Monday, September 16, 2013

Au Cheval ...

I'd been meaning to go, since the first time I laid eyes on a photo. The interior is exactly what I love: small and dark and simple and aged and worn.

And how could I not fall in love with a restaurant whose signature dish is a fried-bologna sandwich?

You can't get less pretentious than a fried-bologna sandwich. Even if the bologna is house-made. Which it is at Au Cheval.

So I'd been meaning to go and had walked past it and looked in longingly.

But Friday night was the night.

You know you're in for something worthwhile when there's a 45-minute wait for a table at 5:30 p.m.

Doreen and I were shown to a table tucked away in the corner, though "tucked" is a bit of a misnomer, as the space is really too small for anything to be tucked anywhere. Then again, maybe everything is tucked everywhere.

In any event, it was cozy. And quite dark. Lighting from overhead shone a plate-sized circle of light onto the table. A spotlight, as it were. Appropriately so. Au Cheval's food deserves it.

Our server was patient and stepped away while we decided on drinks.

I opted for a glass of Barbera.

She asked to see my ID.

"You're joking, right?"

"No, it's our policy."

"If the person looks like they might be younger than what?" I asked, while retrieving my license.

She looked at it and handed it back.

"You're aging very well," she said.

Thank you, woman who wanted to see where I live.

(Later, at Doreen's, I looked in the mirror and laughed. "I don't care how damn dark a restaurant is, there's not a chance in hell that I might be younger than 21." The next day, on the phone with a client: "She was hitting on you," he said. "I know she was hitting on me," I said. "But it was still ridiculous.")

Anyhoo, the food.

We opted for the fried-bologna sandwich, because how could we not? And also the griddled bratwurst with smashed potatoes and roasted-garlic gravy. And French fries.

The sandwich arrived first, piled with bologna like the best-looking pastrami sandwich you've ever seen. It was impaled with two wooden skewers. I cut between them and put half of the sandwich on Doreen's plate. The bun was brioche, I believe, and the warm, thinly sliced bologna was accompanied by a Dijonnaise. You know my love of all things Dijon. Heaven.

The bratwurst arrived and took its place in the spotlight. I cut it into bite-size pieces for us so we could share it from the plate. The texture of the bratwurst was almost silken. That was some finely ground pork. Or was it veal? Perhaps a combinaion.

And then the fries arrived, in a paper cone in a shiny tumbler and accompanied by aioli. The fries were out-of-the-fryer hot and perfectly seasoned. And the aioli had just enough garlic. Oh my.

We were celebrating Doreen's birthday, so she asked for a dessert menu. Our server listed our choices: root-beer float (house-made root beer, of course); Black Dog gelato, including a vanilla-malt option that, someday, I will have to try; and the dessert that Doreen chose, which may have a name that I did not hear, but which is a towering napoleon of impossibly ethereal puff pastry baked to well past golden brown and graced with layers of vanilla pastry cream and then split at the table with one swift, confident stroke of a knife.

You should go. Be prepared to wait. But gaze at these images in the meantime. I took the liberty of adding the photo mosaic from the site but you can see them better on Au Cheval's home.

Photo credit: Au Cheval

2 Comments:

Blogger angelo said...

I want it all. Everything edible in these pics. Plus, how much do I love the way this place looks? Um, A LOT. I'm sorry, but visuals are just as important as the food. Carry on...

7:20 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Indeed, it is a very "you" place. Add it to your Chicago food itinerary. And reserve two slots for it. You'll want to go back.

5:55 AM  

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