The grilled veal chop (left) and pan-roasted walleye pike at Chicago Firehouse
In January 2000, at the dawn of the South Loop gentrification, Matthew O’Malley opened Chicago Firehouse—a retro steak house—in a repurposed fire station. For ten years, the place has successfully carried on Chicago’s macho, beefy steak-house tradition, its menu packed with wet- and dry-aged prime steaks. Much to our surprise, O’Malley decided to shake things up “to modernize how we currently do the steak house.” Enter Kendal Duque, a chef with impeccable credentials that stretch from classic (Everest) to contemporary (Sepia). Good call: Duque wasted no time in lightening and brightening the dishes, starting with a perfectly seared walleye pike surrounded by caramelized market veggies. But the guy clearly respects meat, too—hence a luscious medium-rare veal chop sided with tender, earthy sweetbreads. Talk about the best of both worlds. 1401 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-786-1401.
Photograph: Anna Knott