Pressed, he might concede that Gibson's, a downtown institution that books up weeks in advance and serves steaks and pies so big you have to cut them with a butcher knife, is his favorite. "Yeah, you got all the pictures on the wall: the old cats, Frank Baby and all of the elite, the old pilgrims," he says. But then he catches himself. Mac considers it sacrilege to crown one great Chicago steak place over another. "You can't go wrong when you're talking about good steak," he says of his favorites. "Because they are all so elegant; they are all so quality. It's hard to grade when you got good stuff. I hate to say which one is the best. I go to Mr. Benny's, which is old Chicago, with the bar and the music. The Chop House has a cigar room. You can go down there with all of the old gladiators and listen to the war stories."

But Mac's not averse to something more refined, meaning the multicourse, bank-account-busting culinary extravaganza, either. "Trotter's, yeah," he says, referring to Charlie Trotter's, the pioneering new American restaurant that specializes in infinite small dishes with gigantic taste. "The food does not stop and is so great, and the service is so tremendous, and the conversation is so elite," he says. "I'm telling you, man, you are in for a treat."

Sated by steak, we step into midnight seeking action, seeking jazz. Mac's with me now. I can see it in his eyes, big as full moons, as we float through Chicago like characters out of one of those black-and-white movies where the nightclub neon magically blinks 'Welcome' from all sides. Mac used to love to go to Milt Trenier's, a nightclub founded by the famous singer who, along with his three brothers, performed with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. "I used to rent their club out on Tuesday nights and have Bernie Mac's Smooth Jazz and Comedy," he says. "People would get off work, go to the restaurant at 4, wine until 7, and the show started at 7:30. That was one of the greatest times in my life."