Eiffel Tower

Frozen soufflé

Ocean seafood salad

Cream of onion soup

Torchon

View

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I was expecting this place to be very touristy, so I’m shocked to come away feeling it is one of my favorite restaurants in Vegas. In fact, I enjoyed it more that Jules Verne in the real Eiffel Tower!

The room is beautiful, and the view of the Strip and the Bellagio fountain can’t be beat. The atmosphere is sophisticated without being stuck up.

The lunch menu offers a nice assortment of French-inspired cuisine focusing on the lighter side. I loved the torchon appetizer and my Ocean Seafood Salad (btw, what other kind of seafood is there?)

The frozen souffle was an interesting dessert. Try ordering a glass of Amaro and pouring into the ice cream at the bottom–delicious!

The wine list is decent, and the prices normal for the Strip.

This is one of the few Vegas restaurants I think is worth a return visit, because it is about more than just the novelty of the experience.

Eiffel Tower
3655 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 948-6937
https://www.yelp.com/biz/eiffel-tower-las-vegas

Michael’s Gourmet Room

Exterior

Interior

Scampi fra Diavolo

Mixed green salad

Petite filet mignon

Bone in filet mignon

Bananas Foster for one

Fruit and chocolates parting gifts

**** (4.5 stars)

If you are over a certain age, you will remember what fine dining restaurants used to be like, before they were, bright, loud and trendy. Visiting Michael’s is like stepping back into that era. The decor and the menu are exactly what we would have encountered in the 60s or 70s at the finest places in town. Well, except for the prices, anyway.

That said, while the menu prices might seem high, it’s important to note that there is a LOT included that isn’t on the menu. You start a basket of parmesan toast, a basket of lavash, and a generous relish tray with everything from pickled vegetables to quail eggs. And the meal ends with an enormous fruit bowl and an array of hand-dipped chocolate fruit slices. Of course, no one can eat all that, so you end up with a five pound to-go bag–snacks for a week.

In between all that free stuff are some great starters and steaks. Mixed green salad was simple, fresh, and enough for two. Scampi fra Diavolo had perhaps the best marinara sauce I’ve tasted (although it wasn’t spicy at all).

My bone-in filet was a superb piece of meat, and came with a lovely mushroom and red wine reduction. My companion’s petit filet seemed a bit mealy and flavorless in comparison, but the accompanying Bernaise sauces was wonderful.

For dessert we shared Bananas Foster for one (not on the menu, but nice of them to suggest the smaller serving). There was also a very tempting array of pastries on the cart.

I would have finished with an espresso, but at $16 that just seemed over the top, price wise.

The wines list focuses on many well-chosen California selections at reasonable prices.

Service was friendly, but also offered with the high degree of professionalism one would expect in a restaurant that so perfectly recreates the golden age of fine dining.

Michael’s Gourmet Room
9777 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
89183
(702) 796-7111
https://www.yelp.com/biz/michaels-gourmet-room-las-vegas

The Barn Steakhouse

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Ceviche

Lamb chops (Saturday special)

**** (4 stars)

This charming restaurant is indeed in an old, two-story brick barn that was a Bordens Milk plant in the distant past. The space has been nicely remodeled while saving its charm.

The Barn styles itself as a Chicago steakhouse, but there is a lot more on the menus, and none of us actually had steak. We really enjoyed the very generous ceviche appetizer. Another favorite is their famous caviar sandwich, which is also a generous serving, and the caviar was quite good for the price.

As an entree I had the lamb chops, which were excellent. Four large chops were perfectly cooked, and served in a wonderfully flavorful sauce that conatined a hint of licorice. The is a Saturday special, so if lamb is your thing, that’s the day to go.

There’s a fairly extensive wine list.

Service was friendly and professional.

Because of the brick walls, the space can get quite loud when busy, so it’s best to go early. The upstairs seating in the loft is a little bit quieter.

The Barn Steakhouse
1016 Church St
Rear
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 868-8041
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-barn-steakhouse-evanston-4

Gibsons Italia

View

Interior

Exterior

Chef’s Crudo Selection

Lettuce and herb salad with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette (off menu item)

New York Strip Bone-In

Grilled Romanesco

Grilled asparagus

Affogato

Good view, rain or shine

***** (5 stars)

The original Gibson’s is a good restaurant, but this one is a great restaurant. Every element of my meal was about as close to perfection as I can expect from a steakhouse. Of the dozens of steakhouses I’ve tried in Chicago, it was clearly the best.

