For the final three hours of a chilly Thursday night, they shared one stool at the bar, tongues down each other’s throats, hands running through each other’s hair. There was a plate of crab legs, and they were two lovers, and this was their night in the unjudging throes of Chicago Cut Steakhouse’s packed bar. Alexi Giannoulias grinned at the oblivious couple from Fox News on the flat-screen, his words muted by the din of men in loosened ties. A menu suggested—and logic demanded—that this was merely a rowdy restaurant bar. But I had the sneaking suspicion I was trapped in a mahogany-paneled bordello.
A bordello with steak. That night it was a perfectly medium-rare filet, paired with three tails of tender lobster meat. The next visit it was an overcooked bone-in New York strip. On the third visit: a rib eye that was cooked perfectly but had an unpleasant toughness and grainy chew unbecoming of its $45 price tag.
In the interim there was an abomination of a burger, its flavor barely recollecting that of beef, its texture mushy on the tongue, its temperature requested medium-rare and arriving closer to medium-plus. Brick chicken was juicy inside and crisp outside, but splatchcocked into lumpy, sweet gravy, it put a retro-institutional bad taste in my mouth. Without the charms of an old-school steakhouse, I found eating plain sautéed spinach positively baffling. On the other hand, the classic iceberg wedge salad with bacon lardons held its own, and the sheer amount of oozing burrata cheese in the caprese salad made it the best value on the menu.
But go to a steakhouse for a burrata salad? I wouldn’t recommend it. Alone in the bar, I sat for ten minutes before anyone asked if they could get me a drink. In the course of three steak visits, it was only the time I brought someone who looked like the typical Chicago Cut patron (a middle-aged male businessman) that anyone asked if the steak we ordered had been cooked to the proper temperature. In fact, the waiter asked once, then the owner came by to ask a second time. When they don’t ignore you, they smother you.
Which is probably why Chicago Cut will do just fine for itself, soliciting to the every need of the fourtop of middle-aged men drinking a bottle of Opus One with their well-done pork chops at lunch, or hugging and kissing good-bye the guest so inebriated he stumbled out of the formal room at five o’clock on a weekday. For some, the restaurant, dressed in cheap-looking red-velvet curtains and accessorized with a cheesy iPad wine list, may be a fine place to observe the foibles of the highly manicured drunk. But the ladies and gentlemen of Chicago Cut can have my Opus One and drink it, too.