As soon as I found out I would be heading to Chicago for a weekend, I just knew that I had to enjoy a meal at David Burke’s Primehouse. The man is a master of food that I’ve never had the privilege of tasting, and more importantly, knows what the hell a real steak is.
Anyway, we’re sitting in his gorgeous restaurant eating like there’s no tomorrow (and there isn’t, I’m on a plane back to Philly the next morning). The bacon sticks – pieces of thick pork belly on sticks and dripping in maple syrup. The surf and turf dumplings. The filet from heaven itself. The tree of cheesecake lollipops. And of course, in waltzes the David Burke, and he sits down at the table next to us with his own group. There are no two ways to take it – this is awesome! We continue our dinner while chatting away about how nifty it is that we’re at Primehouse sitting next to its owner, enjoying some of the best food the Windy City has to offer. We were pretty lame about it, too, so he began noticing.
Do I go over and bug him for a picture? Do I mention that I’m a fan? I’m generally far too nice of a guy to interrupt somebody’s dinner (no matter who it is or the circumstances presented), so I decide against any sort of annoyance. And hey, he’s a Jersey guy, so he could very well tell me to shove it up my ass, and that’s not really how I’d like to remember a chance encounter with one of the country’s top chefs.
So we wrap things up, enjoy those fancy lemon marshmallows provided with the check, and begin buttoning up for the forthcoming walk through late-night Chicago chill. As we are standing up and beginning to move towards the door, Mr. Burke is heading back to his table and clearly crossing our path. He approaches me, extends his hand, and apologizes for his table’s volume throughout the evening. My basic response: “Dude, you’re f*ckin’ David Burke, you own the place, you don’t need to apologize!” I tell him about how I’m in from Philly and needed to visit his restaurant before heading back home. We chat some about Silver Linings Playbook, agree that a guy from Jersey and a guy from Philly are prone to drop the f-bomb, and he asks me if I want to see the restaurant’s meat locker.
Why, yes, Mr. Burke. Please show me one of the greatest collections of meat that the world has ever known.
Before making the descent into paradise, he asks some of the other tables if they want to join in on the fun. What’s better is that they didn’t know who he was, so from their perspective, there is a strange man interrupting their dinner to ask if they want to see his meat locker. After a brief introduction, the entire restaurant is following the man himself to the lair, like some sort of really incredible and impromptu field trip.
After a few flights of steps, we arrive. The smell is tremendous, the sight of the meat is epic – though incredibly jarring for any sort of vegetarian. He explains to us the (patented) Himalayan salt wall that kills all of the bacteria in the room and shows us a piece of meat that has been there for six years and still has yet to rot. “This is why we have the best meat in the world,” he exclaims. Bravo. If there was some way that a memorable dinner could reach an entirely new level, this is it. Other restaurant owners/chefs, please do take note.
So – a huge thank to you to Mr. Burke who showed some of the most sincere and unexpected hospitality and made my final night (and entire stay) in Chicago that much better. I’ll be holding onto this smile for a long time.