Mellody Hobson

A steak house's side dishes bring a vegetarian to the table

It isn't easy to be a vegetarian in Chicago. From the shwarma grilling in the Middle Eastern restaurants on the North Side to the sizzle of hot dog stands on every street corner, meat is king in the Windy City. Chicago, after all, was the meatpacking capital of America for years and it's still the center of cattle futures trading. The city's love for carnivorous fare makes dining all the more challenging for Mellody Hobson, 35, president of Ariel Capital Management, a Chicago money-management firm. Hobson has been a vegetarian for five years.

Hobson's aversion to meat makes Gibsons, one of the city's best-known steakhouses, an odd choice for her favorite dining establishment. But the reason Hobson prefers the restaurant on Chicago's Gold Coast is simple: "They have the biggest sides." She's drawn to the "gigantic" servings of steamed broccoli ($5.50) as well as "the really excellent" spinach sautéed with mushrooms and garlic ($11.50). Hobson also is a fan of Gibsons' garden salad, loaded with chopped carrots and other fresh veggies dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette ($4.50).

Aside from the bountiful portions, Hobson frequents Gibsons because the staff never gives her attitude for shunning entrées. "Most fancy restaurants get annoyed if you just get sides," Hobson says. It's also an ideal spot for entertaining clients. "Gibsons has great energy," she says. It's not exactly quiet, but you can still carry on a conversation. When she visits the restaurant in warmer months, she prefers to dine outside on the patio.

Gibsons has a reputation as a place that's buzzing with chic Chicago locals. So Hobson, who was recently featured in a Vogue spread on successful, stylish women executives, fits right in. Yet despite her taste in expensive clothes, she is decidedly down to earth. After all, she eats her veggies.

Gibsons Steakhouse, 1028 N. Rush St., Chicago (312 266-8999)

By Lauren Young

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