Del Frisco's enters Chicago's steak house meat market

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House joins sister-steak house, Sullivan’s (Chicago, Naperville, Lincolnshire) in the battle of Chicago steak houses, taking on fixtures like Gibsons and Morton’s and newcomers like Mastro’s and Bavette’s.

I’m still not trying to be a food critic, but the opportunity to check out the new place before its official opening this weekend presented itself and it only seems fair to share the preview.  This review, like the two previous restaurant pieces I did is going to be focused on what leaves the most lasting impression on this particular blogger; service.  All things being equal (good food), I also find ambiance a serious ingredient in the dining experience.

If you’ve ever been to Jellyfish, a great new sushi place on Rush Street, you know that it takes your eyes a while to adjust to the blue lighting, something that may have been a tad over done.   Frisco’s, located at 58 E. Oak in the newly redeveloped Esquire Theater complex is bright and open.   A little too bright.   Las Vegas-like signs light the entry way, but the bulbs have yet to be enclosed in what I was told will be translucent covers.  Instead of climbing stairs to the restaurant, as in the case of Jellyfish, you are swept to the second floor (actually the lower level of the place, there’s a third floor, as well) by a Water Tower-like escalator.

The second and third floors have similar layouts in the 23,000 sqare foot facility. A stylish bar at the top of the escalator with roomy and comfortable seating throughout and prime views of Oak Street on the south glass wall. The centerpiece of the restaurant is probably the 90,000 pound wine rack suspended from above on steel beams and enclosed in glass. This is a very serious build-out, done to aesthetic perfection.

Not surprisingly, there were steaks and plenty of them.  They looked good and they looked big, but as the pescatarian of the group, I had salmon, which came exactly as ordered, medium rare.  Nothing worse than over-cooked salmon (as was my experience at Mastro’s). We were told that two drinks would be included with our complimentary meals, but as long as we kept ordering them, they kept coming. McDonald’s isn’t the only place with a “Happy Meal”.

The place was well-staffed, to say the least. Some of those pleasant young people may not survive the shake-down cruise going on through Thursday. For those that do, I hope they’re able to maintain the welcoming atmosphere on display for us last night.  Each and every person we encountered, from the coat check girls to the hostesses, bartenders and wait staff gave us a feeling that they were both happy to be there and happy to see us.  If they can keep that going, Del Frisco’s is going to be the one thing that the other steak houses don’t seem to think about; a really fun place to be.

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