Modern takes on the greasy diner seem to be all the rage in Chicago. And what’s not to like, really? Point in case, West Loop neighbors Little Goat and Au Cheval.
Our visit to cozy Au Cheval was inspired by this tasty post from Chi Gal Lauren (who we met in real life at the Nellcote Oscars Party Sunday! Yay for Chicago bloggers).
We arrived shortly after the restaurant opened to secure seats. The place gets crowded. One of us was late due to CTA amnesia, so we ended up grabbing a seat at the bar. This was fine by us because it offered a front row seat to the bloody-mary slinging and brunch-food crafting.
The bloody? I mean, stop it. As we sipped, all we could manage were head nods and “mmhhmm”s. It’s that solid. It’s premature to start our Best Of list for 2013, but it’s safe to say that this one is already a strong contender.
The housemade mix is prepared with V8, horseradish and black pepper. This bloody is made with Tito’s Vodka and topped off with olives and housemade pickles, which add sweetness that carefully balances the spice.
And because we had a relatively open Sunday afternoon, we didn’t stop imbibing there. We ordered two more drinks from their “Bright-eyed Cocktail” list.
The Guilio is a drier, Italian version of a mimosa, made with prosecco, grapefruit juice and cocchi americano. The Painkiller: whoa. Was this the beach? It’s made with rum, orange, pineapple and Coco Lopez. Coconutty perfection. We’re sure there’s not a bad cocktail in this joint.
(Side note: Wouldn’t Coco Lopez be great as Elaine’s drag name? Things we decided.)
The food didn’t disappoint either. We ordered the omelette and the “small” chilaquiles.
We’ve come clean about neither of us being huge omelette fans. This one could make us converts. The omelette is light, fluffy, savory and the balance of spinach, blue cheese and carmelized onions had us swooning.
Chilaquiles is one of those dishes that is either really amazing or really disappointing. It mostly boils down to salsa and sogginess factors.
You can file this one under “amazing.” Best in the city, even. It came with the standard fare, tortilla chips, eggs, guac, salsa, sour cream and a generous portion of cilantro. But somehow the flavor combo works better than most and the chips were not too soggy. As large as this was, we’re curious to see the actual “large” portion.
Au Cheval means “with the horse” in French. Not coincidental, it’s dark, leathery and precisely the kind of place we’d want to tie up the horse and spend the afternoon (not a euphemism). A couple we met at the bar had actually tied up their child’s tractor while they were inside enjoying a Wittekerke. Come for the cocktails. Stay for the food and decor that tips its hat to a French bistro.
We’re so glad we came here. You should get here, too.
Bright-Eyed Bloody Mary: Our rating (scale of 1–5)