When a sharp knife penetrates a sirloin’s crust and plunges into hot, pink beef, the Roadfood carnivore is rapt. Juices ooze and ruddy red-meat perfume fills the air with sure promise of satisfaction.
Chicago has no better place to slice into prime aged steak than an old wood-frame house known as Gene & Georgetti, downtown just north of the Loop. In a city with many four-star steak houses, this establishment wins our vote as the best.
It is a clubby restaurant with a manly mien. White-jacketed waiters with decades of experience take care of old friends and newcomers with efficiency in lieu of obsequiousness. Steaks are served without frills, unadorned and alone on an oval plate – ravishing sirloin strips, T-bones, and filets mignon with charred crust and juice-heavy insides. Thick cottage fried potato chips are the customary side dish, and the cornucopic tossed antipasto known as “garbage salad” (a local passion) is definitive: iceberg lettuce, celery, tomato, radish, slivers of cheese and salami, pepperoncini, and big pink shrimp lightly marinated in an Italian vinaigrette. It could be a meal unto itself.
Also put Gene & Georgetti in your little black book as an opportunity to savor that curious Chicagoland specialty, shrimp de Jonghe. As prepared in this kitchen, it is a broad, deep plate that holds a golden pool of herbed garlic butter laced with bread crumbs so soft they have become supple threads of flavor. In this pool wade a spill of huge pink shrimp. You can cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces with a fork and knife, but you also need a spoon, or plenty of G&G’s stout Italian bread for mopping all that garlic butter. Also on the menu, at twice the price of a two-pound porterhouse steak, is lobster de Jonghe, which is a veritable seascape of plump white hunks of sweet tail meat cosseted in the luminous pool of juice. For this dish, so rich it is dizzying, we call upon a food-writer adjective we have never once used in all the years we have been describing things to eat: sinful!