During our trip into Chicago, we walked up to go have dinner at Ditka's, the restaurant owned by former Chicago Bears player and coach Mike Ditka (see map). Even though he hasn't coached the Bears in nearly 20 years, Ditka is still a larger than life personality in Chicago. Da Coach!
It was a cold Sunday evening when we walked up to Ditka's from our hotel. Cindy said, "We're taking a cab back, that's all there is to it!" It was cold, compared to the balmy temperatures we encountered the night before when we got to Chicago. (Temps dropped nearly 35 degrees in a four hour period overnight. It was around 10 degrees all day long.)
Ditka's is attached to the toney and upscale Tremont Hotel, one of the many boutique hotels around downtown Chicago. I've never stayed at the Tremont, but I've been in the hotel a few times for meetings. It's a very nice place.
We got into Ditka's around 7:00 p.m. and the dining area downstairs was packed, mainly because of the Bears game earlier in the day. It would be about an hour and a half wait. The hostess asked if we would like to eat up in the bar area upstairs. I looked at Cindy and she said, "That's fine."
Well, the table they sat us at was a high table with no chair backs. I knew it wasn't going to work for Cindy, so we went back to the hostess to see if we could get seated at a regular table or a booth. She didn't have anything available right away, but then a table for four opened up away from the bar. She said, "Oh, will that work?"
The only problem is that in Ditka's bar area they allow for smoking of cigars. There were two or three guys sitting there smoking cigars, much to the consternation of Cindy. I said, "OK, look. We can go elsewhere or we can wait for a table to open up downstairs. Either way, we're not going to be eating for over an hour."
She said, "Oh, no. This is fine. I don't know why they have to smoke cigars in a bar."
Well, if it were a little over a week later, it wouldn't have happened as Illinois' new public smoking ban would have gone into law on January 1. But it was December 23rd. We had to live with it.
We got our menus and ordered some drinks. I got an Old Style, Eric got a Coke, and Cindy got a glass of the Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet. Actually, Ditka's boasts quite possibly the largest wine by the glass list I've ever seen. They had to have over 30 different wines by the glass to choose from.
Ditka's is famous for steak, steak and more steak. It's truly a Midwestern steak house. Cindy had been hankering for a T-Bone steak and they had a 24 oz. T-Bone on the menu. She didn't even hesitate when she ordered it. Eric got the 16 oz. blackened prime rib and I got the 20 oz. bone-in prime rib. We also got a side of red skin smashed potatoes, large enough for each of us to have a small amount. And we also got a wedge salad cut into thirds for us, like we did at Brick's the night before.
The bar area was loud and somewhat smoky. Ditka's bar area has four large air exchange units that were working to help keep the area free of smoke. But more people were coming in after the football game and smoking at the bar, so it was tough. Cindy wasn't too happy.
After finishing our wedge salad (which was very good, buy the way), our main entrees showed up. Man, the steak and prime rib all looked bigger than advertised. Eric's prime rib looked to be well more than 16 oz. And Cindy's T-Bone was HUGE!! She just licked her chops and dug in.
My bone-in prime rib was good. Not as good as I've had in the past, but good enough. It was cooked a perfect medium rare. But it was a lot of meat. I could barely finish the thing. Eric had problems finishing his, so we had it boxed up to take back to the room.
And Cindy - well, she never ceases to amaze me. She'll probably kill me for saying this, but she finished the whole thing! I don't cook T-Bone's on the grill at home all that much, but that seems to be her favorite cut of meat. She just devoured the whole thing. She said it was very good.
Ditka's wasn't cheap - it was $140 bucks before taxes and tip. The waitress that took care of us was very good. They were always filling water glasses or Eric's glass of pop. Other than the smoky, bar-like atmosphere that Cindy didn't care for, it was very good. Except she wants to come back some time to eat in the peace and quiet - and no smoke - of the dining room downstairs.
Before we left, we took a look around the hallways going back toward the bathrooms at the pictures and memorabilia on the walls. A lot of it had to do with Ditka, but a lot of it was old time pro football items, too. It was pretty cool to see.
Because it is attached to the Tremont Hotel, Ditka's also serves breakfast and lunch. But if you're into sports, especially football, Ditka's is a neat place to go to. Even if you're not, I highly recommend the place. The food is great, if not a little expensive. But the service was good and they were as accommodating as they could be. We'll go back sometime.