

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