But, until I sat down with the building manager to go over my lease agreement, I had no idea that I was moving a block away from what some locals refer to as the Viagra Triangle.
After explaining the apartment's pet policy, the building manager, a pretty Chicagoan in her late twenties, said casually, "If you ever want a free meal, you should go to Gibsons. It's just around the corner on Rush Street."
I thought it odd that she would be referring me to a soup kitchen when I had just signed a year lease. Were my shoes that shabby?
"A free meal?"
"Yeah, in the Viagra Triangle," she clarified.
I imagined a charity group called the Triangle ladling out free hot soup and pressing handfuls of Viagra into grateful palms.
She laughed, "You know, all the restaurants and bars down the street. That area's called the Viagra Triangle because it's where older rich dudes pick up women. So, yeah, if you ever want a nice free meal, just head down to Gibsons Bar, wait a bit and a dude will buy you a drink and a steak in no time. My friends and I do it all the time."
She probably saw the look of horror on my face, because she dropped it and started talking about bike storage in the building. Or maybe her advice was simply part of their welcome orientation: Pets, Viagra Triangle, Bikes, Recycling.
During the summer I would pass Gibsons with its outdoor tables covered with snazzy green and white checkered tablecloths and look for my building manager with a steakhouse sugar daddy, but I only ever saw families, cozy couples and tourists digging into impressive Chicago-sized plates. I was almost let down. Where were the impresarios and soulfree girls hungry for steak? Everyone looked disappointingly normal. But this was actually a relief, because one day my new boyfriend, who is now my husband, asked if I wanted to meet there for lunch.
"At Gibsons? Have you ever been there before?" I asked apprehensively.
"Of course! They have the best steak in Chicago."
After one lunch there, I too was won over, and I could almost understand how someone might hang out at the bar hoping to be offered a martini and a meal, because it's just that darn delicious. If ever you were to sell your soul for a steak, theirs would be the one to do it for.
Gibsons would not be Gibsons in any other city in the world. It is quintessentially Chicago. Everything is large and lavish, but its Midwestern values cut through the ostentatiousness; its spectacle is simply the natural result of bighearted generosity. The friendly servers set down huge portions on the table as if they were mothers over-serving their children home for the holidays.
Before ordering you will be shown a gigantic platter with all the cuts of steak available. The waiter probably presents the same tray of raw meat sixty times a day but from the first to the last table his delivery is just as spirited and magnanimous. He explains each hefty piece with pride and finally recommends the Chicago cut, a twenty-two ounce challenge to good sense.
And, why not some sides? Now's not the time to get fancy. Creamed spinach and mashed potatoes will do just fine.
You ask for a serving of ice-cream, as my innocent mother-in-law did one day, and you are presented a towering 6-scoop sundae. You order a slice of chocolate cake or macadamia nut pie, and though the price should clue you in to its size, the server doesn't tell you that it's enough to share with all six of your dinner companions. The waiter wordlessly arrives with a slab of cake that is the size of some European cars.
"Here you are. The chocolate cake. Would you like some extra forks by any chance?"
I spent many Saturday lunches at those outdoor tables at Gibsons, and unfortunately, I never once witnessed a transaction like the building manager described. Although there are certainly some interesting characters that frequent the joint, the naughtiest, most blush-worthy thing about the place is the food.