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After 22 Years and $2.5 Million, the Palm Chicago Debuts Renovated Steakhouse

The venerable national brand raises the stakes at the Swissotel

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Despite the changes, steak lovers will still find big hunks of meat at the Palm.
Barry Brecheisen

The owners of the Palm, the chain of steakhouses that have been around for 92 years, have paid attention to what’s happening to Chicago’s dining scene and worry about staying relevant. That’s why the Chicago location of the Washington, D.C.-based company has been closed for renovations since January inside the Swissotel on Wacker Drive, a location they’ve occupied since 1996. The Palm debuts the first phase of its $2.5 million in renovations when the steakhouse re-opens this afternoon.

As modern steakhouses like Maple & Ash, Gibsons Italia, and Swift & Sons emerged in town, the Palm needed to up its game. Palm officials, including COO Jeff Phillips, talked about the timing of the renovations: the restaurant’s lease was about to expire. Remodeling the space while signing a new lease presented the opportunity to invest. The Palm has been revamping other locations across the country. The decor’s local flavor comes from caricatures featuring Chicago-related stars like singer Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga, as well as hoops legend Michael Jordan. They used the same style of caricatures (Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, etc.) when Palm gave its Philadelphia location a facelift last year.

The bar area is now at least three times larger which comes at the expense of shrinking the dining room. More people are dining later, and the bar is more comfortable for dining after 8 p.m., Palm officials said. They will also eventually serve breakfast, something that’s new for the Palm, which they started in Atlanta.

Besides a fresh new awning outside and a neon sign with the Palm logo inside, the most notable change is the restaurant’s layout. It’s more open so passersby can see into the restaurant and the get a better sense of the energy inside, Palm officials said. Eventually they’ll also open an enclosed patio.

The Palm’s VP of culinary Brian McCardle talked about menu changes. Younger diners aren’t as eager to eat a whole cow or a jumbo lobster. They still have choice cuts. They use Chairman’s Reserve Beef out of Iowa which uses its own certification standards. Customers won’t serve Angus meats, but they’ll still find high-quality beef ribeyes. There are now dishes that come with sides — like broccolini — to provide customers with more for their money. There are also several lunch specials.

Take a look at the space, a few food photos, and menu below. The remodeled Palm Chicago is open.

The Palm Chicago, inside the Swissotel, 323 E. Upper Wacker Drive, (312) 616-1000, open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays for lunch; dinner served 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily; open noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; bar bites menu served 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

The bar area is three times larger than the old space.
This mural has all of Chicago’s tourist attractions covered.
The bar will serve full dinner, plus a bar bites menu.
The windows should show a nice view of the city.
A little nod to old Chicago.
Michael Jordan once played in Chicago.
Get those corporate cards out.
Jennifer Hudson and what looks like Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg — coach doesn’t wear ties in real life for health reasons, though.
Lady Gaga counts as a Chicagoan now.
The private dining area.
Chairman’s Reserve ribeye with broccolini.
Steakhouse burger
Chilean sea bass
Jumbo crab over grilled romaine hearts.
Steakhouse wedge

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