My friend, Tom Kakert, was in Chicago one weekend a while back, but was staying out in the western suburb of Naperville. He asked me if I knew of any good places to eat in the area. I told him that I knew of many, but wasn't familiar with a lot of them. I called up a dealer friend in the Naperville area and I asked him what he thought would be a great place to go eat. He said, without hesitation, "Sullivan's Steak House."
Turns out that he didn't disappoint Tom or the people Tom went with. I thought, "I've got to try Sullivan's someday..."
Cindy and I were in Chicago this week and we were out looking at the scenery up and down Michigan Ave. We weren't really hungry as we had eaten lunch in the middle of the afternoon. But it was getting close to 9 p.m. and we thought we'd better eat something.
We started off west down Grand and decided to try the Frontera Grill again. When we got up to Dearborn, I looked down the street toward Hubbard and on the corner was Sullivan's Steak House. I said, "Oh, boy! We're goin' there!"
Cindy didn't put up much resistance (although she really did want to go back to Frontera), and we went into Sullivan's.
The place had a bar up front with live jazz (piano and upright bass) playing. The hostess asked if we wanted to sit in the bar to listen to the jazz or eat in the dining room. Just then I saw some guy come walking out of the bar area with a big cigar and I knew right away that Cindy would have a shit fit if we had to eat in a place where there was cigar smoke. So I said, "Dining room, please."
Sullivan's is a 1940's New York City style steak house named after the great boxer John L. Sullivan. There are a lot of pictures of boxers on the walnut paneled walls on one side of the dining room and sort of a library motif on the other side. There is an open prep area to the back of the room, and the wine cellar is easily seen through open glass walls on the opposite side. The place was cozy, warm and comfortable.
Since it was pretty late for a Tuesday night, Cindy and I were the only ones in the dining room for a good portion of our stay. The waitress was very friendly, more than helpful and eager to answer any questions.
I went with the regular filet, medium rare, with a side of their green peppercorn sauce, and an order of their horseradish mashed potatoes. Cindy got the small filet, medium, and asparagus with a bearnaise sauce. I also ordered a bib lettuce salad with their homemade blue cheese dressing (made with Maytag Blue Cheese crumbles). It was, in a word, outstanding. It was really nothing more than a ranch dressing with blue cheese and we were trying to figure out what else they put into it. The waitress overheard our conversation and came up and said, "Well, I know they put a dash of sugar into the dressing, but there could be some other things. They'd probably have to kill me if they told me."
The food came pretty quickly. I ordered a glass of the Santa Rita 2003 Cab and Cindy had a glass of some cabernet that I can't remember what it was. She chastised me later on - "Why do you get Santa Rita when you can drink that at home? I like to get something that I haven't tried." You know, she's absolutely right.
My steak was cooked perfectly. It was very, very good. Cindy's, too, was cooked spot on. The horseradish mashed potatoes were a little limp, taste-wise. But as Cindy said, we eat so much Atomic Brand Horseradish that any other horseradish added to food would be pretty limp. The green peppercorn sauce was very good, and Cindy's asparagus with the bearnaise sauce was wonderful. It wasn't much, but it was just enough considering we finished lunch at 3 p.m. earlier in the day.
The waitress tried to tempt us with some dessert, but we declined. Cindy didn't even have coffee as it was past 10 p.m. when we finished.
We both had to go to the restroom and they were upstairs. At the top of the stairs was a full blown cigar bar. There must have been about 15 to 20 guys up there sitting in oversized leather chairs, smoking cigars, drinking single malts. It looked fun, even for a guy who is anti-tobacco like me.
The place was great and in doing some research about Sullivan's Steak House I was very surprised - and somewhat disappointed - to see that Sullivan's is an off-shoot of the North Carolina-based Lone Star Steak House chain. Lone Star's are not bad, but I felt somewhat cheated finding out that Sullivan's wasn't A) a Chicago based restaurant; and B) there were 14 other Sullivan's around the nation. My dealer friend told me the original Sullivan's was in downtown Chicago. Now, I don't know if he meant the first one in the Chicago area, or if it was the first Sullivan's in the chain.
But then I got to thinking - I've eaten at Del Frisco's steak house in Orlando before and I found out that Del Frisco's was a six or seven chain steak house ALSO owned by Lone Star. And, you know, Del Frisco's was pretty damn good, too (I'll have to do a review on that sometime soon). So maybe Lone Star is on to something with these specialty steak houses.
Sullivan's is very good. I'd eat there again and try and forget that it's a chain.