Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Steak Dinner and Fireworks at Navy Pier

Catch part one of the Chicago recap here.

When we finally made it back to the car, we were completely drenched.  I had been wearing flip flops and a pretty thin shirt, so I immediately started shivering (now that I'm looking back and thinking of this, this might have been part of the reason I got sick when I returned to Cincinnati...DUH!).  Luckily our hotel was only a couple miles south in downtown Chicago (we stayed in a different hotel each night, using Marriott points Antoine had been accumulating).  Once we checked in we both got showers and started getting ready for dinner.

That night we had plans to have a nice dinner at a fancy-schmancy restaurant called Primehouse, which is part of the James Hotel.  Primehouse is an upscale steakhouse owned by chef David Burke, and it happened to be only a couple blocks from our hotel.  Last time Antoine visited downtown Chicago with his friend Cory, they went out and had an expensive steak dinner at the Chicago Chop House.  When he got home and was telling me about it and the $60+ steak he had enjoyed, I proceeded to complain that I never got to go to such fancy places.  And that the most expensive steak I'd ever had was probably from Outback.  So, this time it was my turn.  Now, in truth, fancy places like this scare me!  I worry if I'm not dressed up enough, and I always feel like they know.  They know that I'm an impostor.  That I probably makes less a year than their bus boys or their hostesses.  That, deep down, I'm a cheapskate at heart and filling up on the free bread and only drinking tap water is "my schtick".  But there's something fun about going out with your fella on a proper date and not worrying about how much it costs, but instead only focusing on having a good time.  It's a rare occasion, but maybe that's also what makes it so enjoyable.

Antoine had made reservations for 6:30pm.  We arrived a bit early and we were seated right away.  I think we got there just at the right time.  There were only a couple other tables of people and we ended up beating most of the rush and got a lot of attention from our server.  Since this was a proper date night Antoine and I decided  to go all out and instead of just getting our usually water, Antoine got a beer and I got one of their drink specials called a Wildflower.  It tasted like a flower (hibiscus and jasmine) and I love it, but it's certainly not for everyone.  For dinner we both got steak, obviously.  I got the classic Filet, which at $39, was the cheapest steak on the menu (but still the most expensive steak I've ever had).  It was delicious, like seriously worth the price tag.  Not a skimpy portion at all, beautifully cooked (medium) with a deliciously spiced, charred crust on the outside!  Antoine wanted to go for the 75 day dry aged ribeye ($65), but unfortunately they were sold out, so he got the 55 day ribeye ($62), which he said was excellent.  Then we shared three sides: the mac n' cheese (surprisingly my least favorite, it had a strange taste which I later found out was probably the veal stock in it...YUCK!!  I absolutely hate veal, not only because of the taste but also the principle of it...killing poor baby cows), truffle asiago fries (good, I was worried they were going to overwhelming but they weren't), and fresh corn with Parmesan and lemon aioli (a special that night and by far our favorite, we gobbled it up!).  By the end of the meal we were completely stuffed!

I would highly recommend Primehouse.  Our steaks were delicious; they really know what they're doing there!  And our server was amazing, he was energetic, welcoming, extremely personable, and not at all snobby!  In fact, as soon as we left the restaurant we started talking about how great the service was and began comparing it to a restaurant we had recently went to DC called Graffiato.  Graffiato is the new restaurant of recent Top Chef All Star winner Mike Isabella.  I'm a fan of Top Chef and it happened to be within walking distance of our hotel, so we decided to check it out.  The food was excellent, but we found our server to be pushy and slightly snobby.  It was one of those instances where the server is trying to get you to order more so your bill will be higher.  I don't respond well to that type of attitude, so we disregard his insistence that we get more food and settled for two plates and dessert (and A got a beer).  And by the end we were pleasantly full, but we left with his oppressive attitude lingering over our heads.  It was not pleasant.  Whereas at Primehouse our bill was probably four times what our Graffiato bill was, but the service made all the difference in the world.  We left happy (and stuffed) and ready to go watch some fireworks at Navy Pier.

In all my trips to Chicago, I had only been to Navy Pier once (with my mom and my sister).  I remember being underwhelmed, as it was very touristy.  But when Antoine said they had free fireworks every Saturday night during the summer, I was stoked.  And that night happened to be the last fireworks of the season.  I was expecting Navy Pier to be booming with people, and it was, but it still felt like it wasn't too crowded.

 The view of the city from Navy Pier is pretty cool, especially at night.  Next time I think I would like to go and take one of those Chicago architectural cruises.  There's also a special fireworks cruise that takes you out on the water so that the Chicago skyline serves as a backdrop to the fireworks.  As far as fireworks go, they were pretty standard (complete with Katy Perry's "Firework" song, of course!  Ever since that song came out it seems like it has been mandated that it be used at every fireworks display for the rest of time!).  I've seen better and I've seen worse.  But since it was free, it's definitely worth the walk to Navy Pier to enjoy some Saturday night fireworks and a churro.

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