Recently, I published a post on this blog proclaiming that the best burgers in Chicago are at Kuma’s Too (and Kuma’s Corner). Immediately, I was challenged by a few burger lovin’ folks who asked if I had tried the burger at Au Cheval. When I admitted that Au Cheval was on my “to do” list but I had not tried their burger yet, those who challenged my proclamation about Kuma’s were pretty certain I would be singing a different tune once I did. Here’s what happened.
Although I have been cutting down on meat consumption, I felt I owed it to myself and my readers (of course ;)) to take on the “best burger in Chicago” challenge. So, today I hopped the CTA Green Line to the West Loop neighborhood to see just how fabulous the Au Cheval burger really is.
Au Cheval is a bar & diner located at 800 W. Randolph Street, just 1 block south and 4 blocks east of the Morgan/Lake ‘L’ stop on the CTA Green Line (The Pink Line also stops here).
The menu consists of upscale, comfort food. The ingredients are sourced from local purveyors. The space is narrow with counter seating, window booths and a couple of cozy tables in the front and back of the restaurant.
Au Cheval has been wildly popular, since it opened a couple of years ago. It has received numerous media accolades and there is often a long wait time because they do NOT take reservations. So, I recommend you arrive at the beginning of service (11am) or late in the evening (after 10 or 11pm), if you mind waiting for your meal.
I arrived at 11:45am, strolled right on in and bellied up to the counter where I could take in a full view of the kitchen line cooks and chat with other folks at the counter. Perfect for a solo lunch!
I’ll make this as brief as possible. I ordered the “single cheeseburger” to which I added (at extra cost) thick-cut, maple-glazed bacon because, well, I wanted to be thorough in my research. I was glad I ordered the single because I notice that the double cheeseburgers are mammoth in size and I knew I would never be able to consume that much meat….even for you guys (sorry!).
My burger was juicy. It had wonderful char all over. The house-made dijonnaise-type dressing with chopped red onion oozed out of the ample and tasty bun along with the creamy cheddar cheese which was melted to perfection.
But, the ingredient which makes Au Cheval’s burger sing are the sliced pickles which they make there. I don’t know what they do to those pickles but they take this burger to the next level of greatness. Loved it!!
Did I finish my “single cheeseburger” which is technically a “double”? Hell, yes! Of course, I planned strategically by not ordering fries or other sides. The bacon was my little extra treat. Plus, I made certain to skip breakfast (HA!). I cannot emphasize this last bit enough. At the time of this post, it remains the only meal I ate today.
Au Cheval offers several other non-burger options, including breakfast items. Their late night menu is limited to burgers, chilaquiles, dessert and the bar libations (these look amazing, by the way).
Although, I did not have dessert, I will be back for Au Cheval’s root beer float which is made with Berghoff root beer and Black Dog gelato. Of course, that will be my primary meal, as I can only imagine how huge it must be, based on the size of the burgers 🙂 All that said, I had the good fortune of tasting a bite of the mille feuille pastry which my lovely counter-mate, Ed, was enjoying. He insisted that I try it as he topped it off with a drizzle of hot fudge. Since I did not want to be rude, I agreed to accept his kind offer 😉 (I love the passion and generosity of Midwestern food lovers.) This pastry was light and crispy. The cream and hot fudge were so delicious. Thanks, Ed!
So, by now, you may be wondering who has the better burger, Kuma’s or Au Cheval? My answer is that it is not a fair comparison to make because it depends upon what type of burger experience you want. Both places have the tasty, cooked-to-perfection beef thing down. And, both restaurants know how to balance ingredients perfectly on their burgers. The difference is in the menu. Au Cheval offers one type of burger with a few simple ingredients any of which, I suppose, you can omit if they are not your taste. Kuma’s, on the other hand, has an extensive, heavy metal rock themed burger menu with an array of interesting ingredients. I love the burgers at both places in their own unique ways. It’s like being in love with 2 people at the same time (I guess.) It rarely happens. But, it happens.
I will be returning to Au Cheval for their burger and more very soon.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Green Line to Au Cheval. Save gas money. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Don’t drink and drive!