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 allowed risk to deter him from his goals, and he followed through on his dream.
His first challenge was to come up with a menu for the fledgling enterprise. He hired Bill Farrahi, a former chef at Café Bohemia and 1/3rd partner at Shuckers; 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