Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf is a steakhouse in River North, which makes it one of about 100 other steakhouses in the neighborhood. So how does a steakhouse in River North differentiate itself? Does it dye its hair blue? Have waiters speak only in haiku? Do the equivalent of jumping up and down screaming, “Hey mom watch this? HEY MOM WATCH THIS?!” Nope, this restaurant doesn’t need a cheap trick or funny shtick to get noticed. Instead, Bavette’s is just really f*cking good at being a steakhouse.
There are two things in particular that make Bavette’s such a great place in the steakhouse world. One, the food is excellent, which is always important. And two, it’s a terrible spot for corporate outings, ensuring Bavette’s never gets stale. But more on that in a second.
When it comes to the food, the menu here is traditional steakhouse and then some. It’s traditional because you can get a wedge salad, shrimp cocktail, or giant piece of ribeye from a menu section titled “Le Boeuf” and pair it with typical sides like creamed spinach or mashed potatoes. But there are other menu items that aren’t necessarily classic steakhouse picks. Try a foie gras terrine appetizer with a cognac and blackberry spread, spiced fried chicken, or short rib stroganoff that sounds like it came from a bad 1950’s TV ad but is actually pretty great. You really can’t go wrong and will be thoroughly impressed by everything you eat.
But a lot of steakhouses have great food, so where does Bavette’s carve out a niche? In the atmosphere, by making it feel like a low-key cabaret club minus the show. There are literally no windows inside the cave-like restaurant, which makes it dark, intimate, and rather cool. Big booths and tables make you feel important, a feeling that’s further emphasized when you’re served a big steak with a cocktail or large glass of red wine. It’s the anti-corporate steakhouse environment, mainly because it’s too dark and intimate for a group of people who work together to want to eat. As a result, Bavette’s stays hip and never dull.
There are plenty of things you can do when trying to get someone’s attention, but Bavette’s is proof you can lay low and still be one of the best at what you do.
A classic with hulking pieces of shrimp, horseradish, and a dijonnaise.
Get a little interesting in your appetizer selections with this foie gras terrine. A sweet cognac and blackberry jam cuts the richness of the foie gras just enough to make it great.
A classic caesar with a heavy helping of smoked trout, which really dominates the salad. It’s a good thing if you like trout.
Fun fact: Bavette’s is part of the same restaurant as Au Cheval, and they serve basically the exact Au Cheval burger at Bavette’s, minus the crazy wait. The move is to grab a seat at the bar and order one. Adding bacon is a must.
The “Le Boeuf” section of the menu has classic cuts like a filet or New York strip either bone in or bone out. But if you really want a great piece of meat, go all out with the dry aged bone in ribeye. It’s excellent.
Typical steakhouse sides that are all exceptionally well done. You can’t go wrong, but our favorites are the mac & cheese, loaded baked potato, and broccoli. If you want a wildcard, try the elote.
A few different seafood platters involving oysters, king crab, shrimp, and lobster are available. They’re delicious, no doubt, but it’s also a surefire way to run up a seriously expensive bill. It’s not necessary to order the shellfish unless you simply don’t care about price.