CHICAGO (WLS) -- Despite our pre-occupation with turkey this week, Chicago still loves its steaks. That's due in part to men like Gustavus Swift, who helped establish beef processing in the old union stockyards. Steakhouses continue to multiply in the city, but one of sets itself apart mainly due to the items on the menu besides beef.
It's part of a new generation of steakhouses cropping up in the city where they take a more thoughtful, chef-driven approach to what a steakhouse can be.
The former cold storage building, now occupied primarily by Google, is the base of operations for what can only be termed a "modern" steakhouse, in that sourcing is just as important as anything else.
"Antibiotic free, hormone free, but also above the Dairy Line, as they call it, which is southern Nebraska, all the way down through Texas," said Executive Chef Chris Pandel.
Pandel is classically-trained, so even something as straightforward as a crab cake is reimagined with potato flakes on the crust, a crunchy celery root remoulade beneath and a creole remoulade surrounding it. Steaks are mostly dry-aged.
"It's steak on a plate, but we're making all of our own steak sauces in house, everything is from scratch cooking, we're sourcing from small farmers for our vegetables," he said.
Including an autumnal salad with crunch-worthy all-stars like watermelon radish, cauliflower, fennel, parsnips and jicama, among others, tossed in a tarragon-buttermilk dressing. Another light option: chilled seafood and shellfish from both coasts.
"That was the challenge to me. To take those things and lighten them up and make them a more pure form, where they're not as rich and heavy, to just take the meal to that level," he said.
For dessert, forget about mile-high chocolate cake, Pastry Chef Meg Galus' creations offer sweet without overkill. A Boston cream pie with dark chocolate sheets embedded within yellow sponge cake batons, with piped-on vanilla bean cream and a crumble of white chocolate crunch.
"Meg's Boston cream pie is the perfect portion size. It's still rich. It's still decadent, but it's not gonna kill you," said Pandel. "Big is not the goal. The goal is quality."
You can never have enough steakhouses in Chicago, apparently we just love our aged beef. But at least this time around, there are a few lighter options, showing a more delicate hand in the kitchen.
Swift and Sons
1000 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607