Terence Sean Davis provides dispatches from the worlds of art, life and food in Chicago, where it’s always Gourmet Season
Blocks away from where the Towers of Cabrini once stood, made famous in such popular entertainment as “Good Times” and “Candyman,” low-level project housing remains poverty stricken and gang-infested yet surrounded by developments both residential and commercial that are worth tens of millions.
Cabrini suffered from a tough reputation that proceeded it across the country. People may respect you if you survived from there, but if you were one of the many hardworking folks that were just trying to make it or move on to better housing and economic status, you were pretty much left on your own devices.
The conditions of the project coupled with lack of opportunities and support for the neighborhood from the city around it led to a situation that definitely lacked, creating a sure the recipe for violence, crime, drug addiction as well as the notion to make a living by any means necessary.
Just where am I going with this, you may ask?
In the midst of what are still troubling times for many in Chicago, including those who stay closest to where Cabrini once towered over the near North side, there are unprecedented booms occurring for many who have brought themselves and their money to the area, but not much else.
Meanwhile, many of the old Cabrini residents have been relocated on the South and West sides of the city or and out to the South suburbs. Along Sedgewick Avenue and sporadically through Old Town you still see a sustainable black community present.
Mere blocks over bars, boutiques and semi-upper echelon happy hour friendly restaurants make up a more upwardly-bound “Old Town.” You feel the shuffling working class coming and going as well as a play hard energy as you stroll down Orleans between Division St. heading north towards North Avenue. This particular strip of indulging night life and gyms seems fit for a seasoned Millennial such as myself. I feel as if the post-collegiate years going into your full-fledged adult 30s provides a time to graduate to the bar strips of Chicago in Wrigleyville, Division, Wicker Park, River North, Logan Square, Old Town and so on.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Old Town yet I’ve dragged on taking an evening to check the eats and spirits at Steak Bar, a block south of North Ave on the often popping Wells St. I’ve been putting off the visit and glad I chose my first time to go on a cold, crispy yet festive Friday night earlier this month.
Steak Bar falls under the Cozy Act, a great look for a December/Holiday date. Rustic yet polished, and surprising hip (surprising I say cause I’m not necessarily looking for “Hip” or anything resembling “The Culture” in Old Town).
Art pieces depicting Prince and Pharell hung over our booth as GoldLink played in the background. A multi-level spot with several bars and bartenders on deck to keep the lituation going, Steak Bar lives up to what I consider to be an important aspect of a nightlife spot — having a sufficient amount of accessible bars in your establishment to cater to all the thirsty patrons at once.
Upon my visit I quickly got the impression Steak Bar turns up after 10 pm on the weekends and the last thing you want to do on a leisurely Friday evening is wait 20 mins in line for a neat Bourbon or Scotch while getting bumped by interns from Frank and Associates.
As far as the eats went, I pretty much expected your traditional American Steak restaurant, but this establishment had sauce. The waiter was very knowledgeable of the menu and not fake friendly. To no one’s surprise around me I ordered a Smokey ass Steak Bar Old Fashion/Bulleit Rye to begin my drinking.
The Raw Bar options seemed delicious, my Gourmet radar went off and my party went with the Tuna-chopped Avocado and sweet ginger dressing. The tuna was fresh and not overly fishy, perfectly paired with a heavy sweetness and avocado. In deciding to level up a bit with the finger food the next small plate to arrive featured a Steak Tartar.
Bong!! Small cuts of raw steak with capers, siriracha, and egg yolk. I finished the evening with the Truffled Patty Melt done medium well. With its good presentation, menu options, great tasting food and toasty vibes Steak Bar comes close to offering a perfect all-around experience.
Overall, if you’re looking for an upscale but far from pretentious spot in Old Town, especially one with a savory Raw Bar option I recommend Steak Bar. Comfortable spot if you’re meeting up for drinks with your people or an ice breaking business dinner which could close the deal.
I’ve also heard nothing but great things about their supposedly lit “Almost Famous Brunch” on the weekends, to be continued…
Keep an eye out for the expansion of “Gourmet Season” in 2018 with special podcast and video features along with the best restaurant reviews and nightlife options to help you navigate Chicago and have dope evenings here like an expert. Join in now on Instagram and Twitter at @GourmetSeason or @Dotfresher and follow and share. Happy Holidays to all.