Primehouse - Chicago
To start, there’s rib eye carpaccio, crab cake (with a beautiful jicama and celery root slaw), as well as oysters that are as good as any to be had in this city, delivered fresh and expertly shucked…but okay, enough about the non-meat menu items, let’s get to the meat.
Consider the Delmonico center cut ribeye. This steak was originally served at Delmonico’s in lower Manhattan, which opened its doors in the early 1800s. This landmark restaurant was the birthplace of the Delmonico steak, and it’s also said to be the birthplace of the a la carte menu and the wine list, which is saying quite a lot (and we’ll let the historians debate the truth of all those claims). What is certain is that the Delmonico center cut ribeye at Primehouse is a spectacular example of how to take a traditional cut and preparation to the next level. It’s safe to say that you will probably not have a better Delmonico steak anywhere…including Delmonico’s (take that, New York!).
You can also get ribeye that’s been aged 40, 55 or 75 days. With any of these aged selections, you’ll experience a powerful example of the effect of aging upon meat. The dry aging process reduces the water content of the meat and concentrates the flavors tremendously. If you are fortunate to be visiting Primehouse when they’re offering a tasting of all three ages – 40, 55, and 75 days – you will be surprised at how the 40 day aged steak, usually tasting so wonderful and lush, pales in comparison to the 55 and the 75 day aged steaks. The flavor of the 75 day steak is, not to overstate, life-changing: well, maybe there’s a bit of an overstatement, but you may never have such a flavorful steak again. So beware, because just as the Excellent is the enemy of the Good, after having this steak aged 75 days, you will think all others are less than they should be – and you’d be right!
The secret to aging the Primehouse steaks is a room lined with Himalayan salt tiles that gently coax water from the meat and slowly, slowly age it until it’s at its flavor peak. When you see how good steak can be when it’s dry aged, you may never again settle for a wet-aged steak or one that’s not aged at all (we shudder to think of it).
“Eater” called the steaks at Primehouse, “arguably the best in town,” but super high-quality steak is not the only way to enjoy the red meat at Primehouse. “Food & Wine” named Primehouse’s hamburger one of the best in the United States, and like so many of the spectacular steak dishes, the preparation leverages the essential goodness of the ingredients, which includes a 40 day aged steak burger, black pepper aioli, spinach, caramelized onions and bacon. If you ever have a better hamburger, let us know. Until then, we’re crowning this one the best hamburger in the known universe.
Though the dining room at Primehouse is where you’ll find some of the best steaks in Chicago, you can enjoy the best steaks in Chicago at home by stopping at Primehouse’s “Old School Butcher Shop.” At this in-restaurant store, you can buy uncooked meat at 10% less than you would in the dining room (plus you save on tipping…unless you tip the butcher, which you might consider). At these discount prices, you can, for instance, take home an 8 ounce 40 day dry aged steak burger for $5 or 20 ounce 55 day dry aged bone-in rib eye for $63…and have the thrill of cooking this exceptional meat in your home kitchen.
“Chicago Magazine,” which as mentioned dubbed Primehouse #1 steakhouse in Chicago, was also enthusiastic about the non-steak side options, saying “Unconventional sides, such as the indulgent yet light lobster scrambled eggs with caviar and crème fraîche, share space with standards (a wonderful tableside Caesar salad) and irresistible conceits (a warm baked-to-order red velvet cake preceded by batter-dripping beaters). This colorful reinvention of the steak house…seemed like a novelty when it opened in 2006. Now it feels like a template for the future.”
If this sounds all very grown up, it is, that doesn’t mean the young ones are left out: Primehouse has a special children’s menu that features somewhat sophisticated options including 6 ounce filet mignon and Kids Cavatappi Pasta. Of course, if kids happen to be exactly what you don’t want with your dinner, the Wine Vault offers a unique private dining experience for the grown-ups.