Bavette's Bar & Boeuf - Chicago
Consistently rated one of the top restaurants in the city (in fact, it is number three of over 7,700 restaurants on TripAdvisor), Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf bridges the gap between old Chicago and new Chicago, between classic steakhouse dishes and innovative creations to please discerning diners of all ages and backgrounds. Tucked away on a hidden section of Kedzie Boulevard, in the shadow of the Merchandise Mart, Hogsalt Hospitality -- one of the most beloved and successful local restaurant groups -- touches each part of the design, the food and the service with utmost attention to detail.
Upon entering the largely candlelit establishment, you are immediately greeted by a long bar with cushy leather stools, equally cushy leather booths surrounding large round tables, deco chandeliers and mirrored walls emblazoned with art nouveau typography. “Cocktail ice sold here,” “Baked crab cake,” “famous duchess cut,” and “Free wine daily.”
Ok, that last one might a stretch in reality, but it actually is painted on one of the mirrored walls. And what exactly is “cocktail ice”?
The point of all of this decor is, of course, to transport you to another era. Forget about your troubles. You are here to be wined and dined.
“Eater Chicago” lists Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf as its number one of eighteen essential steak houses in Chicago, crediting its 2012 opening with spawning a new generation of steak havens in an old-school steakhouse kind of town. The beef, says Eater, is “top-notch, especially the dry-aged bone-in 22-ounce rib-eye that can be gussied up with a side of roasted bone marrow.”
“Chicago Magazine” agrees, sticking the restaurant at number two on its list of best steakhouses and calling the aforementioned bone-in rib-eye a “tender and sexy beast crisped with steak salt.”
At “Chicago Reader,” critic Mike Sula praises just about everything on the menu with joy and wonderment. Take the “long tendrils of toothy rectangular noodles nesting a softball-size pork meatball,” or the “creamy, almost too cheesy Caesar” with smoked whitefish and hidden potato chips for a surprise crunch. Sula continues: “There's a burger and a shaved prime beef sandwich, fried chicken and meat loaf, and a huge slab of beef tongue so tender it falls apart if you wink at it.”
Indeed, the menu, packed with nearly 50 options all on one page, presents a familiar steakhouse experience in updated packages. That goes for the drink list as well: one would be remiss to not order a cocktail from the list of expertly executed classics, though the wine and beer pours satisfy most liquid desires.
All told, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf differs from many other steakhouses in town by offering only seven “boeuf” options, plus roasted bone marrow. The French theme continues with a simple steak frites, those hand-cut fries a perfect accompaniment and they’re also available as a standalone. Then there are the USDA prime cuts, all served with a ramekin of béarnaise: two sizes of filet mignon plus one bone-in, a boneless and bone-in ribeye, and a dry-aged, bone-in New York strip. Though this modern outpost offers less add-ons than its older counterparts, the steak here may make you wonder why you’ve ever topped a steak with anything other than salt. If you insist, however, you can top off these prime cuts with a peppercorn crust, roasted garlic, mushrooms, Roquefort cheese, just butter, or roasted bone marrow.
Appetizers include steak tartare, duck terrine, and a “brilliant,” according to “Chicago Magazine,” rendition of the 19th century Chicago specialty shrimp DeJonghe -- a casserole of shrimp swathed in garlic and sherry-baked breadcrumbs. Salads can be classic, as in the egg, bacon and blue cheese wedge or the smoked salmon Caesar, but they also lean French and fancy, as in the Lyonnaise with bacon, a soft-boiled egg and brioche croutons, or the bib served with a crab-stuffed avocado. Entrees (not steaks) feature roasted chicken and spiced fried chicken, pork and lamb chops, and short rib stroganoff with house made pasta.
On the seafood side, decadence is the name of the game. The low end (if you can call anything this wonderful “low”!) features king crab and Maine lobster, while the crustaceans get busy in three towers of increasingly precarious proportions.
The side dishes evoke steakhouse lore in the form of mashed potatoes, asparagus, Brussel sprouts and a loaded baked potato; however, they also leap into the modern world in the form of candied sweet potato with bourbon glaze, truffle macaroni and cheese, thick-cut bacon, and elotes, the Mexican street corn dotted with chili, cheese and cilantro.
In a city of steakhouses, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf rises above the pack. Make reservations way in advance and come hungry to leave happy.