It’s always tough when a new neighbor moves in.
No offense to the new guy, after all, but you liked the old guy, you had grown used to hanging out with him and you’re going to miss having him around. On the other hand, the old guy was the new guy once, and this new guy could be great once you get to know him.
These were the parallels that were going through our heads as we paid our first visit to the new Pete Miller’s Steak & Seafood, the second incarnation of a longtime Evanston stalwart situated just a stone’s throw from our neighborhood on the southwest side of town, in a building that—until recently—had been the home of Tommy Nevin’s Pub. (Full disclosure: The restaurant is still owned by the same company, but just work with me here.)
As every good neighbor is not necessarily a best friend, it would have been a stretch to call Tommy Nevin’s one of our absolute favorite restaurants in the area, but over the years the Irish pub had become one of our more reliable and comfortable go-to spots (perhaps in large part because it was so close—always a plus).
But Tommy had moved on,and it was time to for us to do the neighborly thing—go over and welcome Pete to the area, sans the traditional covered dish (which would have been weird at a restaurant).
Right off the bat, it was strange to walk into a place we had known so well and take mental inventory of the things the new homeowner had (and hadn’t) changed. For instance, it appeared as though half of Tommy’s bar had been transformed into a new private dining area, yet we were pleased to see that the charming old “library room” off of the main dining room remained untouched from the Nevin’s days.
One of the biggest changes, however, was music to these ears—that is, the addition of seven-nights-a-week live jazz music (on this night, an understated guitar-vocal duo) that promises to help Pete Miller’s stand out among the crowded high-end steakhouse scene. For this lifelong jazz aficionado, it’s like finding out the new guy on the block has a boat or a snowmobile that he routinely lends out—or, more on the nose, that he has a jazz club in his basement.
Meat, the Neighbors
However, even those indifferent to the charms of a gently rendered version of Jobim’s bossa nova masterpiece “Wave” to accompany their meal will nevertheless likely be hoping for a dinner invitation from this new neighbor. While the price point at Pete Miller’s is certainly different from that of its predecessor, the quality emerging from the kitchen argues favorably for the higher tab.
The menu consists largely of the standard a la carte steakhouse cuts—all available with a variety of sauces and add-ons—as well as a half-dozen fresh seafood selections. We split a pair of hefty crabcakes from the appetizer slate to start, followed by a pair of nicely prepared filets, allowing us to sample both the peppercorn and Parmesan crust options (note: Parmesan won this faceoff). We also shared a hefty chopped salad and a pair of substantial sides—impossibly creamy mac-and-cheese and roasted Brussels sprouts—to round out the table.
And what would a visit to a steakhouse be (or to a neighbor’s house, for that matter) without a little piece of cake to send everyone home happy? In this case, Pete sent us off with both a wedge of carrot cake and a slice of death-by-chocolate cheesecake, and we headed out for the short drive home thinking that the new kid in town is going to fit in just fine (and relieved that we hadn’t committed the social faux pas of calling him “Tommy” by mistake).
3032 English Rows Avenue, Naperville