Au Cheval – Is it really the Best Burger in America?

Au Cheval is on almost every Chicagoan’s bucket list of must-try restaurants. In France, Au Cheval is a dining term that refers to food with a fried egg on top. This seems to be the focus of this diner-style establishment. Fried eggs are key, and foie gras, bone marrow, and chicken liver all appear on Au Cheval’s menu. The main attraction? Au Cheval’s double cheeseburger.

Head chef, Annie Gano, curated their burger back in 2012. This burger has since been voted the BEST in America by Bon Appetit, Number 1 out of the Top 5 Burgers by the Food Network, and was 2nd on 2015’s Daily Meal’s 101 Best Burgers in America. Its been rumored that even Beyonce waited 3 hours in line to get in. No surprise – seeing as Au Cheval does not take reservations.

After a minimum of three years on my bucket list, I finally sought out to try the burger that everyone raves about. It took me the full three years to talk to dozens of my friends and get recommendations on what to order, the best time to go, how long I should expect to wait, and what to do during my wait.

The Wait

I arrived on a Friday afternoon/evening at 4:45pm. I had two hours to get in a quick dinner before work. Luckily, I had a friend who was also in the city and willing to try to get in with me. I even had a back up reservation at Duck Duck Goat (another restaurant on my Chicago Bucket List) just incase the timing didn’t work out.

The host informed me that the wait would be 30 minutes to an hour. I immediately put my name down, gave the host my phone number, and set out to wait down the street at Bombobar. I’m absolutely not opposed to having dessert before dinner!

Within five minutes of receiving my Bomboloni (donuts), Au Cheval was calling to tell me my table was ready. By the time I got back to tell the host we were ready, the line had grown to double what it was when I came in. The suggested wait then? 45-60 minutes.

Overall I waited approximately 20 minutes from the time I put my name down to the time I sat down at my table. Not too shabby, especially since I am most definitely not Beyonce. The restaurant also utilizes the NoWait app which allows you to track your place in line (no need to ask the host how many people are in front of you).

The Meal

My friend and I both ordered single cheeseburgers (the double is what they’re known for, but the only difference is an additional patty). The menu is straight to the point, with no fancy descriptions of what you’re ordering. Don’t be fooled by this trickery, though. A single cheeseburger comes with two patties, a double comes with three! The burgers come standard with creamy cheese melted onto the patty, a Dijonaise, pickles, and finely diced onions. There was ketchup on the table, but don’t you dare try and ruin this delicious creation…

I ordered my burger with a fried egg (go big or go home, right?) and many people choose to get their’s with bacon. I decided to save that for next time.

My friend and I also ordered the crispy fries with mornay sauce, garlic aioli & a fried farm egg. The fries were heavily salted, but when the fried egg spilled all over them, it created a magical explosion of flavor in your mouth. Both the mornay sauce and garlic aioli are served on the side. The flavors of these sauces also help tame the saltiness of the fries. I almost think I enjoyed them more than the burger… almost.

Had I had more time and more room in my stomach I would have tried more delacacies on this menu. The bone marrow definitely caught my eye. I was told the Matzo Ball soup is decadent and made in a way that tastes like it was made by  a Jewish mother. I guess I’ll have to take my Jewish mother to try it out.

The Ambience

Au Cheval is an up-scale diner. This means dimly lit, leather booths and diner style chairs, and even Matzo Ball Soup on the menu. Their drink menu is extensive, and they even have root beer on draught! Curious what goes into making the best burger in America? Grab a seat at the bar to watch step by step how your burger is made.

The Verdict

This burger is 100% worth the wait, at least once in your life. If I could wait 20 minutes, and Beyonce had to wait 3 hours, that has to say something. The flavors that are formed when the juicy patty, cheese, dijonaise, egg and other toppings come together are unlike anything I have ever tasted before. Au Cheval is truly one of a kind. You cannot get a burger like this anywhere. You won’t find anything like it even if you visit their sister restaurants, Small Cheval. Small Cheval has two locations, both of which only serve hamburgers, cheeseburgers, bacon and fries. Is it the best in America? I haven’t had enough burgers to answer this. Is it the best in Chicago? It’s pretty high on my list… Although I have yet to try Kuma’s Corner.

Chicagoan tip: If you are not interested in grabbing drinks (or dessert) elsewhere prior to dinner, I highly recommend waiting until Chicago warms up a bit. Waiting outside in freezing temperatures is not recommended by this foodie…

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