In Chicago, steak is king.
So if you’re a king of your industry — or trying to impress one — you’d be hard-pressed not to choose from one of the city’s regal steakhouses for your power lunch.
Of course, food of all types is taken very seriously in Chi-town.
So, even if you and your dining partners aren’t in a red-meat mood, you’ll still be certain to impress by picking from an array of other hot spots — each serving up delicious lunches in classy settings, and perfect for schmoozing, selling, and closing those deals.
We consulted renowned restaurant critic Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune), dining editor Penny Pollack (Chicago Magazine), and food writer Julia Kramer (Time Out Chicago) to compile this list of the 10 best restaurants for a business lunch in Chicago.
Steakhouses, of course, are dominant. But you’ll also find some French, Modern American, and old-school Italian touches on our list.
Happy power lunch-ing!
Gibsons is the ultimate classic Chicago steakhouse. We're talking superb service, power players, and Flintstone-worthy hunks of red meat.
According to the Chicago Magazine review, 'Power-scene regulars and eager tourists gather at this boisterous spot for red meat and martinis. Thick New York strips, porterhouses, and bone-in rib eyes deliver wet-aged prime succulence,'
Just be sure to secure a reservation before you show up: another Chicago Mag review reports that the place is ''perennially jammed.'
If a restaurant refers to its private dining rooms as 'boardrooms,' you know you're in the right place for a power lunch.
Morton's of Chicago is another Chi-town steak powerhouse, and the Wacker Place location is where you should head during lunch hours.
'The Morton's chain created this second downtown location for two reasons: To capture the business-lunch crowd and cash in on private-party business (the original Gold Coast location offers neither lunch nor private space),' Vettel says.
The lighter lunch menu might be a new offering for Morton's of Chicago, but Vettel assures us that 'prime beef still drives this place.'
Another must-have for your power lunch? The restaurant's famous (and very serious) martinis, according to Forbes -- which lists the Chicago outpost of the chain as one of the top power-lunch spots in America.
According to Pollack, Joe's is the perfect combination of surf 'n turf: the Florida transplant serves up both amazing steaks and drool-worthy seafood.
Not only is the food impressive, but the scene is fitting, too: the place is 'always abuzz and should convince the person you are wheeling and dealing with that you are in the know,' she reports.
In a more pescetarian mood? Then Shaw's Crab House is the place to go for a seafood-inspired power lunch.
Kramer seconds that sentiment, describing it as a definite 'expense-account' place.
So if your lunch partners are more old-school Chicago types, Shaw's is a definite crowd-pleaser.
Another Chicago staple steakhouse, Keefer's has actually always struck Pollack as 'a Manhattan transfer,' she says. 'It exudes an unpretentious swank along with a sophisticated menu of well-prepped fish and steak in non-steakhouse portion sizes.'
John Hogan's local 'celebrity-chef' factor amps up the restaurant's sway as an impressive power lunch spot. In a recent review, renowned Chicago food critic Pat Bruno notes that, despite his massive success, Hogan is still often present in the kitchen at Keefer's -- a very 'good sign.'
Bruno continues: 'Keefer's is a busy restaurant, but the layout, the placement of tables, keeps a lid on the noise level, so even when the place is full you don't get that full feeling, as in voices being raised on top of raised voices. This is very civilized dining, and for a popular steakhouse, that's saying something.'
The diverse menu is perfect for a diverse group of power lunchers. As Pollack puts it, 'The svelte female attorney can be happy with the smoked salmon appetizers and let the boys prove their machismo with a New York strip.'
Amidst all these old-school Chicago offerings, it's refreshing to see that the modern Blackbird is a favourite across the board.
Vettel says, 'Given its minimalist décor and too-close tables, this West Loop restaurant is no place for sensitive discussions. But if you're just trying to impress, it's hard to beat Paul Kahan's amazing contemporary-American cuisine.'
Beware: the menu is pricey. But, if you're on a tighter budget, Kramer recommends the weekday offering of a 3-course prix fixe lunch -- a steal at $22 per person.
The Gage was another favourite on our sources' lists. Pollack describes it as 'a casual, happy gastropub' which features 'spicy mussels and prime burgers.'
Because of its proximity to Millennium Park, 'by all logic, it should be touristy, but it's a favourite among locals who work downtown,' Kramer says.
One word of warning: Pollack reports that the place 'attracts scads of tourists in the summer,' so be sure to request a table in the back, where it's a bit quieter.
As one of the more expensive offerings on our list, you might have to save Sixteen for the heavy-hitters.
But it'll be worth it -- not only for the food, but also for the incredible, architectural setting. The Trump Hotel's restaurant features 30-foot high windows which offer up-close views of the river and adjacent historical buildings.
Of course, the actual food adds to the luxurious experience, as well.
As Vettel puts it, 'it wouldn't have ruined my day if Sixteen had turned out to be an overpriced flop. But with a dining room that oozes spare-no-expense luxury, splendiferous city views and food worthy of the chef's glittering resume, Sixteen instead lives up to the hype.'
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