#1: 40 Day Ribeye at David Burke's Primehouse ($51)
As conflicted as I sometimes feel about steakhouses, David Burke's Primehouse is the rare exception completely worth the splurge. No restaurant in Chicago cares about dry aging large hunks of beef as much. You can see that passion for yourself in the restaurant's massive aging room that is lined with pink Himalayan salt, which the owners claim purifies the air and imparts a subtle salinity to the meat. But that room is just one part of David Burke's commitment. The process actually starts with Prime, David Burke's very own Black Angus bull, which has the tough job of siring all of the beef that eventually ends up at the restaurant. (Read Prime's inspirational story here.) Once properly trimmed, each steak is seasoned with salt and pepper, before being slipped under an infrared broiler set at 1300°F. The final flourish is a brushing of suet, made by rendering the funky trimmings cut off the aged steaks.
Now, all of this makes for a good story, but you fortunately don't need to know or care about any of it to fall deeply in love with this richly marbled and immensely beefy steak. Personally, I love the balance of the 40-day ribeye, but you can go for the relatively milder 28-day or the much funkier 75-day, depending on how you're feeling that day.
David Burke's Primehouse, 616 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); 312-660-6000
#2: 60 Day Dry-Aged Ribeye at Publican Quality Meats
Should this count? On one hand, the only other place in town besides David Burke's that takes dry-aging as seriously is Publican Quality Meats. Sure, the butcher shop won't actually cook the steak for you, though Avec occasionally offers the steak as a special (not right now, however). But if you're looking for the most intense steak experience possible, it's hard to argue with PQM's 60 Day Dry-Aged Ribeye.
The meat is sourced from Slagel Family Farms, which is about 100 miles south of Chicago. But unlike the other Slagel beef you'll find on this list, PQM handles the aging process itself, pushing the unique flavors of the full flavored beef to the extreme. Obviously, there is a lot of blue cheese going on here, but the most appealing trait is a mineral tang. My wife is not much of a steak eater, and even she admitted that this steak was incredible.
Publican Quality Meats, 825 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (map); 312-496-0012
#3: 38 oz. Prime Dry-Aged Bistecca Fiorentina at RPM Italian ($118)
I know this sounds crazy. Not only is RPM an Italian restaurant, it's one that is primarily known as a great place to spot celebrities. (After all, it's co-owned by reality TV stars, Bill and Giuliana Rancic.) That's to speak nothing of the steak's price, which is a seemingly ludicrous $118. To be fair, it's also enormous and meant to share with two to four other people. But still. So what is it doing here? Because it's a stunning piece of meat. It also looks amazing—I giggled like a six-year-old when the enormous platter landed on my table.
As I first learned from a random post on LTHForum, RPM Italian sources its steaks from Master Purveyors in the Bronx (click here for a tour of its impressive facilities), which also provides some of the steaks used at Peter Luger. The meat is aged for 36 days and RPM cooks it simply. After a brief trip under a broiler, it's brushed with melted butter and seasoned with cracked black pepper and Sicilian sea salt. The result is a true spectacle. Obviously, I'm not the only one who feels this way, as the owners are planning on opening RPM Steakhouse soon.
RPM Italian, 52 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL (map); 312-222-1888
#4: 30 Day Dry-Aged Ribeye at Next's Chicago Steakhouse
For its interpretation of a Chicago steakhouse, Next could have gone with some epically aged cut, pushing the peculiar flavors of dry-aged meat to the extreme. Instead, the restaurant went with a genuinely beautiful and intricately flavored ribeye from Flannery Beef in San Francisco that is aged for only 30 days. While there are some slightly funky background aromas, those are secondary to the minerally beef base.
Each cut is poached in butter and then briefly seared, resulting in slices that go from dark brown on the exterior to rosy red in middle, with almost no gray in between. There's no other steak in Chicago like it. The only issue is that the only way to try this incredible steak is to pay for the full 9-course extravaganza, which is not cheap. Plus, as good as the other courses are, I kind of wish I could just go with the steak and forget about the rest. Basically, if you're a steak aficionado, you probably owe it to yourself to give it a shot. But you better hurry, this menu ends in a couple months.
