Au Cheval is open until 2 AM- perfect for a girl who usually gets off work around 9-10 PM, exhausted, starving and craving some delicious, greasy-gourmet food. They don't take reservations, but I've only had to wait once (and you can order drinks while you wait). As you walk in, the restaurant looks like a diner, speakeasy, and a warehouse had a baby and named it Au Cheval (sounds weird, but trust me, this is a good thing). Most of the clientele is fairly young and tends to be of the hipster-persuasion, but overall, the atmosphere is relaxed, unpretentious and fun. I always sit at the bar so I can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen.
Last Wednesday, arriving home from work around 9 PM, we decided to head over to Au Cheval for some late night grub and a few drinks. Well, the plan was to only have a few, but that didn't work out so well... Even so late on a weeknight, the restaurant was packed, and we stood by the crowded bar with some beers and played a game of "lets creep on the other bar patrons and make up their back stories." Around the time we decided the tall brunette with the thick glasses and the stout man wearing a plaid scarf were on a not-so-successful third date, we were able to steal seats at the bar.
After ordering another round- a glass of pinot grigio for me, and a Schlitz tallboy for my boyfriend (he had never had a Schlitz before, so the bartender insisted he had to try it, if even just for the kitsch-factor)- we decided to start with the chopped chicken liver. Now, I don't usually like chopped liver (reminds me of my mother trying to forcefeed it to me as a child at Jewish holidays), but was convinced to try it after reading about it in Time Out Chicago's 100 best things we ate this year. And oh hell yeah this changed my mind about chicken liver.
|It may not look pretty, but it sure tastes good.|
Apologies for the picture- we were starving and dug in before I could snap a pic. As if the liver wasn't rich enough, it was served with a delicious (and fattening) salted butter and buttered toast, with some gherkins on the side in an attempt to cut the richness (it doesn't work, but you won't want it to). The liver itself is the star- spread a little butter on the toast, then put a shmear of the chicken liver on top, and enjoy the rich, livery taste without a hint of game that can make chopped liver unappealing.
Along with the liver, we had to order the burger. Believe the hype, this is absolutely the best burger in Chicago.
|Just go and eat this. Now.|
Typical gluttons, we ordered ours with a fried egg and bacon on top. The bacon was almost as thick as one of the two burger patties that come on a "single" burger. The egg is perfectly runny, and oozes beautifully when you bite into the burger, pouring delicious yolk all over the burger and tying all the ingredients together. The burger patties are flavorful and never dry. I don't know how or why this burger is so good, but somehow, it is absolutely perfect.
Another highlight of our meal was the opportunity to try the "pickleback" shot: a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of pickle juice. This wasn't by choice; we made friends with some fellow bar patrons who ended up buying us these shots, and who am I to refuse free booze? I was hesitant to try it as frankly, it sounded gross, but WOW was I surprised. The pickle juice wasn't overly salty and immediately killed the taste of whiskey and somehow managed to be refreshing. Don't worry, we thanked our generous bar-mates with a shot of Fernet Branca (an obsession of my boyfriend's) in return.
|I want my pickleback pickleback pickleback...|
Overall, this visit to Au Cheval (my fourth) reaffirmed my love of the restaurant, and I recommend it to anyone looking for unique food in a non-pretentious setting. Run, don't walk to Au Cheval. You'll need the exercise after enjoying that amazing burger.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.