Usually, when I think about hotel restaurants, crappy, overpriced cocktails and tired American fare come to mind. (I’m looking at you, hotel in D.C.!) Generally, they’re the option you turn to out of necessity … or pure laziness. But occasionally, there’s that gem that enhances your experience of a city and feels kind of like a destination in itself.
In NYC, that might be The Nomad or Maialino. In Chicago, it’s David Burke’s Primehouse.
While staying at the James Hotel on our last trip to Chicago, my mom wanted to stay close to home for our first meal. Throughout our trip, that sentiment meant we’d eventually have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Primehouse next to the hotel lobby. (And by lunch, I mean that time we had a burger for breakfast. Whoops!)
The burger in question was the 40 Day Dry-Aged Prime Steak Burker, named after the owner himself. The beef was absolutely tender and delicious and the classic accompaniments were appropriate. The best praise I can give was that there were absolutely no complaints, which is rare for me, and even more so, my mother. In fact, even though she rarely eats burgers, she still talks about this one to this day.
Everything we tried was amazing, including classic eggs Benedict and an addictive Caesar salad. I was also impressed by the cocktails I had, even the breakfast juices. I was obsessed with a watermelon, cucumber and coconut water concoction called “The Eye Opener.”
But of course, this is a steakhouse, so the focus is on the meat. Here, all the beef comes from the genetic line of a single Black Angus bull named “Prime,” and is dry-aged in a special Himalayan salt-tiled room in the restaurant’s cellar. You can make reservations for a tour of the cellar or you can watch a grainy video of it here.
We never did try the ribeye, which comes aged anywhere from 28 to 75 days. But if the burger was any indication of the quality and taste, then it gets my seal of approval.
Also noteworthy was the Duroc pork chop, which was the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly crispy on the outside, while juicy and tender on the inside, it’s a massive piece of meat that you’ll want to keep eating long after you’re full. Looking back now, I think the meals here outshone almost everything else we tried in Chicago.
I’ve never been to David Burke’s New York City restaurants and don’t tend to hear much about them here, but the Primehouse is considered one of the top steakhouses in Chicago, and it’s without a doubt the star of their offerings. With its low-key vibe, it would be easy to underestimate. But if you try and stop by without a reservation for dinner, you’ll be lucky if you can get a seat at the bar. That should tell you everything you need to know.