Here’s a statement. Au Cheval has the best burger in Chicago...and boom goes the dynamite. We know there are other good burger joints around - check that - we know there are other GREAT burgers around. You just can’t convince us any are better than those grilled up at Brendan Sodikoff’s West Loop masterpiece. Does this mean Au Cheval is the be all end all of burgers and you shouldn’t go anywhere else? Of course not, but we feel comfortable admitting this is our favorite, which is by no means a novel idea, considering all the national accolades Au Cheval has received.
It’s tough to accurately capture Au Cheval in detail without sounding loquacious and somewhat confusing. It’s often described as an “upscale diner,” but that explanation only scratches the surface. Au Cheval is part upscale diner, part lounge, part craft beer hall, part waiting room, and part Eminem 8 Mile rap battle scene except for only hipsters are allowed to MC and participate. In plain English, it’s dark and rather small, has a long counter and limited tables, is loud from both people and music ranging from heavy rap to Queen, and will usually be crowded to the point you’ll have to wait a while for some space (they don’t take reservations, but there are plenty of spots nearby for a drink while you wait). It’s the first few points that make Au Cheval a must visit and the latter that ensure you should be familiar with Kuma’s, DMK, Edzos, and Billy Goat for when you want your burger fix without it taking all night.
The point is, add it all up and Sokikoff managed to create a truly unique restaurant. Although you’ll be hard pressed to order anything but a burger, every now and then you should wander into some of the other incredible dishes on the menu.
Magical. Otherworldly. Enchanting. Just a few words this bacon brings to mind. A thick, peppered, hearty portion that is absolutely essential on your burger or as a side.
The cheeseburgers here aren’t some crazy over the top concoction. They are simply quality meat and cheese, perfectly cooked, between a homemade bun with lettuce, buttered pickles, and a homemade special sauce that has a hint of horseradish. We insist on adding bacon and highly recommend a fried egg. Also, a single is really a double patty, while a double is really a triple, so plan accordingly.
This isn’t your third grade Oscar Meyer brown bag lunch. Often lost in the shuffle of the burger, the homemade fried bologna sandwich is almost as good. We suggest finding a friend who is up for splitting the two.
Order them plain or with a fried egg over the top. Best utilized as a communal side, they pack good saltiness and come with an aioli for added flavor.
The bone marrow serving is straight up ridiculous. Four large bones, couple pieces of buttered toast, and a beef cheek marmalade. F*ck and yes.
Winter sucks, so sometimes a giant bowl of matzah ball soup is what you need. This soup has good flavor with a matzah ball that could substitute in any Chicago 16’’ softball game.
Don’t knock it till you try it. A mound of crisp, buttery potatoes topped with a meaty duck heart gravy and fried egg. The duck heart is salty and not gamey at all, so don’t be scared off. The greatest hangover cure ever would be splitting this hash and a cheeseburger along with some personal beers.