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The roast beef at River Roast is slow-roasted overnight.

Boning Up

by Anthony Todd | Photo courtesy of Galdones photography | Men's Book Chicago magazine | March 4, 2015

Small plates are so 2013. The trend right now is huge pieces of perfectly cooked beef meant for sharing. Fit for a king (or a royal family), the meat’s presence in the middle of the table, on a giant board, surrounded by sharp knives for all, guarantees a memorable evening. “If you’re ordering a 2-pound rib-eye, you’re not going to eat it yourself,” says Oak + Char chef Joseph Heppe. “Those are the dining experiences you really remember.” Here are four places offering a night of decadent carnivore.

1. Balena: Bistecca, $99
This 36-ounce porterhouse is a tall order for two guests and would be enough dinner for four. It starts with prime beef from Allen Brothers seasoned with “nothing more than salt and pepper,” says Chef de Cuisine Joe Frillman, which is then seared over a wood-and-charcoal flame. “The smoke and char from the grill almost become an ingredient in their own right.” The finished product is served with a charred lemon, a whole head of roasted garlic and some pungent peppery olive oil. 1633 N. Halsted St., 312.867.3888

2. Nico Osteria: Dry-Aged Rib-Eye, $45 per pound
Nico’s menu is full of delicate Italian dishes, but if you’re looking for something more robust, go for its dry-aged rib-eye. The beef comes from Straus Co-op and is aged in-house for 40 to 60 days. The whole steak can be as large as 3 pounds—guests can specify how much they want to indulge—and it’s brought to the table cut but still bone-in. This decadent wonder is served with Calabrian chile butter and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. 1015 N. Rush St., 312.994.7100

3. Oak + Char: Chef’s Board, market price
The modern Midwestern cuisine at this new River North spot (in the former Graham Elliot space) has caught the attention of plenty of savvy Chicago diners. For us, the standout dish is a huge 32-ounce bone-in rib-eye. “We wanted to have a steak available, but something you could share,” says Heppe. “This is real chef food.” The hunk comes on a huge board complete with marrow bones and a sauce Périgueux rich with truffle funkiness. 217 W. Huron St., 312.643.2427

4. River Roast: The Roast Beef, $32 for 8 ounces
As the name implies, River Roast is all about big pieces of meat. It offers a whole roast chicken, a whole rack of pork and a fire-roasted fish, all for sharing. But we think the most impressive dish is the roast beef from Riley Brothers Farm in Wisconsin. It’s slow-roasted overnight and then seasoned with pink peppercorns, rosemary and lemon zest. The whole thing is wheeled out to the table on a cart and served with its addictive crispy potatoes. 315 N. LaSalle St., 312.822.0100