Steaking a Claim — Eddie Merlot’s

June 2012 View more

NMAG0612_Tablefortwo1Photos by Greg Shapps

The June confluence of prime grilling season and Father’s Day makes for a potentially delicate situation when it comes to tempting dad with a dinner out.

On the one hand, a nicely grilled steak at a fine restaurant sure seems like a great way to celebrate dad. But it’s not quite that simple. If a finely grilled steak is the order of the evening, why go any farther than the backyard, where dear old dad has been minding the coals to provide for his family since you were knee-high to a grasshopper? Even couching the potential night out as a chance to give the Chef d’Patio a rare night off just doesn’t play as well as getting mom out of the kitchen on Mother’s Day. Many proud pops will take it as an insult to their well-honed skills at the grill.

A complicated scenario, but not necessarily a reason to retreat to the safety of another boring tie just yet. Clear this formidable paternal hurdle and one of the newest entrants into the area’s burgeoning steakhouse field is likely to win over even the most doubtful dad.

 Standing Out in a Crowd

NMAG0612_Tablefortwo3With marquee meat monikers like Sullivan, Morton and Gibson all within a short drive, the first thing one has to admire about Eddie Merlot’s is the sheer gumption of throwing yet another ten-gallon hat into the steakhouse ring.

Taking up residence among the restaurant archipelago surrounding the Cantera multiplex in nearby Warrenville, the latest outpost of this Midwestern meatery is a dramatic departure in both style and substance from the long-shuttered Max & Erma’s that formerly occupied its site. The long, arched-ceiling room that culminates in an imposing glass-encased wine room at the far end suggests something of a cathedral for carnivores with comfortable leather chairs and smooth jazz taking the place of the pews and organ hymns. Delve into the heavily-bound tome of a menu and it soon becomes clear that the scripture here revolves around red meat and red wine—plenty of each.

 Sizes XL and Up

As is customary at most steakhouses, everything from appetizers to side dishes to desserts comes with a helpful warning from the wait staff that portions are designed to feed several. Despite the temptation to indulge in several of the appealingly described starters and salads, we instead opted to plan ahead and stick with just one—a ridiculously rich and creamy artichoke dip accompanied by garlic toast. On cue, our waiter Jim appeared with yet another steakhouse standard, a tray of raw cuts ranging from a nicely marbled New York strip, to a tenderloin that was the size of a shoebox.

NMAG0612_Tablefortwo2Given the array of sauces and toppings available for these dry-aged beauties, we decided to sample as many as we reasonably could by opting to share a trio of filets, each with its own special preparation—one in a peppercorn sauce, one with a rich bacon-gorgonzola topping, and a third dressed in the eminently old-school and decidedly decadent Oscar style topped with crabmeat, asparagus and—ready the defibrillator—hollandaise sauce. Rounding out the table, we went family style on a number of delicious ala carte side items including sautéed spinach, a house Caesar salad, and a hash brown pie whose leftovers could have easily fed three or four of the tables around us.

In the end, Eddie Merlot’s passed with flying colors. The tender beef more than proved its standalone merit, rendering the various accoutrements tasty enough, but mere distractions from the simplicity and succulence of the meat itself. That’s something that a grillmaster like dad would surely appreciate, whether he did the cooking or not.

 Eddie Merlot’s
28254 Diehl Road, Warrenville