Have you ever had a meal so good that you didn’t want to brush your teeth before bed because you never wanted the taste of delicious steak to go away? If your answer is no then you’ve obviously never been to Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf. (And incase you were concerned about my dental hygiene – yes I did brush my teeth that night). Last night Jackson and I went there for a dinner to celebrate my birthday and his new position on a prestigious choir, (ok we had the reservation before we realized those things, but it’s always more fun to go out for a celebration) and the whole meal reminded me why I truly love good food.
Bavette’s is a refreshing take on an upscale steakhouse – a sultry, dimly lit restaurant with smooth jazz and beautiful decor. Instead of the traditional steakhouse suit and tie, their servers have traded in the suit jackets for rolled up sleeves, and in the case of our server, some awesome tattoos.
While the ambiance was great, the food is where Bavette’s really earned its place in my heart as a true stand out in a city filled with steakhouses and fine dining restaurants. Just like the atmosphere suggests, the menu has a generous mix of traditional steakhouse style menu items – think chilled seafood towers, wedge salad, steaks galore, baked potatoes, creamed spinach, I could go one for days – while peppering in more unconventional items for a steakhouse such as peppered duck & goat cheese terrine and shortrib stroganoff.
From the cocktail menu, I decided to start with a Lions Tail. The drink was perfectly balanced and very refreshing, granted I’m a sucker for a good Lions Tail so I’m fairly easy to please in that respect. For $13 it was a well crafted drink with a generous portion, though on my next visit I’d probably try something new rather than getting another, not because it wasn’t delicious, but because it wasn’t so delicious that I could never break away from it.
Just before my cocktail arrived, Jackson and I were presented with our bread service. The bread was outstanding, and that is coming from someone who typically refuses to eat bread at restaurants. The sourdough, which looked unassuming when it arrived at the table, was warm, moist and flavorful. While I would normally skip it altogether or try a bite just to say I tasted it, I devoured this entire piece of sourdough and debated obliging when offered a second piece. Had I not known what delicious food was to come I probably would have caved and had another.
To begin our meal we started with the baked crab cake. As soon as I took my first bite I know that this was going to be one of the best meals I’d ever tasted. The crab cake was light, tender and stuffed with a generous portion of blue crab. The lemon and remoulade paired perfectly with the crab cake, making this a stand out dish. It was not only a perfect opener to our meal, but hands down the best crab cake I have ever tried. It was not dense or overly compensated with bread crumbs like many I’ve had in the past, rather a blue crab forward dish that was baked to perfection. For $21 it was at first a seemingly small portion, but once you run your fork through (it’s so tender you don’t need to both with a knife) and break it open to find a treasure chest of crab you know exactly why you’ve paid so much for a single crab cake. A must-have dish when you visit Bavette’s.
Next came our steaks and side dishes to share. Jackson and I both opted for the 22oz, 42 day dry aged bone in ribeye ($69.95) while both choosing different enhancements. I added bone marrow ($8) to my steak while he opted for the maître d’ butter ($4). To share we ordered the brussels sprouts and the buttery mashed potatoes.
The ribeye was the greatest piece of steak I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
The char on my meat was absolutely fantastic, while still boasting an impeccable, medium rare center. Every piece melted in my mouth and was so flavorful that I opted to skip the additional steak salt and sauce they provide on the side. The bone marrow, which was a first for me to try, added am exquisitely rich and decadent flavor to my meal. With each bite the flavors came alive even more.
As far as the sides were concerned the brussels sprouts ($12) were my personal favorite. They were perfectly charred and the Dijon and parmesan brightened them up. They retained a wonderful texture that held up through cooking very well. While the buttery mashed potatoes ($12) truly lived up the their name, the amount of finishing salt on the top was a touch overwhelming. The garlic and chicken jus made the potatoes an indulgent side dish that balanced well with our choice of brussels, but the overly salty finish left me a little underwhelmed.
As delicious as everything is, make sure you save room for dessert. The menu is very limited with only five options, meaning that rather than do ten dishes fairly well they have mastered putting together five spectacular options. Jackson and I opted to split the lemon meringue pie, though I will say from our server’s recommendation the chocolate cream pie is supposed to be out of this world.
When our pie came out it was dressed with a sparkler in honor of my birthday, an exciting and unexpected addition to what was already an excellent dessert. At first glance the layer of lemon custard was very thin in comparison to the mountain high, fluffy peaks of meringue, but at first bite you quickly understand why. The custard highlighted the true tartness of lemon, so any thicker of a layer would have been overkill. Instead is was balanced by light, fluffy and perfectly torched mounds of meringue.
While the food was next to perfection, the overall service was the one area that left something to be desired. Our server himself was very attentive and charming, but the rest of the service didn’t feel like it matched the quality or price point. The hosts were less than attentive when I arrived and did not offer to take my ginormous parka or backpack, despite me hearing them offer every other guest who arrived after us to check theirs. Jackson had also spoken with them ahead of time to print a menu that said “Happy Birthday Jordin – Jackson” and they forgot to bring it when we were seated. Halfway through our bread course a gentleman who I can only assume was the maitre d came by with them to apologize and let us know we were originally given the wrong menus. While I appreciate the special menu being printed more than I can describe (I even brought mine home with me to keep as a reminder of my amazing meal), it was true oversight and showed poor attention to detail at a place whose price point says “we pay attention to the details.” Jackson also had to pour is own water refills multiple times, which again is not the end of the world, but for the environment it was unexpected.
Overall, Bavette’s has truly won a large piece of my heart – the piece that is closely connected with my stomach. I am already scoping out my next opportunity to return, and have already devoured my leftovers for dinner tonight. If you are ever presented with the opportunity to eat at Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf do not pass it up.
218 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654