For the past seven years my core group of friends have been going out to a fancy dinner around the holidays. What started off as a celebration of Nick turning 30, has now turned into a tradition that we all look forward to each year.
This year’s restaurant was STK, a steakhouse that graces the streets of Chicago’s river north area.
Most of us had never been there before so we weren’t really sure what to expect. Some of the pictures make it appear a bit clubby and more modern than most of the other steakhouses we’ve been to in the city, but we’re always up for something new.
So after dropping one kid off at her cousin’s house, and instructing Grandma and Grandpa on how to handle the other kid, we made our way downtown.
STK – The Restaurant
If you know me than you know that I can get easily annoyed when things aren’t going as they should, so when we pulled up to STK and attempted to find the valet stand, my disgruntled-ness started to emerge.
STK’s front door is located on Kinzie, but the building that it resides in also has things that face State St. since it’s on the corner. Obviously I would assume that the valet stand would have been right in front of the STK doors, since I didn’t read anything different online, but that’s not the case.
After driving around the block and pulling over, blocking an alley, we called the restaurant to ask them where the valet stand was. After a bunch of yelling, because the guy could not hear anything over the music inside (or he was distracted by something else), he was finally able to blurt out that the valet is around the corner on State St., which we kind of figured, but weren’t 100% sure.
Needless to say, as we were pulling away from the alley to go to the valet, the parking spot directly in front of the restaurant doors opened up and we were able to park there instead.
Assuming the valet price is at least $15+tip, we saved a bit of money by doing the street parking for 4 hours at $8 an hour. Plus we were literally right outside the door, so we didn’t have to wait or walk to our car. And I could remote start it from inside the restaurant, which is awesome.
So parking situation aside, the restaurant is very nice.
There are two bars, one directly in front of you in the main dining room, and then another one off to the left in what I assume could be sectioned off for events. Our friends were already waiting at the 2nd bar off to the left so we met them there and were immediately shown to our table.
Which was in the even more private room next to the bar.
Our group has grown over the years with the inclusion of new significant others, so it’s usually easier for us to book the private room at these places than try to fit us in the dining area. But, I will say, having the ambiance of the rest of the restaurant around you while you’re enjoying dinner with your friends, can sometimes be better than the private room.
Once we were seated in our little private space, we all kind of commented on how wide the table was. It was basically two tables wide and two tables long to accommodate 11 of us. We thought for sure it was going to be annoying to try to talk to the people across the table from us, but it actually turned out to be ok, especially with the amount of food we ordered.
To start us off, they brought out this bread that had some sort of spread over the top of it, honestly not sure what it was, with a side of green stuff. She told us what it was, but it wasn’t anything that I was going to eat, so I really didn’t pay attention. I did, however, try the bread itself, and it was pretty delicious. So if you like weird buttery spreads over bread (that was definitely not honey butter), and a side of green stuff, then you’ll probably enjoy the bread even more than I did without that stuff.
I still think the best pre-meal bread that I’ve had is at Stoney River. Their warm bread ball things with the honey butter on top is absolutely incredible. It puts all other breads to shame.
So with bread going around the table, it was now time to decide on which appetizers we were going to get… but honestly, nothing jumped off the menu at us. My wife wanted to get the octopus for part of her main entree, but outside of that, nobody really seemed dying to try anything…
So we ordered two seafood towers instead.
The seafood towers have become sort of a tradition within a tradition at these dinners, and even though I don’t eat anything in said seafood towers, it’s always cool to see what different places do with theirs.
Each seafood tower was loaded with oysters, ceviche, shrimp, mussels, calamari, clams, Alaskan king crab, and whole main lobster (I’m pretty sure those are the ones we got). And based on everyone else’s reactions, it seemed like if you enjoy seafood, you would have enjoyed this platter. Again, I did not partake.
With everyone munching away on seafood, it was time to figure out what we were going to order for our entrees and for our sides.
Steaks and Sides
Usually when we do these big dinners we just appoint one person to order the wine, a couple people to pick appetizers, a couple people to pick sides and a couple people to pick desserts. Everyone is always pretty open to what they will eat (aside from me of course), so as long as we got an order of the Mac ‘n Cheese, I’d be happy.
And we did.
For our side dishes I think we ordered the mac ‘n cheese, the Brussels sprouts, the sweet corn pudding, creamy Yukon potatoes, and maybe the creamed spinach(?). I’m not so sure on that last one, but I know we ordered the other four because I tried three of them…. can you guess which one I didn’t eat?
