First, my apologies to Coach Ditka. When I ran into him in his restaurant in Chicago two weeks ago, I told him I was going to write a favorable review of his chop house. I am going to do so now, I just suspect he thought it would happen a little sooner.
I was in Chicago for a bit of fun with my wife (the only woman who has been able to stand me for more than 72 hours besides my mother), and we stumbled upon Ditka’s after a bit of shopping on the Magnificent Mile. It seemed a cheesy, touristy thing to go to Ditka’s (Da Bears!). Chicago is known for great chop houses. Surely this place was a tourist trap waiting to spring on us. But, we were tourists, so we couldn’t resist the bait.
I was told by a friend before heading to Chicago that we should plan to dress up a bit for dinner. As we walked into Ditka’s, I wished we had listened to him. We were both wearing jeans. I was wearing a hoodie and Jen at least had a nice coat. We were out of place amongst the dark cherry stained panels, the dim lights, and the white table cloths.
The host and hostess greeted us promptly and cheerfully. We were welcomed despite our very casual attire. The hostess checked our coats, and our shopping (how nice not to have to worry about our new shoes while dining). We were just ahead of the dinner rush, so we could be seated immediately. We were offered a choice of the dining room or the lounge. Looking in at the suits sitting in the dining room, we simultaneously blurted, “lounge!”
The bar area was just as nice as the dining room, but covered with just the right amount of Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, and Red Wings sports memorabilia. We were seated in a comfortable booth a couple of steps above the bar floor so we could see everything. The booths are cozy and private. We sat with our backs to the wall and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Our waiter attended to us immediately. I wanted a local beer and reluctantly selected a Goose Island Harvest Ale (I didn’t think much of their Christmas Ale nine years ago), and Jen chose a Pinot Noir. We took our time perusing the many choices on the menu. Our waiter checked in frequently, but was never pushy. Overall the service was quite good.
At Big Beef and Beer, Reggie, Swank, Tim, and I like our our slices of cow to be large and delicious. Ditka’s does not disappoint. The smallest steaks on the menu are a couple of fliets weighing in at 10 oz. That’s one ounce larger than the largest filet at a steak house that claims to be from down under. The largest steak is a 37 oz. ribeye called the “Tomahawk.” Not as big as Morton’s 48 oz. porterhouse (which I gorged myself upon once), but big enough satisfy. I was not quite that hungry, so I selected the 16 oz. Grilled New York Strip. Jen selected one of the “Festive Fall Features.” I was really supprised she did not go for the Twin Coldwater Lobster Tails from the “Sustainable Seafood” menu.
The menu features meals for all budgets. The seasonal menu had meals starting at $15 for the Chicken Parmesan, and The “Fridge Burger (which I am guessing is as big as its namesake) is $11. The most expensive entree is the lobster tails at $49 with a side of asparagus. My strip stake was $38 ala carte, and I added a side of brocoli for $6. Some of the steaks are served with sides, but most are ala carte. Study the menu, though, and you’ll find something that satisfies in your budget.
Our food came out quickly. I like my steaks with a little bit of mooo in them, and I was not disappointed. My strip was nearly two inches thick, and cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was as tender as some filets I’ve had at lesser restaurants. The side of brocoli was huge. It is listed on the menu under the “Sides to Share” section. I should have paid attention. I cannot provide an accurate or fair review of Jen’s Linguine Diavolo. She asked that they hold the spicy sauce. It was quite plain, but I’m sure that is not how the chef intends it to be served. We were happy though that they cooked everything to order.
After dinner, I enjoyed a couple more glasses of the Goose Island Harvest Ale (my review of that will be favorable too). We were both satiated, so desert was not even considered. While we enjoyed our adult beverages and the atmosphere, we enjoyed another treat: Da Coach himself came in for dinner.
Coach Ditka sat at the table next to our booth. He was immediately mobbed by fans. He was completely gracious. He signed autographs, and posed for pictures for all who asked. I was sorry we did not have our camera. The staff kept people away from the Coach while he ate, but he allowed visitors between courses. I was really impressed. I stopped to shake his hand on our way out, and told him about this review.
When in Chicago, make an effort to have dinner at Ditka’s. You’ll have a great, high quality meal (preferably a steak) at a fair price, and leave full. If you’re as lucky as me, Da Coach will stop in while you’re there. If he does, stop by, be polite, and tell him you read about his restaurant at Big Beef and Beer dot com.
Rating 4.5/5. I’d like to see a larger selection of local beer on tap. Goose Island should brew a special beer for Da Coach. Ditka’s does serve a beer with the coaches name, but we were told it’s really Leinenkugel Red. I can get that anywhere.