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Does Au Cheval Have The Best Burger In Chicago?

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jul 24, 2012 4:15PM


As the guiding force behind Gilt Bar, Doughnut Vault, Maude’s Liquor Bar and Au Cheval, Brendan Sodikoff has emerged as one of Chicago’s hottest restaurateurs, tapping into a zeitgeist other chefs and restaurant backers aren’t attuned to or ignoring completely.

Au Cheval, Sodikoff’s stylized take on the diner, has become one of the city’s best late night dining options and among its most over pickup bars. There haven’t been this many wandering hands over cocktails and plates since the heyday of Iggy’s. The dish at Au Cheval getting the highest marks has to be the burger. This is especially so among Chicago’s food media and culinary snobs, many of whom have declared it the best burger in Chicago.

That’s a bold statement in a town that isn’t lacking for a place to get a good burger. Yet almost to a man people have raved about Au Cheval’s burger to me with the near-hysterical passion of cultists. Maybe it’s something in the burger. So I went to Au Cheval to find out for myself.

Is it the best burger in Chicago? Not by a long shot. Oh, it looks pretty, one of the most beautiful presentations of a burger I’ve ever seen. But that’s the highlight of the burger, which comes off as an oversalted mess masked by house made Dijonnaise and pickles, minced onions and (optional) thick cut pepper bacon and a fried egg. What sells me on a burger is if I can taste the sweetness of the beef. Au Cheval’s burger has so much going on that the beef’s flavor is the last thing you’ll notice. It’s the culinary equivalent of a Michael Bay movie. It looks pretty and starts off well, then falls right off the rails.

I thought that I may not have been in Sodikoff’s target audience before I remembered how much I loved Au Cheval’s ham and cheese fondue (also topped with a fried egg), matzoh ball soup, hash browns, their Hemingway daiquiri and the best root beer float in the city, made with Black Dog vanilla gelato. Those are all aphrodisiacs I could see in front of me at Au Cheval at 1 a.m.

For the record, my five favorite burgers in Chicago belong to Top Notch Beefburger, Edzo’s Burger Shop (the double grilled cheeseburger), Hot Chocolate, Nightwood and Three Aces. If you want a comparison to Au Cheval’s burger, start there.

Au Cheval, 800 W. Randolph St., Open Monday - Saturday 5 p.m. - 2 a.m., Sunday 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.