If you're a Chicago history buff, you'll immediately recognize the site of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House - the old Esquire Theater. Originally, the cinema (built in 1938), had a single auditorium with over 1,400 seats, was then converted to a six-plex in 1988 (a shame), and ultimately closed in 2006 (double shame). Del Frisco’s occupies three floors of the Esquire Theater - its interior was designed to preserve the landmark theaters historic architectural elements, which it does nicely. I can still picture the old concession stand (the food is better now) and using the old escalators to get upstairs also brings back many memories. The closing of the Esquire was a harsh blow to Oak Street and it went into decline, but it seems to be reviving, which is kind of nice in a nostalgic way. Kudos to Del Frisco's for not only using the space in a thoughtful manner, but also giving folks a reason to go back to Oak Street.
We got a full tour of the restaurant by Michael Taylor, Del Frisco’s wine director, who is justifiably proud of both the restaurant and its incredible wine collection. Del Frisco's has been recognized as a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, their second-tier award, created to give special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. These lists typically offer 350 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions. This is clearly evident at the restaurant, with a 4 story wine tower dominating the space (and suspended from the ceiling rather than adding to the floor load due to the great weight!), and wine cellars lining almost every available wall on each level. One private dining room actually has 2 glass walls that do double duty as wine cellars. Impressive for sure.
The room is a designer's dream, with a variety of chairs, benches, and booths spread across two floors, with cool lighting throughout. There is no single unifying element in the decor (besides wine everywhere), but somehow it all works together. We really felt that eating there felt soothing and luxurious and any other adjectives you can come up with that mean comfortable. This is not a place to go for a hurried meal, but rather a place to lean back, enjoy the food and wine, and let the world go by outside.
When seated, an enormous wine menu is also offered, but put yourself in the hands of the staff - a restaurant doesn't become a Best of Award of Excellence winner without educating its staff on the ins and outs of the offerings. I'd like to see more of the wine offered by the glass, but I realize it doesn't always make sense financially to a restaurant. That being said, get a glass of the Del Frisco labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, vinified by Robert Foley from Howell Mountain grapes - a great location and a great winemaker.
Foodwise, we chose from the lunch menu, though the dinner menu is also available for lunch. We started with onion rings (simply enormous and a giant serving, really tasty though not as good reheated the next day) and the Cheesesteak Eggrolls (with a Sweet Chili and Mustard Sauce, which I enjoyed though Laima did not). Laima followed that with an Iceberg Wedge Salad, something I've never understood but she, and countless others, really enjoy. For entrees we had the Filet Medallions (with Scallion Mashed Potatoes, Thin Green Beans and a Lemon Butter Sauce) and the Prime Ribeye Milanese (with Baby Mixed Greens, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato, Orzo and a Basil Garlic Dressing). Laima ordered the Medallions medium, while I opted for medium-well on the Ribeye, but both came out closer to medium-well, due to the cuts being on the thinner side. Still very tasty, but if you want rare meat, opt for something thicker. Everything we got was unique, not as expected, and very, very tasty - we'll need to go back and explore the menu some more.
No dessert menu, but an enormous lemon cake was offered and accepted, along with a molten chocolate cake with raspberries and ice cream. Nicely done on both.
As an aside, we weren't too sure about the waitresses' outfits - miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and other casual stylings were slightly jarring when juxtaposed to the soothingly luxe design. Maybe that's what the majority of diners expect in a steakhouse? Didn't really affect our meal, in the grand sense, but was a bit perplexing.
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House is a cut above the rest of the steakhouses we've visited in recent memory. The historic location, outstanding decor, emphasis on wine and extremely tasty food, make this a destination location, not just a place to get something to eat.
This meal was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.
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