Welcome to The Chicago Chop House
Historic Chicago dining is more than just a theme at The Chicago Chop House, it’s a way of life. Stepping into the restaurant’s immaculately restored, century-old Victorian brownstone building brings diners into the city’s past, when meat packers, politicians, and gangsters dined on succulent steaks in luxurious rooms. More than 1,400 historical photos tell the tale of old Chicago throughout three dining rooms surrounded by hunter green walls and lit by glowing sconces.
And just like the power players of Chicago’s yesteryears, guests partake on dishes that embody the flavors that made our city one of the best dining experiences. Our all USDA Prime menu of awe-inspiring 64-ounce porterhouses, 16- and 24-ounce New York strips, and 24-ounce prime ribs bathe the senses in prime-aged flavor. The Chicago Chop House is also one of the only restaurants in Chicagoland to serve Mishima cuts, a unique and succulent beef known for its delicate flavor and tenderness. Guests can pair their meals with a glass or bottle of wine from our international list that includes more than 650 selections; a list that has won nine “Awards of Excellence” and “Best of” awards from Wine Spectator, and an Award of Distinction from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
The Chicago Chop House bestows each and every guest with exceptional quality, flavor, service, and ambiance that few can match and none can surpass.
Conventional wisdom holds that, before you launch a new enterprise, you should have at least one year’s operating expenses on hand. When the Chicago Chop House opened its doors in November of 1986, it did so on a wing and a prayer.
Henry Norton, a Georgetown University graduate and advertising guru, sold his home to finance his new venture; a steakhouse in the heart of River North. Emboldened by his previously successful restaurant launches, which included Easy Street in 1959, Alfies in 1966, Gate of Horn in 1968, Le Pub in 1971, and Shuckers in 1978, he was confident he could make his mark on Chicago’s steakhouse scene.
His friends, on the other hand, were skeptical. Frankly, they thought he was crazy. Though a few steakhouses existed at the time, such as Morton’s and Gene & Georgetti’s, seafood was the rage in the Windy City. But Henry never let risk deter him from his goals, and he followed through on his dream.
“One day, Henry calls me up and says, ‘I want to open a steakhouse and I won’t do it without you’,” reminisces Chicago Chop House Chef Bill Farrahi. “I told him, ‘Henry, I’ve got a good job. I own one-third of Shuckers and I’m Happy’.” Henry’s reply, “You need a challenge, your job is too easy.”
Bill found himself inspired by Henry’s energy, and decided to take up Henry’s dream with him. His first challenge was to come up with a menu for the fledgling enterprise. As a former chef at Café Bohemia, he was adept at preparing a wide variety of meats and game, including moose, bear, buffalo, and elk. Bill recalls that he and Henry got the idea for a 64- and 48-ounce porterhouse from Café Bohemia’s menu.
“There are only a handful of steaks you can put on a steakhouse menu,” says Bill. “The only variables are the portions and the way you present them. Basically, our menu hasn’t changed since we opened. We still have approximately 11 steaks and 8 seafood items.”
With the menu set, the management and staff working together, and the bill being paid, all of the ingredients for success were in place. All that was left was attracting diners.
The restaurant’s success was in part due to Henry’s focus on attracting Chicago’s many travelers and visitors. Though Chicago was an excellent market for dining establishments, Henry knew that many Chicagoans, being surrounded by quality restaurants, liked to try new places and spent many of their dollars at the newest “in” spots. He decided to make The Chicago Chop House a home away from home for out-of-towners and travelers. His focus was spent advertising in publications such as In Flight magazine and at conventions, and his business skyrocketed.
In 1990, Henry decided to sell his restaurant. He said that, since he had no family he wanted to leave it to, he wanted to place his dream in the hands of those who had helped it become the landmark it was: Bill Farrahi, Chop House V.P. of Operations Susan Gayford, and General Manager John Pontarelli, as well as Henry’s attorney, Ken Denberg, and his accountant, James Cannon. Henry stayed on as a consultant, and in true Henry Norton fashion, continued to control every aspect of the restaurant’s day-to-day.
Sadly, in April of 1994, Henry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and passed away just 12 days later. The restaurant would serve as his final legacy and enduring tribute.
While The Chicago Chop House began as one man’s dream, it transformed into a historic staple of Chicago dining through the love and hard work of those close to Henry. Even today, The Chicago Chop House is a step back in time, an oasis of simpler days in a bustling city, where residents and visitors are greeted, nourished, and served to the highest standards of excellence.
Or simply put, the way Henry always treated his friends.