Gibson’s Steakhouse, Rosemont, IL

Dinner last night at Gibson’s Steakhouse was a classic, grownup evening out. Our 7:30 pm reservation had us entering into a room packed to the rafters with diners and waiters and busboys. We wended our way through the closely spaced tables to the somewhat less crowded, enclosed porch that runs along the outside of the restaurant. Tucked into a corner, we had a great vantage point for viewing the scene without being stuck in the middle of the traffic flow. It was just the first of many lucky breaks we had in our night. The sum of these, added into the Gibson’s experience, made for a truly memorable evening.

The room has the look of an old school steakhouse, through and through. Rich, dark woods, lots of low-wattage, indirect lighting and row upon row of celebrity headshots (“Loved the steak! All my best, Don Rickles”) work to make the place feel like it’s been there forever. The fact that it actually exists in a suburban convention center hotel needs to be overcome. Once you are ensconced in your seat with a martini in front of you and a whie-coated waiter at your elbow, it’s easy to lose yourself in the fantasy.

The tables are topped with two tablecloths, an open, black-and-white plaid overlaid with traditional white. Small, shaded lamps and a shaker of Gibson’s private label Seasoned Salt stand sentinel at table’s edge. Dark wood blinds at the window added to the supper club feel. Plain white napkins and no nonsense flatware complete the scene. No flowers and no frou-frou: we are here for steak.

Our server was clearly a veteran of many years on the job. She was personable, warm and friendly while maintaining a calm, professional aspect at all times. She made us feel that we were the only table she was waiting on, or at least the only one she really cared about. She used our first interaction to not only get our drink orders, but to gauge our intentions for the evening. Were we in a hurry? Was our appointment together for business or pleasure? Were we just going to order, eat and leave, or were we in it for the long haul? She figured out right away that we planned on making a night of it, that we had no further agenda than the menus we had in front of us.

The menu offers very few surprises. The appetizers are the typical roster: oysters, shrimp or lobster cocktail, an avocado stuffed with crabmeat, chopped chicken liver and home cured salmon. There are steaks, about a dozen of them. A variety of fish entrees, crab legs and lobster tails, pork or lamb or veal chops, a whole roasted chicken and a few sandwiches round out the choices. The classic sides include the biggest twice-baked potato we’d ever seen; sauteed or creamed spinach; broccoli or asparagus with hollandaise; mashed or hash brown potatoes; and sauteed mushrooms. This is not an adventurous menu…but who comes to a steakhouse for adventure?

We ordered martinis all around and worked on a game plan for our meal. While we were working things out, our server came by with a platter of raw steaks to explain our options. She explained about the different cuts, the various sizes and which were her favorites. We discussed with her what we wanted to eat and she made recommendations to help us out. We ended up with a perfect mix of steak, seafood and sides.

After an appropriate interval, the starters arrived, Six briny fresh Delaware Bay oysters, presented in a pewter seashell, beached on a bed of ice, sang the song of the sea. A perfectly ripe avocado half came brimming with jumbo lump crabmeat. Spicy lobster cocktail contained perfectly sweet, perfectly cooked chunks of claw and tail meat resting on a thick slab of tomato. Even a simple salad of slice beefsteak tomato and Vidalia onion, topped with chunks of blue cheese, did not disappoint. We plowed right through these plates, ordered a second round of cocktails and settled in to wait for our steaks.

The beef here is USDA Prime, aged for 35 days and cooked in an infrared broiler at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. This means every cut comes out with a beautiful char crust on the outside, even when it’s ordered rare. There are no pale, wan steaks here. Three of us ordered W.R.’s Chicago cut, which translates to a bone-in ribeye. Clocking in at 19 ounces, this is one serious piece of beef. We ordered it rare, medium rare and medium and it came out cooked three distinct ways, exactly matching the descriptions our server had given us. We were thrilled with these. They were tender and packed with beefy goodness. An order of sauteed filet medallions, served with broccoli, was also a winner. Bowls of grated horseradish and creamy horseradish sauce were all we needed to complete the picture. Except for the sides!

The side dishes here almost stole the show. With the exception of a dish of peeled asparagus with hollandaise that was merely delicious, the rest of them rocked. The double baked potato easily weighed a pound and a half. It was creamy, savory and molten with cheddar. An innocuous looking bowl of creamed spinach ended up being one of our favorites of the night. The best of all was an oval dish of hash browns. These had been sauteed to a golden turn on a griddle and then baked in their porcelain vessel until they were crispy and crunchy and exploding with flavor. We fought over the last of these, wishing we had ordered two dishes.

While we were plowing through our steaks, we saw an absolutely enormous dessert sail by. We flagged down our server, who told us that this was their special chocolate cake. She also told us what we had seen was the last piece in the house. She recommended the strawberry shortcake and we asked her to set one aside for us. After finishing what we could of our entrees, we had the leftovers packed to go and sat back for a rest. The shortcake arrived soon there after. The biscuit itself was a perfect mix of textures and flavors. There were crunchy edges; a tender center that soaked up all the strawberry juices; just enough sweetness to let you know it was dessert; even a hint of salt to make it interesting. There was a massive pile of strawberries involved, too, some between the layers and the rest ladled over the top. A crown of whipped cream adorned the peak. Altogether, this was the size of an eight inch, double layer cake. Remarkably, we managed to completely decimate it.

We had spent some three hours at the table. We had gotten to know our server pretty well. Turns out she grew up just a short hop from one our fellow diners. We were completely stuffed and still had enough leftovers for steak sandwiches the next day. (They thoughtfully packed up some of that creamy horseradish with our steaks.) The jazz trio in the bar just behind us was really getting into it and this point. Were it not for a fast-approaching food coma, we would have stayed in the bar and had a nightcap. Even at 11:00 pm, the room showed no signs of slowing down.

Gibson’s is located at 5464 North River Road in Rosemont, IL. They can be reached at (847) 928-9900 or online at http://www.gibsonssteakhouse.com. Additional locations downtown on Rush Street (the original) and in Oakbrook offer a similar menu and experience, and all three are open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

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