Benny's Chop House - Chicago
“Benny’s Way” is how the people at Benny’s Chophouse explain their strategy for delivering the best steak and wine experience to Chicago. The best steak and the best wine. That’s what Benny’s Chophouse aims to deliver. The best steak at Benny’s Chophouse is USDA Prime and covers all the traditional bases: filet mignon, rib eye and strip steaks.
There are also a special category of dry aged steaks: bone-in rib eye and New York Strip, T-Bone, porterhouse and Tomahawk. These are the cuts you’d expect to see at a steak house, and Chicago Magazine approvingly puts Benny’s Chophouse on their list of Best Steak Houses, adding “the USDA prime steaks are spot-on…the usual wet- and dry-aged cuts. A third category features all-natural beef free of hormones and antibiotics straight from a private farm in Arizona: Sink your teeth into that buttery, impeccably seasoned 12-ounce New York strip and you can almost taste the farm-fresh TLC.”
Steaks can be crusted with black pepper or horseradish, or served underneath bone marrow butter or seared foie gras or any one of a dozen other toppings. It’s fun to try different toppings, but with steak this good, it’s kind of gilding the lily.
Then there’s the specialty selection, which includes two steaks less commonly seen on Chicago steak house menus: Wagyu skirt steak and Japanese Kobe filet.
Wagyu is superb red meat, and it comes from Japan. "Wa" means Japanese and "gyu" means cow), and Wagyu beef is rated according to a very strict scale from 1 to 5; A5 is the highest designation (though there are subcategories even within that highest rating).Wagyu is rated based on a number of quality criteria including the amount of marbling (which is also the basis of the USDA beef rating system), but also the luster and color of the fat, and the meat’s brightness and texture. Though the name means “Japanese cow,” cows that are harvested to yield Wagyu beef have been hybridized with non-Japanese breeds to yield the tastiest meat. The production of Wagyu beef is highly regulated and progeny are tested to ensure purity of bloodlines. It’s fantastic beef.
A specialized strain of Wagyu beef, Kobe is Japanese beef considered by many to be the finest in the world. Like the beef grading system in the U.S., Kobe's grades (A1-A12) get higher with increased marbling, the threads of delicious fat that flow through muscle meat. Cattle were introduced to Japan over 1,500 years ago, and because they were frequently cultivated in remote areas separated by mountains, the various breeds of cattle, in isolation from other breeds, developed unique characteristics. Banned in 2009 because of concerns (many say unfounded) about diseases in the Japanese cattle population, Kobe has been legally sold in the United States since 2012. There is a very large market for counterfeit Kobe in the United States, due largely to the fact that the United States does not recognize the Kobe beef trademark, but at Benny’s Chophouse, you can be sure you’re getting the real deal.
The seafood at Benny’s Chophouse has also been justly praised, with oysters and prawns, scallops and seafood towers, a big selection from the raw bar and some prepared items like oysters Rockefeller and shrimp DeJonghe.
Winner of a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award, Benny’s Chop House has a very strong selection of wines. The World of Fine Wine also recognized Benny’s Chop House with a place on its list of the World’s Best Wine Lists (only 224 restaurants in the entire world received this award).
The wine list at Benny’s Chop House is truly massive, with a full page devoted to wine by the glass (with prices as low as $12 for a pinot grigio from Veneto, all the way up to a $35 glass of George pinot noir from the Russian River Valley, and a lot in-between). Of special interest is a category of “eclectic reds” which includes a Syrah from Lebanon, a Cabernet from Nemea in Greece, and a Cabernet-Pinot Noir blend from Slovenia.
All the wine at Benny’s Chop House is cellared at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can be chilled upon request.
Steak always seems to be a celebration, and closing the meal with a cake seems right: there’s chocolate layer cake and carrot cake, of course. After all the outstanding meat, seafood and wine, however, you may very well be most in the mood for something lighter, and we’d recommend the wild passion fruit or berry sorbets. Both of these chilled desserts provide just a little bit of sweetness, and close to zero richness, to end a meal that admittedly tends toward the luxuriously, wonderfully rich.