I dine out quite often, but I rarely go to steakhouses. You might assume that’s because I’m a vegetarian or just not a fan of red meat but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am a hardcore carnivore. I love meat in all its forms, especially a well-marbled, perfectly cooked steak. The problem is that I don’t love having to always trek downtown to get a good steak. There seems to be a distinct lack of neighborhood steakhouses, especially in my neck of the woods in the Northcenter area of Chicago. If you’re not familiar with Northcenter, you’re not alone. Whenever I tell people where I live, I often get, “oh, you’re in Roscoe Village” or “welcome to Lincoln Square” or “that’s still Lakeview, right? No, probably WEST Lakeview”. Whatever you want to call it, my neighborhood could always use more dining options, especially a steakhouse, so I was super excited when Eater Chicago reported last year that the team behind Fork restaurant in Lincoln Square was opening Knife, a neighborhood steakhouse in the former Chalkboard space on Lincoln (4343 N. Lincoln Ave.) I was lucky enough to snag reservations for their first night of soft opening on Saturday and got to check it out for myself. Not only is the name super clever considering that they own Fork as well (I wonder if a “Spoon” restaurant is in the works? Maybe a soup and ice cream joint?), but the décor and atmosphere were more comfortable, welcoming, and modern than your typical stuffy downtown steakhouse. The tableside “make-your-own” cocktails were cute if a tad kitschy. My date had fun shaking up his own dirty martini with just the right amount of olive brine added from a pipette that came with the drink setup which gave me flashbacks of my past life as a research scientist BEFORE I embarked on this glamorous life of a celebrity chef (um. . . except without the celebrity part).
Spoiler alert: all vegans and vegetarians should probably avert their eyes now as every single thing we ordered from here on out was very meat heavy! While they did have a few options for vegetarians and pescatarians including a pasta dish and a delightful-sounding halibut with lobster demi, we were definitely focused on meat so we could get a true sense of what this steakhouse was all about. We started with a foie gras terrine which was perfectly smooth, creamy, and unctuous, served with well-dressed greens, pickled vegetables, and a tangy-sweet yellow plum compote that complimented the foie gras very well. Exceedingly delicious as-is but a little sprinkling of coarse sea salt would have sent it over the top!
Next we had the oxtail doughnut holes which are pretty genius. I’m kind of jealous that I didn’t think up this brilliant creation myself! What could be better than rich, flavorful braised beef stuffed inside a doughnut? Two of my favorite things all rolled into one with a delicious au poivre sauce to boot. Seriously, so good!
Finally, even though I am already stuffed with donuts and foie gras, we get to the main event; the star of the show; the pièce de résistance. I am, of course, referring to the steak. This IS a steakhouse after all. We decided to “go big or go home” as they say and opted for the 28 day dry aged ribeye for 2 which was a 28oz bone-in monstrosity, carved tableside. As if that wasn’t enough, we also decided to gild the lily and order it “Oscar style” with lump crab, asparagus, and béarnaise sauce. It was a phenomenal steak; perfectly cooked to medium-rare with rich beefy flavor from the dry-aging. You could definitely tell that the chef took the time to slowly render the fat from this well-marbled piece of meat and gave it an ample rest to allow it to reabsorb the juices for a juicy, tender, flavorful, and melt-in-your-mouth steak. As a very wise t-shirt once told me, “Bacon makes EVERYthing better” so I also wasn’t at all surprised that their bacon-wrapped twice-baked potato side was over-the-top delicious as well.
By that point, we were beyond full and well on our way to food coma so sadly, we skipped dessert, but we’ll definitely be back to try other menu items and save room for dessert next time. I’m delighted to have discovered this neighborhood gem, and I can’t wait to see what kind of reception Knife receives from locals. I suspect it will be a very warm welcome if they keep up the good work with this stellar food, excellent service, and warm, inviting atmosphere.
If you’re not lucky enough to live nearby Knife or just want to try your hand at cooking up some steaks at home, join The Chopping Block for our next hands-on Steakhouse D.I.Y. cooking class next Tuesday, October 25th at our Lincoln Square location. All you need to master steak cookery is a great cut of meat, a little bit of patience, and a few simple techniques which you’ll learn all about while having fun, meeting new people, and preparing a delicious steakhouse feast!