Since opening in 1969, the Golden Steer steakhouse at 7635 Roosevelt Road in Forest Park, has capitalized on a distinctive design, loyal customer base and unwavering menu of baked French onion soup, top-quality steaks garnished with a single mushroom and a praiseworthy steerburger served up on dark rye bread.
Preserving the history and tradition behind the Golden Steer has allowed the establishment to grow into a retro institution, popular with longtime locals and young city hipsters alike. Last week the timeless restaurant celebrated their 50th anniversary with a gathering of generations of customers from Forest Park and beyond.
“The scene may stay the same, but we have evolved with times,” said Tom Tzouras, Golden Steer manager and son of owner Charlie Tzouras. “Back in the day this place used to be filled with wise guys and now we appeal to people looking for a little nostalgia.”
It’s true Elizabeth Taylor drank Jack Daniel’s at the Golden Steer back in the day. Chicago Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita and former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson also dined in the wood paneled dining room.
Today the white-tablecloth environment remains exactly as it was in 1969, replete with mirror art, faux plants, and candles glowing on every table. The retro room sets the stage perfectly to enjoy an ice-cold dirty martini and an unpretentious steak dinner.
During their anniversary celebration the restaurant closed for the evening and opened the doors to their most regular customers and loyal friends. Cocktails flowed and a buffet of Golden Steer favorites was supplemented with celebratory donations including house-made sausage from Carnivore in Oak Park. A flashy ice sculpture and gift bags containing calendars and custom T-shirts put a finishing touch on the festive evening.
“We love the Golden Steer,” says guest Julie Clasen of Berwyn. “Honestly, we’re here two or three nights per week.”
In fact, Clasen and her partner, Geri Eastvanik, enjoyed one of their very first dates in 1991 at the Golden Steer and have been regulars ever since. The couple appreciates that The Steer is inclusive of everyone and “transcends any social hang-ups,” noting everyone dining at the restaurant is treated like family.
Sure, longevity of this magnitude comes as a result of culinary consistency and customer loyalty, but the Golden Steer also boasts staff members who have been working at the restaurant for more than two decades.
Nancy Lundeen worked as the steakhouse’s bookkeeper for 30 years before retiring. Today her daughter, Tammy Herman, has been working at the Golden Steer for 23 years as waitress and bartender.
In a typically transient industry, this sort of generational employee loyalty contributes to the unique culture at the Golden Steer. Herman is eager for anyone to swing by for a Cosmopolitan, martini, grasshopper or Brandy Alexander.
In addition to serving throw-back cocktails at their kitschy in-house bar, the Golden Steer includes all the trimmings with their entrees. A steak dinner becomes an excellent value when baked French onion soup or a cup of the soup of the day, a generous dinner salad, and choice of potato are included with the price of every entrée.
“We serve food people like in a space where everyone is welcome and our staff will know your favorite order,” said Tzouras. “This is has been true for 50 years and makes people feel special.”
Now that’s something to celebrate.