In this buzz-worthy world of foodie accolades, it's a bit of a surprise that Kinzie Chophouse has remained such a quiet neighborhood favorite. It has the honors—several years of Wine Spectator
Awards of Excellence—and the take-notice specials—a $2.95 happy-hour menu of impressively robust dishes. But free of the kind of showiness that attracts an of-the-moment crowd, the Chophouse's consistent service and strong menu have won it a loyal following.
Self-described as "Chicago's Neighborhood Steakhouse," the white-tableclothed dining room projects a sophisticated warmth that's almost bistro-like with a white tray ceiling, black-and-white photos, caramel-color walls and heavy wood accents. The appetizer menu reads like a best-of list, a roster of classics like oysters Rockefeller, jumbo lump crab cake and shrimp cocktail. Impressively long salad, pasta, chicken/pork and seafood menus bookend what most consider the main event: steaks like the 16-ounce Kinzie Cut (a flat iron steak), the 14-ounce Delmonico, a 48-ounce Porterhouse for four and the eight-ounce filet with Bearnaise sauce (priced $24.95 and up). Sides like bacon and scallion smashed potatoes, ranch-cut fries and creamed spinach parmesan complete the experience. The seven-page wine list includes two pages of special selections and reserves, giving credence to the Chophouse's posted awards.
The separate bar, whose cream ceiling resembles the hull of a ship, keeps things clean and modern with a long leather banquette and tasteful contemporary lighting. The backdrop plays second-fiddle to the menu, though, especially from 3-6 p.m. on weekdays, when items like the quarter-pounder cheddar burger with steak fries, crispy calamari and guacamole-sided quesadillas cost just $2.95 each. Drinks aren't the cheapest—a draft beer can easily run $6—but you'll find excellent mixed drinks (superb Old-Fashioneds) and specialty cocktails (the Chambord-laced Merchandise Mart is a delicious nod to the 'hood).
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Schwartz