Of course, there is the view, perhaps the best in the city, looking out at the junction of the Chicago River. And the room itself is also gorgeous. It’s on the third floor, with a bar on the floor below.

The service was also impressive. Not only were the waiters professional and friendly, but they were genuine hosts, with several of them stopping by to chat.

The menu includes the full range of Gibson’s branded prime steaks, and they are just as good as you would expect. But it’s the other dishes that impressed me most. The chef’s selection crudo was a wonderful starter: three sashimi preparations of tuna, kanpachi and fluke, with amazing and surprising accompaniments.

An off-menu salad of lettuce and herbs dressed in Meyer Lime vinaigrette was a perfect break before tackling the steak. For sides I couldn’t decide between the grilled romanesco and grilled asparagus, finally ordering the asparagus. To my surprise, my waiter also brought the romanesco so I could try it. Both were excellent.

I finished off with the affogato, which was served deconstructed, so you could add your own coffee to the ice cream. The coffee was laced with Averna, which imparted a delightful bitterness to offset the sweet ice cream. The homemade cookies that came with it were also amazing.

The wine list is also top notch. There’s a great variety, and some reasonable prices. The Morey Saint Denis I had was a gem.

I can’t ask for much more than the meal I had at Gibson’s, and it’s perhaps the first Chicago steakhouse I’ve been to that will keep drawing me back rather than always trying new ones. Highly recommended.

Gibsons Italia
233 N Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 414-1100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gibsons-italia-chicago-2

Chicago Chop House

Exterior

Cold seafood sampler for one

10 oz Wagyu NY Strip

Creamed spinach

**** (4 stars)

In a city seemingly overflowing with steakhouses, Chicago Chop House has a few unique things to offer.

First off is the ambiance. Located in a 120-year-old townhouse, it’s definitely cozier and more historical than the competition. And if you’re into Chicago history, the walls are covered with more than a thousand old photos, stock certificates and other ephemera, many with labels denoting their significance.

The third floor, called the “skybox,” is the quietest place to sit. It’s divided into small spaces that work well for intimate conversation. The ground floor bar is by far the liveliest space.

The menu offers the fairly unique option of ordering nearly identical steaks handled differently. There is a section of wet-aged meat (usually my preference), dry-aged, and also American Wagyu.

I tried the Wagyu New York Strip, and it was just okay. It was thinner than the other steaks, and wasn’t as tender or fatty as I would expect from Wagyu. Perhaps that was the result of it being cooked closer to medium well than the medium rare I ordered.

Far better was my wife’s dry-aged New York Strip, which was very tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked.

We started with a cold seafood assortment for one, which was actually enough for the two of use to have a bit of tuna and crab, and to split the oyster and shrimp according to our preference. Then we also shared a Ceasar salad, which was more than enough for two.

Sides are also large. We shared creamed spinach, which was a bit more to the cream side than I prefer, but tasty.

There’s a nice wine list, with a few older gems that are reasonably priced for Chicago.

Service was friendly and attentive, and we enjoyed our very relaxing and intimate meal.

Chicago Chop House
60 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654
(888) 592-8471
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-chop-house-chicago

The Grill On The Alley

Crab shrimp and lobster louie

Tuna sashimi

Caesar salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

If you like old-school places, you’ll probably like The Grill on the Alley. It’s pretty much unchanged since it opened in the 80s, and it was designed to be retro even back then. It’s a bit like more recent retro steakhouse concepts such as the Palm or Mortons, but somehow lacks the upscale feeling of those.

I didn’t find much that was remarkable on our visit. The best thing I had was a shrimp, crab and lobster Louie salad, which was very generous in its seafood portion, as it should have been for almost $50.

The service was–and I’m being charitable here-uneven, to say the least. We seemed to be handed off through a succession of at least four servers, and the people delivering the plates and bussing the table were all in rotation, too, so it wasn’t exactly conducive to feeling like a guest–more like part of an assembly line.

The clientele here is even older than the restaurant — by about forty years, I’d guess, and seems to be devoted, so perhaps they see something in it that I didn’t.

