For a restaurant that has many outlets nationwide, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Chicago gives the vibe that it’s the one and only Fleming’s in the entire world. No cookie-cutter experience here. The chef, staff and service make sure your dinner is an event with careful attention that never borders on hovering.
Situated across from Bloomingdale’s (formerly Medinah Temple) on East Ohio Street in the River North area, the large glass windows give ample opportunity for people watching. The bar is sumptuous in dark woods with wines racked from here to eternity (100 by the glass), and the option of bar seating, high-top and low-top tables and booths in the second-floor lounge area.
Take advantage of the “5 for $6 ’til 7” bar menu. It boasts five martini choices (the Stoli is only 99 calories and there are other skinny cocktails), five wine choices by the glass, five appetizer choices, including the delicious Baked Brie in Puff Pastry, Fleming’s cheese-and-bacon Prime Burger, and two Widmer Brothers Rotator IPA series ales for $6. The Limoncello Martini (which IS on the special menu) wasn’t to my dinner partner’s liking — too sweet she said — but the Chocolate Martini (NOT on the special menu) got rave reviews.
If you want more than a nosh and splosh and access to the full menu, white-tablecloth dining is just an elevator-ride up to the second floor (or by stairs for those so inclined). For starters, I give the cheesy French Onion Soup, Baked Brie and Fresh Mozzarella Salad two enthusiastic thumbs up (actually six thumbs up because there were three in my party).
Moving on to a Peppercorn Steak New York strip with cracked black and white peppercorns)with the proprietary F17 steak sauce is another good choice. I forgot to ask about the derivation of the F17 name, but it’s a better version of A1 Steak Sauce, in my opinion. There is a daily featured prix-fixe menu which includes soup or salad, entrée and dessert. The night I was there, it was Filet Mignon and petite Broiled Lobster Tail served with asparagus and prepared just right. Ask for the quartet of complimentary sauces — peppercorn, Madeira, béarnaise and chimichurri.
All sides are à la carte and my recommendations are the new Lobster Macaroni & Cheese, Fleming’s Potatoes (made with cream, jalapeños and Cheddar) and the Half and Half (double-cut shoestring fries, which unfortunately were a bit limp, and outstanding signature onion rings). Each of these sides easily can serve three people. Who knew?
But the outstanding onion rings were not to be outdone by the superb Chocolate Lava Cake (chocolate cake with a molten center of Belgian chocolate, vanilla ice cream in cookie tuiles with chopped pistachios)! If you’re lucky enough to have server Kelly M., she’ll accompany it with crème chantilly (sweetened whipped cream). Let it be known at the beginning of your meal you plan to splurge on the Chocolate Lava Cake because they are prepared à la minute (to order) and it takes 20 minutes.
As you might expect at a steakhouse, Fleming’s has a full complement of seafood, chops and chicken offerings, plus salads that include the famous Wedge and classic Caesar. On Sundays only, I can’t recommend this steal of a deal more highly — the Prime Rib Dinner ($37.95), which includes a choice of salad, side dish and dessert.
Fleming’s in Chicago is normally not open for lunch, but private luncheons are accommodated. There are six private dining rooms for parties and business meetings equipped with T1 Internet lines and the Cisco TelePresence Video Conferencing system. Brunch on Sundays is served for special holidays only.
What’s not to love at a place where chef partner Jerl Griffin and operating partner Curtis Nordeen take such pride in delivering a satisfying dining experience to everyone who walks through the door?
The good news doesn’t stop there. There’s a gluten-free menu and attention to other food allergies, a 99-calorie cocktail menu, valet parking for $12 and, if you take a brief survey (the URL is at the bottom of your receipt), you’ll receive a $25 dining credit toward your next meal at Fleming’s. I’m in love. For those in the northern suburbs, check out Fleming’s in Lincolnshire.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Address: 25 E. Ohio St., Chicago 60611
Hours: Opens at 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; opens at 4 p.m. Sundays