Next Restaurant, 953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (map); 312-226-0858
#5: 24 oz. Prime Bone In Dry Aged Ribeye at Bavette's Bar & Boeuf ($56)
Bavette's serves steaks, but it seems wrong to call it a steakhouse. Perhaps it's too French, with a menu full of refined bistro classics. Plus, its golden-hued room certainly doesn't look like any other steakhouse in town. (I can't think of a more stunning atmosphere to eat steak in the city.) Finally, essentially every dish I've tried, from the roast chicken to the immaculate wedge salad, is worth ordering. This can make the steaks seem like an afterthought, and the majority are. There's actually only one dry-aged steak on Bavette's menu, and it's the only one you need to worry about. The ribeye is one of the more aggressively flavored cuts I tried, and completely worth your attention.
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf, 218 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (map); 312-624-8154
#6: 10 oz. Dry Aged Ribeye Steak at Owen & Engine ($25)
I'm not sure what compelled me to order a steak at an English pub, but I'm so glad I did, because this is the steak that first gave me the idea to look beyond the usual steakhouse scene for great beef. Though Owen & Engine isn't aging the steaks on premises, it is sourcing some truly excellent dry-aged beef from Slagel that is far more flavorful and beefier than what the majority of steakhouses downtown serve. It's also drastically cheaper. That's a pretty good combination, right? And if that 10 ounce portion sounds a bit too dainty, Owen & Engine also serves a 22-ounce ($39) and a 32-ounce ($52) bone-in version.
Owen & Engine, 2700 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-235-2930
#7: Bone-In Rib Eye at Chicago Cut Steakhouse ($54)
I've been kind of rough on traditional steakhouses in this post, but I'm not completely immune to its pleasures, especially when done with as much verve as at Chicago Cut Steakhouse. Even though I ended up with a massive bill, I left thinking about what a pleasure it was for me to dine there, which I realize sounds crazy, but it's the truth. That sort of describes the steak here, too. It's aged in-house, and while it is not the most intense or funky steak in town, the ribeye is expertly cooked and utterly satisfying, with a clean and satisfying flavor. It's just right for the airy and open atmosphere.
Chicago Cut Steakhouse, 300 N LaSalle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654 (map); 312-329-1800
#8: 16 oz. Bone-In Rib Eye at Chicago Chop Shop ($34)
Chicago Chop Shop in Wicker Park is attempting a lot of different things at once. There's a butcher shop, a bar, a lunch menu full of sandwiches, and a sit-down dinner menu with straightforward and satisfying food. Eventually, the restaurant plans to dry-age its own beef, but currently it's serving an excellent Slagel dry-aged ribeye with a bordelaise sauce and herbed butter. I think the kitchen is a bit aggressive with the char—some bites went beyond browned, into blackened territory—but that's a minor quibble on an otherwise great steak at a truly reasonable price.
Chicago Chop Shop, 2033-35 W. North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-537-4440
#9: Prime Dry-Aged Ribeye at Fleming's
Fleming's is one of a number of chain steakhouses downtown serving mostly wet-aged beef. Basically, it's exactly the kind of place I wanted to avoid for this list. But recently Fleming's introduced a dry-aged option to its menu. What's especially interesting is that you can ask for the steak to be cooked in a cast-iron pan, which provides a more distinct and crustier exterior than a steak cooked under a broiler. I wish more places offered to cook their meat this way, but until then, Fleming's is the best place to try it.
Fleming's, 25 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL (map); 312-329-9463
#10: 16 oz. Bone-In Rib Eye at Benny's Chop House ($56.99)
Benny's gets its dry-aged meat from Allen & Brothers, a very good local outlet. It's not as bold as others on this list, and some more salt would work wonders, but it's still an excellent hunk of beef served in an otherwise very traditional steakhouse. The dry-aged steak is also dramatically better than the wet-aged offering, which I ordered for a side-by-side comparison. Where the wet-aged steak was almost mushy and flabby, the dry-aged ribeye was tender, but still with its character intact.
Benny's Chop House, 444 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL (map); 312-626-2444