Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com have been eating red meat everywhere they can possibly get it. There are a lot of really wonderful non-chain steakhouses around the country -- old-style restaurants where you go Friday or Saturday night, have an old-fashioned or a cocktail and maybe even do a little dancing. If none of these restaurants is in your state, scan the list of everything Jane and Michael have mentioned on The Splendid Table over the years.
1. Tea Steak House
Places like the Tea Steak House are really out of the 1940s. The food is wonderful and the ambience is nothing like a chain steakhouse. We have a souvenir matchbook from the Tea Steak House that says "Bring your sugar to Tea."
It looks like an old roadhouse: there is a lot of wood, there are booths, it's very South Dakota-ean. It's nothing like an expense account-style steakhouse, you don't see anyone dressed in their business suits. People dress pretty casually, but this is the big-deal meal. You get either the filet mignon, which comes wrapped in bacon, which it really doesn't need, it's juicy enough, or the strip steak, some really good hash browns on the side, and a nice highball to begin the meal.
2. Doe's Eat Place
If you want to talk ambience, Doe's Eat Place might be my favorite one. It's in the Mississippi Delta. You eat in the restaurant's kitchen. It's little with Formica tables, you are surrounded by stoves and places where they are slicing onions to make fried onions or mixing a salad, and everything is mismatched. Even though Doe Signa swore to us he just goes to the local supermarket and buys choice steaks, I don't believe him because these are sensationally good steaks.
3. Cattlemen's Steakhouse
Cattlemen's Steakhouse is literally in the heart of the stockyards. One of the things that's cool about this place is they open at 6 a.m. because people who work in the stockyards still go there. You can go there and have a fabulous breakfast steak or brains and eggs if that's how you want to start your day.
I do have to give a nod to the upscale steakhouses, the singular ones, in Chicago -- Harry Caray's and Gene & Georgetti. Gene & Georgetti is one of my favorite places to eat ever, anywhere.
If you are not a carnivore, the shrimp de jonghe is probably the greatest Chicago dish going. It's a unique Chicago dish that goes back to the early part of the 20th century. It's basically shrimp cosseted in bread crumbs with a lot of sherry and garlic that's baked. It's a real old-fashioned type of casserole. If the shrimp are good, it's sensational.