The Palm Restaurant - Chicago - Chicago
“The best steakhouse in Chicago,” boasts The Palm’s website, and many would concur with that appraisal. Chicago Magazine puts it among Chicago’s “top steakhouses.”
The Palm, located inside the plush and stylish Swissotel Chicago, has long been recognized as both a social and a gastronomic lodestar in Chicago, attracting those who like to have a great time while they’re chowing down on a great steak. It all started in New York, in 1926, when Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi opened the first Palm, founded on the philosophy that you should treat guests like your own family, serve them the best, and always exceed their likely high
But why “the palm”? Funny story about that. Both Bozzi and Ganzi wanted to name their restaurant after their hometown of Parma, Italy, but when they went to register their business, some jomoke at the New York City clerk’s office misunderstood their Italian accents. He issued them a license for “The Palm,” which turned out to be kind of a nice name, suggesting an elegant oasis of refreshment.
It may surprise you to know that steaks were not always a part of the Palm menu. In the old days, in Manhattan, when a customer ordered a steak, Ganzi would trot off to a Second Avenue butcher shop, buy a steak and cook it to order. After a while, Ganzi got tired of all the exercise, and steak was put on the menu as a permanent item.
Today, The Palm is a meat mecca, serving USDA prime beef, corn fed to ensure rich marbling and flavor, hand-selected to support consistent quality standards and aged a minimum of 35 days for indisputable tenderness.
You can have small or large sizes of filet mignon and prime New York strip, and many other cuts; on Saturday and Sunday, there’s a 26-ounce bone-in prime rib of beef.
Premium specialties include a 12-ounce Wagyu rib eye steak, a 16-ounce Colorado veal rib chop, and a 16-ounce, 14-day dry-aged Duroc pork Porterhouse.
As much as The Palm is known for its steak, it’s equally well-regarded for its lobster. The four-pound lobster was introduced to The Palm in 1965, and it quickly disproved the theory that meat from elephantine crustaceans would prove to be too tough to enjoy. That wasn’t the case, not at all, and lobster sales increased ten times in the next few years. The big ones served in Chicago include a jumbo broiled Nova Scotia lobster tipping the scales at up to a whopping five pounds. You might want to share that.
There are many additional seafood items, and for all the turf and surf protein, a respectable vegetable section featuring green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and leaf spinach. You should really try some of those.
If you’re coming in for just bites, you’ll find items like cornmeal fried oysters, tuna sashimi, and grilled short rib and Irish cheddar sandwich.
Befitting such splendid menu items, there’s a good-sized wine list with many, many selections by the glass. Signature cocktails include Hemingway’s classic daiquiri, as well as modern takes on familiar favorites like the Moscow Mule and the Sidecar.
Popular desserts include Key lime pie, crème brulee, and a bag of doughnuts.
As you sit in The Palm’s dining room, you’ll see walls festooned with caricatures of famous locals. Here’s the story on that. When The Palm first opened in Manhattan, there was not much money to decorate, so there were a lot of bare walls. As it turned out, The Palm’s Second Avenue location was close by the King Features Syndicate, the home to the artists who dreamed up and drew many of American’s most recognizable cartoon characters like Popeye, Batman, Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible. Artists at King Features would trade their talent for dinner, drawing local notables in pastel and chalk, and getting a meal in return for their troubles. As the company grew and expanded, this tradition of decorating the walls of The Palm with caricatures has been carried across the country and around the world. Today at the Second Avenue location, only five caricatures can be added every year due to space constraints. “Making the wall” – getting your face immortalized through immurement – is a point of pride for New Yorkers, Chicagoans and many local celebrities everywhere.
Crain’s Chicago lauded The Palm as one of the ten best steak restaurants in Chicago, adding these criteria: “Great food, for sure. Service that gets you out quickly without rushing you. But more than anything, it might be the vibe. Glitz and glam work fine after dark, but not so well by daylight, when you want a different kind of energy. In the best spots, you get the feeling that big things are being discussed, plans hatched and ambitions realized, along, of course, with gossip exchanged and laughs laughed. And everyone, not just the regulars, is treated like a member of the club. Being able to relax over a rib-eye in the middle of the day – how great is that?”