Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 25 E. Ohio, features all you might expect from a revered eatery of its ilk—prime chops, fish and poultry—and a little extra: The 14,000-square-foot restaurant ( part of a national chain ) has a unique wine list that features over 100 wines served by the glass. Windy City Times talked with Operating Partner Curtis Nordeen about Fleming's and himself.
Windy City Times: You're the operating partner. What duties does that encompass?
Curtis Nordeen: Pretty much everything, from greeting guests to being head bottle washer. I have an equity portion in the business, so my interest is as any owner would be.
WCT: I imagine, though, that you haven't had to wash bottles in a while.
CN: True, but I was powerwashing earlier today. It's always something fun.
WCT: You're a former ski instructor. How did you become immersed in the restaurant business?
CN: I picked it up when I was still in high school. Then, I drifted in and out of it. I actually got into sales for a short time, and found that I missed what I liked. I then got back into it, and have been doing it ever since. It got back in the blood and stayed in the blood. I'm in it for the duration.
WCT: Why did Fleming's open in a city that already has a slew of steakhouses?
CN: Regardless if there's a slew of steakhouses, I think what we do is unique. We have 100 wines by the glass; we have prime steaks; and we have a décor and ambiance that's a little more sophisticated and contemporary than many of our peers. I have a lot of respect for so many of the great steakhouses in this town, and I think we're a great addition. I think we're overtly or subtly different enough that we bring something meaningful to our guests.
[ Regarding the cost of a meal, ] I think we're a little bit more approachable. It depends on what you do with wine during your meal—and that tends to be the single most differentiating factor. Because we do 100 wines by the glass, you're able to enjoy some variety without making a big commitment to a bottle of wine. It's important, because everyone right now is somewhat price-conscious. I went to the gas station yesterday, and it was $4.25 a gallon.
WCT: Oh—you went to one of the cheaper ones.
CN: [ Laughs. ] Apparently, I did. I felt like I should've gotten extra.
WCT: What's the décor like in Fleming's?
CN: I think the main thing is that when you drive up to the building, there's a two-story glass front. We are a little more gender-neutral, if you will, than the traditional men's-heavy clubhouse feel. It's a bit more stylish and contemporary. There's good, rich cherry wood—and we don't do dead animals. We put it on the plate, not the wall.
WCT: You opened in April. Are you all still tweaking with the menu or with other aspects?
CN: We [ began ] lunch service in June; we worked on that menu for about eight weeks.
WCT: The restaurant is pretty large, and seats over 300 people. Is it conversationally challenged?
CN: No, because the spaces are broken up. There are four private dining rooms and a downstairs lounge, along with an upstairs bar; the main dining room is opposite the upstairs bar.
WCT: Anything you want to add?
CN: One of the things we've wanted to do is to give people in Chicago the steakhouse that we've always felt they wanted, so it's very approachable, the food is high-quality and there's fabulous service. We actually got accused of being too nice.
Visit www.FlemingsSteakhouse.com .
—Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine has been selected by the City of Chicago as the official picnic partner of the Grant Park Music Festival, and is now offering eco-friendly Picnic Collections for Two ( $37.99, not including wine or tax ) and Picnic Collections for One ( $9.78-$17.98 ) . To enhance Pastoral's new summer offerings, al fresco patio dining is now also open for up to eight at the Lakeview location, 2945 N. Broadway, and up to 16 at the Loop location, 53 E. Lake. See www.pastoralartisan.com .
—Buca di Beppo restaurant is celebrating its 15th anniversary through Aug. 10 with a special menu of 15 of its most popular dishes, all offered at 'classic' pricing reminiscent of the year 1993, when it opened in the basement of a tiny Minneapolis apartment building. In addition to the price rollback, Buca is offering more than $10 million in prizes and giveaways, available to guests during the anniversary period. In Chicago, it's at 521 N. Rush. See www.bucadibeppo.com .
—Garrett Popcorn Shops is opening two new locations in the Chicago area—but you're going to have to go to O'Hare Airport to visit them. One is in Terminal 3, and the other will open next month in Terminal 1. The popular chain—which recently closed its North Michigan shop—has other locations, including 4 E. Madison, 2 W. Jackson, 26 W. Randolph and 500 W. Madison.
—In honor of National Ice Cream Month, Mon Ami Gabi, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, has different offerings each week. For the week of July 24-30, items include a mocha float ( Kahlua, Perrier and homemade mocha ice cream ) as well as homemade cherry sorbet.