It certainly is one of the most hyped up restaurants in Chicago, but for good reason. Multiple publications including Bon Appetit and Food Network have declared Brendan Sodikoff’s Au Cheval burger as the best in America. To enjoy the king of burgers, one must brave wait times that can exceed three hours. While the wait time may be a huge turn off, if you have never had Au Cheval the wait is well worth it. To pass the time as you embrace yourself for the meaty goodness that is Au Cheval, I suggest checking out the rest of what the Chicago neighborhood West Loop has to offer. Walk around a bit, enjoy the sweet smells of a nearby chocolate factory, check out the French Market, and grab some brews at local bars nearby such as Haymarket Pub & Brewery and Lone Wolf.
The interior of Au Cheval has a trendy, hipster kind of diner vibe to it which indicates to the customer that this isn’t any normal burger joint or greasy spoon. The staff know exactly what they are doing, as the service is impeccable. Beyond their famous burger, they have several delicious sounding appetizers, side dishes, and other entrees that I plan to eat eventually, including everything from a foie gras terrine with strawberry jam to matzah ball soup. However, it is hard to forego ordering a hamburger when in the halls of burger greatness. I’ve been twice thus far and have ordered a burger each time, along with the delicious general jane’s honey-fried chicken served with chili, sesame seeds, and cilantro. The fried chicken is one of the best in Chicago, with a nice crispiness and chili spice kick mixed with some sweetness from the sauce.
But enough about fried chicken and interior designs. Au Cheval is all about the burger. Is it the one true burger to rule them all? The simple answer is yes. The long answer is it is so good I should be thankful for the long lines or else I would probably eat it once a week, gaining a copious amount of weight in the process. The burger comes out open faced on a plate with a the best looking egg I’ve ever seen and pickles with Dijonnaise (lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard) on one crispy bun, and two juicy patties, oozing cheese, and thick cut bacon on the other. A side pickle and steak knife occupy the rest of the platter.
Once it is go time, not many can simply just eat the burger. Most, including myself, attack the burger. Upon first bite the egg pops, sending yolk down the exterior of the burger and onto the sides of one’s hands. It’s messy, but no one really gives a shit. They’ve just taken their first bite of the best burger in America. It’s juicy, tender, flavorful, with a perfect cheese to patty ratio and an amazing texture complemented by the egg, bacon, and pickle. You won’t know whether to slow down to saver the deliciousness or just keep on shoving it down your mouth. Before you know it the burger is gone, and your stomach is waving the white flag.
The Au Cheval burger is not an overly complicated burger. With only 7 ingredients including the bun, patties, and cheese, it doesn’t try too hard. It allows one to really enjoy these components of the burger without masking the quality and flavor of the meat. While I wouldn’t say it blows all other burgers out of the water, it does take the cake for me as the best burger I have ever had. I suggest you come see what all the hype is about. Au Cheval is the real burger king.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire