That’s the picture that did it. We were looking for some place to eat after attending an afternoon show at Lookingglass Theater (which is a fabulous playhouse, btw), and this single photo of a bologna sandwich, piled high and oozing with cheese, led to an evening at Au Cheval. I had heard of Au Cheval in a random, “they have really awesome burgers” kind of way, but there are plenty of places that have great burgers in Chicago, and the location is kind of a hike from where we live. But on this occasion, we would be in the downtown area anyway, so it was actually convenient. Besides, they put eggs on everything, and you know my love affair with all things topped with an egg. So it was settled.
Let me say right off the bat that this place bills itself as a diner, but it’s hipstered out. The beer menu is insane. Cocktails? Yes, and they’re awesome. None of the tables seat more than 4 people, and they play incredibly good music from a reel-to-reel player situated behind the hostess’ stand. This is NOT Denny’s. Oh, and they don’t take reservations, but we had read the reviews and expected a long wait, so it was fine. We stepped across the street for drinks, and we got called back within about 20 minutes. So, all in all, not too bad. Since there were only two of us, we ended up sitting at the bar, which I loved because they have an open kitchen, and I got to watch the cooking process, and see how everything looked up close before ordering.
I was rather impressed with how careful they were with the cooking and plating process. Everything was done to perfection, and placed carefully on the plate, garnished and presented with care. So I was impressed before I even got my plate, and salivating from watching them fry up platter after platter of glazed, thick-cut bacon.
D ordered the bacon cheeseburger, while I settled on the fried bologna sandwich, and we shared an order of fries. I’m going to say this once, and I will brook no argument about it: they have the best burger in the entire flipping city. Possibly the planet. Juicy, perfectly cooked, oozing with cheese, and stuffed between fresh, toasted brioche buns. And the bacon was quite literally the best bacon I have ever had: tender, maple glazed, thick pepper bacon sliced directly from the buttocks of Zeus himself. I loved my bologna sandwich, don’t get me wrong, but after Dar let me taste his burger, I was never truly a whole person again, knowing that I could have had the burger instead. I may, in fact, need therapy to help me deal with the regret. My picture doesn’t even do it justice; I have to steal one from Forbes to show you its true majesty:
And guess what? If you’re trying to eat gluten free, they’ll serve it for you on hash brown patties instead of bread. Yeah, you read that right. The bologna sandwich was piled so high I could barely hold on to eat it, but I managed like a champ. The meat was rich and a bit salty, but the pickle spears they served alongside cut through the richness for a perfect bite.
The fries were similarly outstanding, with a crispy, crunchy exterior and soft, fluffy interior. We broke the egg yolk so its goodness could flow over the potatoes, and then dipped them alternately into extra garlic aioli and mornay sauce to make our coronary-inducing meal complete. Why? Because screw my arteries, that’s why. We waddled out fat and happy, with take-out box in hand since I was only able to cram in about half of my sandwich. But it made for an excellent lunch the next day with pickles and cold beer. I did have some ‘splaining to do when D came in later looking for it, but it was my sandwich, and you gotta be faster than that around these parts if you want to get the grub. Better luck next time. And with food this good, there is always a next time.