2. Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf

Photo: Anna Knott

Where is it written that steak houses must cater mainly to business people? That old tradition often delivers an impersonal experience, favoring efficiency over warmth. Bavette’s, Brendan Sodikoff’s headfirst dive into red meat, turns that convention on its ear in a dark, speakeasy-like space where the Jazz Age details are far too flickery and romantic for men in suits. “If you have four guys sitting around by candlelight eating food off vintage plates, they feel pretty uncomfortable,” Sodikoff says.

That’s the whole idea. Bavette’s, whose impossibly genial servers wear jeans and copious body art, rescues the steak house from a life of formality—which might qualify as heresy to some if its food weren’t unassailable. Classics, whether straight up (brilliant garlic shrimp de Jonghe) or with a twist (smoked whitefish Caesar with crispy potato chips), hit their marks. Retro cocktails, such as the assertive Dark & Stormy, are among Chicago’s best. The eclectic menu includes meatloaf, sides of elote and thick-cut bacon, and fun touches such as a Jameson shot with a pickle brine chaser. Oh, and the best steak house dessert in ages: a wondrous chocolate cream pie with an Oreo crust.

Bavette’s also offers better boeuf than places that have been around for decades. Some customers pay $8 to add a slather of bone marrow to their frites or filet, but those in the know order the naked 24-ounce bone-in rib eye, a tender and sexy beast crisped with steak salt. You might be tempted to dip it in the ramekin of béarnaise, but before you do, roll the unadorned beef on your tongue for a moment and let the flavor sink in: That, friends, is what steak is supposed to taste like.

Perfect for: Amorous carnivores of all ages

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