The Grill On The Alley
9560 Dayton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-0615
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-grill-on-the-alley-beverly-hills

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills

End cut

English cut

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to Lawry’s for almost 50 years, and aside from moving across the street a few decades ago, nothing has changed.

Perfectly cooked prime rib is still served, cut to your liking, from 70-year-old table-side carts. The creamed spinach is still the best anywhere, as is the gravy poured into the divot in your mashed potatoes.

Service is proper but not prim, and wine pricing is reasonable.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lawrys-the-prime-rib-beverly-hills-beverly-hills

Swift & Sons

Interior

Interior

Big eye tuna crudo

Crispy rock shrimp

Tomahawk

Chocolate trolley

**** (4 stars)

There are a lot of steakhouses in Chicago with great atmosphere, and there are some with great steaks, and there are fewer still with great side dishes. Swift & Sons is one of the rare places that offers all three, along with excellent service and fair prices.

We started with the big eye tuna crudo and the crispy rock shrimp. The crudo was melt in your mouth delicious, but a very small serving. The rock shrimp was a huge portion, as generous as the tuna was stingy. The crispy coating held up to the slightly spicy sauce; an excellent dish.

A Caesar salad split three ways was a nice palate cleanser, but it was just okay, and the croutons were fairly indestructible.

We shared a 38-ounce tomahawk rib eye (the smallest size!) three ways. That’s a lot of steak, but it was so delicious, with its charred crust and tender marbling, that there wasn’t a scrap left.

We also had a side of Lobster Thermador, which was very good, but not a traditional Thermador, more like a half lobster tail with some butter-based sauce.

The creamed spinach was also very good; rather than being minced it used the whole leaves, but was definitely more creamed than sauteed.

A popular dessert option is the chocolate trolley, with an assortment of small bites for $3 each. I opted instead for the very interesting white coffee ice cream, which was indeed white, and very nicely flavored.

Wine selections are extensive, thoughtful, and fairly priced. Our server was extremely familiar with the wine list, so that we didn’t even need the sommelier.

Both server and busser were friendly and attentive.

Swift & Sons
1000 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9420
http://www.yelp.com/biz/swift-and-sons-chicago

Ditka’s Restaurant

The fridge burger

Mini burgers

Exterior

Bar

Dining room

**** (4 stars)

Really great clubby ambiance and one of the best burgers in Chicago are the highlights here.

The Fridge burger has every thing I like on a burger: lettuce tomato, mustard, mayo, pickles and cheddar cheese. The patty was huge and perfectly cooked, and the bun held together despite the incredibly juicy content.

The fries looked great, but were unremarkable, and not crisp enough. But you can get several other sides, including slaw or fruit.

The atmosphere is like a mini-steakhouse crossed with a sports theme. But unlike sports bars, the dining room is classic white tablecloths, with no TVs, just lots of sports memorabilia in cases. If you like more of a bar atmosphere, there is a separate space for that, and also a nice outside dining area.

Lunch pricing is extremely reasonable for the area.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Ditka’s Restaurant
100 E Chestnut St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 587-8989
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ditkas-restaurant-chicago

Wildfire

Interior

Bar

Tuna tartare

Scallop appetizer

Onion soup

House salad

Horseradish Filet

Beef Wellington

Wine flight

**** (4 stars)

This is another brilliant effort from Lettuce Entertain You. It’s much more old school than their other restaurants, and really does capture the look and feel of a 1940s steakhouse. Not only does it offer some of the best steaks in town, it also offers some of the best steakhouse prices in River North. Both the food and the wine list is priced substantially below those of other restaurants, including some of Lettuce’s other restaurants.

Highlights of our meal included the house salad (the smallest size is huge), the very traditional French Onion Soup, and the very creative tuna tartare. The bacon wrapped scallop appetizer was also quite good.

My horseradish crusted bacon-wrapped filet was just as good as it sounds. In fact, I think it was the best steak I’ve had in Chicago, and I’ve had a lot of them. Creamed spinach is a good side dish.

The wine tasting flights offer four interesting selections for $15 or less. Where else can you get that in River North?

Our server was friendly and attentive. And of course the Lettuce Entertain You Frequent Diner Club points make it an even better deal. Highly recommended.

Wildfire
159 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 787-9000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/wildfire-chicago