Steakhouses in Chicago are a dime a dozen. More so, it’s always the same experience—pricey, chain-esque, and usually guaranteed to provide a decent filling meal.
Enter Benny’s Chop House…
“We’re the only Benny’s in the country,” states Mitchell Schmieding, Director of Operations. Mitchell’s resume reads like a who’s who of the culinary world, including Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Hume, Charlie Trotter, and many more notables. “There’s nothing corporate about this place. It’s owned by a family and run like a family. Most of the staff, both FOH and BOH, has been with us since day one.”
Impressive in an industry where turnover is high and the number one complaint on every restauranteur’s lips is, “We need more/better staff.”
But that’s not what sets Benny’s apart for the diner.
Benny’s happens to be in a class of its own, well above steakhouse and settled right in the fine dining sphere.
“We don’t bill ourselves as a steakhouse.,” Schmieding explains. “In entirety, we are a Class A restaurant. If we didn’t have the words Chop House after our name, we would be in likes with Le Nomade or Naha, etc. We commit ourselves to four pillars of excellence—wine and beverage, ambiance, service, and cuisine.”
The commitment to excellence in those four pillars is felt from the moment the diner steps in the doors to well after he or she has left. Every touchpoint exudes quality. And, for once, paying the prices seems to be entirely worth it.
“We serve 100% USDA Prime meats that are hand cut,” Schmieding proudly boasts. And that is quite the achievement to boast about given that most restaurants and steakhouses state “USDA Prime” but very few are able to qualify it at 100%.
In addition, each cut of meat is a specialty cut—porterhouse, New York, filet, T-bone, rib eye.
“Because each cut of meat is hand cut, we allow for an exact amount of trim, a precise technique of Frenching bones, and an always consistently looking product touched by expert hands instead of machines producing in bulk.”
Benny’s menu refuses to underestimate our knowledge of the finest as diners and commits to openness and honesty. Front and center is their JAPANESE BLACK GRADE A5 TAJIMA KOBE JAPAN, FILET, 7 oz priced at $249. The description indicates that the diner is being served true kobe beef (which happens to come from an area in Japan called Kobe. There, the cattle are Japanese Black Cows, bred from a strain of genetics that dates back to 1615. To be true Kobe beef, the meat must not only come from this area but must be a virgin bullock.).
There are only ten restaurants in all of America that serve true Kobe beef. Benny’s is one of them. I had the absolute honor of devouring this steak. Velvety, supple, juicy and expertly seasoned, it was and probably will be the best bites of steak I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Benny’s is also now proudly the only restaurant in Chicago to serve Kobe Ribeye.
The restaurant recently received an authentic bronze Kobe statue from the Tajima Prefecture of Japan, affirming its commitment to quality as one of the only restaurants in the city to offer this rare type of beef.
Benny’s doesn’t just serve. They educate. For instance, the average diner—even a seasoned steakhouse lover—probably has no idea that Kobe is such a specific strain of beef. Or that the meat is so precious, it actually travels from Japan to America with an “import certificate” that can be produced upon request to verify authenticity of the same. The next time you see the words “Kobe beef” on a menu with a price of under $75, beware. And if you’re not sure, ask to see the import certificate. Restaurants are required to keep and produce them when asked!
While the meats are certainly the shining star of the menu at Benny’s, their commitment to quality soars with every other option from the fish (hand-harvested sea scallops, anyone?) to the sides and especially the wine list.
“Our goal is two-pronged,” Mitchell says proudly. “We must offer the absolute very best steak that is available in the marketplace to clients. And we must ensure that we are not an opt-out restaurant; there must be a variety of food choices to appeal to all.”
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