Every year we wonder whether downtown can hold more steakhouses, and every year more squeeze themselves in. New ones continue to open and, incredibly, few close. More choices, but how can a steak lover possibly know them all? We rounded up four spots that opened in the past year, and, to situate them on the steakhouse landscape, we paired each with a restaurant whose reputation has been established, making an effort to match like with like. We visited all eight, comparing the pairs side by side, to help you decide whether to stick with your standby for a client dinner or try a newbie. Bon(e) appetit! 

1. Go-for-broke modern steakhouses downtown

NEW MAPLE & ASH
8 W. Maple St. | 312-944-8888 | MapleAndAsh.com
The joint jumps, for sure. By 9 p.m., every table is occupied, the decibel level is off the charts and staffers bustle like their hair’s on fire. M&A’s idea of progressive contemporary indulgence includes frat-boy menu language like “I Don’t Give a F*@k” (for a $145 chef’s-choice dinner) and a 16-ounce “Bone in Cowgirl” steak ($58). Also pitched young and playful are appetite-snuffing freebie appetizers such as 2-ounce martinis, Parmesan crisps, radishes, ash-topped butter, potato chips and onion dip.

Beyond that, chef Danny Grant’s menu skews blue-chip with caviar ($130 to $220 per ounce) and the 40-ounce Eisenhower steak ($145). Execution of more modest fare, however, may disappoint. Our tenderloin steak tartare ($16) was functional but not much more. Ditto for a chewy 10-ounce steak frites ($28) with so-so fries and a side of overcooked asparagus ($12). Roasted wild Alaskan halibut ($42) was yummy, but who comes for the halibut?

Sizzle, sure; gracious dining, not so much.

 
ESTABLISHED RPM STEAK
66 W. Kinzie St. | 312-284-4990 | RPMrestaurants.com/…
This Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises high-ender seduces by combining old-fashioned luxury (respectful service, lighting that’s mellow but sufficient for menu reading, comfortable seating, convo-friendly music volume) with a suave, contemporary vibe. Best of all, chef Doug Psaltis’ food is at the heart of what’s happening, not an accessory to the action.The menu ranges wide, from mac and cheese with mushrooms and bacon ($17) and a burger with cheddar ($18) to chilled lobster cocktail ($24 or $42) and 5-ounce strip-loin wagyu ($85 to $101, depending on its prefecture in Japan). Steak frites ($39) pairs perfectly grilled meat with crunchy ribbon-thin fries. An 8-ounce bison filet ($47) is so tasty and tender you’ll long for a home where the buffalo roam.Nonbeef dishes are prepared with similar respect, judging by our coal-roasted king crab leg with lime and coriander on a bed of coarse salt and a side of crisp curried Brussels sprouts.

IN SHORT : For a superb meal in a setting utterly conducive to enjoying it, head to sure-handed RPM. Its gleam goes better with fine dining than Maple & Ash’s flash and dazzle. — J.T.