The mac ‘n cheese, which I obviously ate, was extremely creamy, cheesy and very rich. So much so that it was a little hard to eat… well, eat a lot of it anyways. It was definitely the favorite out of all of the side dishes I think.
The sweet corn pudding was also very good. It reminded me a bit of like a cornbread spoonbread type of thing, but less held together in bread form and more puddingy… if that makes sense. It was definitely my second favorite after the mac ‘n cheese.
The Yukon potatoes were…. potatoes. They were extremely creamy, as their name implied, but tasted really good. If you’re into potatoes, definitely give them a shot.
And as for the Brussels sprouts, I couldn’t tell ya. Everyone else seemed to like them, but they are not my thing.
Out of all the side dishes we ordered I would definitely recommend the mac ‘n cheese and the sweet corn pudding, for sure. If you’re not super picky like I am, the Brussels sprouts are probably a solid choice, and the potatoes, while delicious, are just creamy mashed potatoes essentially. Probably not worth your money.
Now for our entrees.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you what anyone at the other side of our gigantic table ordered, so I won’t comment on any of that, but at our end of the table we basically just got a bunch of filet and then a side of the Octopus appetizer.
Normally when we go to these dinners I order the smaller size filet, which for some reason I thought was 8 oz., but the options at STK for the filet is 6 oz. or 10 oz., with the optional bone-in filet at 14 oz.. So based on those choices, I wasn’t really sure where my stomach was at, so I decided to go with the 10 oz. just in case. Pat did the same.
Yeah, 6 oz. would have been plenty of steak, for either of us. Pat couldn’t finish the rest of his, so rather than let it go to waste, he took his couple ounces, as well as mine, home for some steak and eggs the next day.
How’d it taste though? It was really, really good.
We’ve been to so many of these steakhouses in Chicago over the years that it’s hard to stand out among the ones we’ve already tried, but STK held its own for sure. I still think that Del Frisco’s was my favorite out of all of the places we’ve been, in terms of the steak, but out of the 7 places we’ve gone, I would say that STK is probably in the top 3, maybe top 4, at this point. Definitely better than David Burke’s Primehouse.
It was cooked perfectly, it was seasoned just right, and it tasted awesome. I was a little disappointed that even though I conversed with the server about the side sauces for a few minutes, and she even recommended one that didn’t have garlic, she still failed to bring it to me. But honestly, the steak didn’t really need it, so I didn’t even bother asking about it.
And as for the Octopus that my wife got (pictured at top), she loved every bite. I did not try it, even though I would have, mainly because I don’t know that she offered. I think she loved it that much that she just wanted to keep it all for herself.
And that was that, dinner was over… but there was still dessert.
Dessert – Chocolate Cake, Flaming Cotton Candy, and Donuts
This year the dessert choices were left up to Jill and Jillian, who decided that the table needed 2 of almost everything on the menu. I know for a fact that nobody really wanted to eat that much dessert after just having plowed through all the steak and seafood that was just taken away from us, but this dinner only happens once a year, so we might as well go for it.
After a few minutes, 2 of each of the following were brought to the table: Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie, STK Donuts, Chocolate Cake, and #TheCloud…
Apparently #TheCloud (which is it’s own hashtag, I did not make that up), consists of angel food cake, white chocolate cremeux, and strawberry ice cream, hidden underneath a cloud of pink cotton candy, which is then drizzled in Grand Marnier and lit on fire… at the table.
The fire part is probably a bit over dramatic, as all it does is exposes the ice cream and cake that’s hiding on the plate below it, but it was kind of cool nonetheless. They even tell you to take out your phones to record it, so it’s basically just a theatrical show so that they can get more people posting about their restaurant on social media… and I can’t fault them for that, it’s a pretty good idea.
So with #TheCloud theatrics done, I promptly pushed that dish to the side and dug into the Chocolate Chip Cookie and the Chocolate Cake. Both of them were amazing, but there’s just something about a warm chocolate chip cookie with ice cream that gets me every time. If I had to choose one dessert of the menu to recommend, it would be that.
The chocolate cake was good as well, and the donuts were delicious, but I think that cookie was pretty much everyone’s favorite.
And that was that.
Once the desserts were eaten… well, eaten as much as they were going to be eaten, the people with kids headed home for the night, and the remaining couples made their way over to Theory for a night cap… but not before taking a few more last minute shots at the STK bar before leaving.
All in all it was a great night and I’m glad we can all still find time to get together like this every year. I hope this tradition lives on for many more years to come.
Time to start looking for our spot for next year, anyone have any suggestions?