The Burger Shake-Up
Northwestern students are beyond lucky to have Edzo’s Burger Shop nearby. For most burger fans, Edzo’s is a reliable spot for satisfying the occasional burger craving. The Evanston location has been a hit with students, locals and greater Chicagoland residents thanks to their creative burger options, fresh-cut fries and rich milkshakes. In fact, owner Eddie Lakin is taking on another location. A second Edzo’s Burger Shop is slated to open early winter in Lincoln Park, with a supposed similar layout and menu. Considering the immense success Lakin has had in Evanston, as well as the imprint he’s left in the Chicago burger-sphere, it’s safe to say this new easy-access Chicago location won’t struggle.
So, should Lakin feel threatened by another student-friendly burger option? Recently, Bon Appétit magazine claimed that the relatively new Au Cheval serves up the “Best New Burger in America”. Naturally we had to test the hype. The Metra took us on a quick and easy 30-minute ride into the restaurant Mecca that is the West Loop Area of Chicago, where Girl and the Goat, Blackbird, and Avec are all within walking distance on Randolph Street.
A five-minute walk from the Ogilvie Transportation Center Metra station brought us to Au Cheval. At first glance, it looks like a humble diner, and even a little run-down considering it’s relatively new. Upon entering, though, the fragrant smell of sizzling meat permeates through the air. The space feels small, cozy and doesn’t appear to accommodate larger crowds well, especially since Au Cheval doesn’t take reservations and fills up around 6 p.m. But, it does have a great bar area, which faces the open kitchen. Dim lighting, a rustic setting, great service and fun music lets the diners know that Au Cheval and its food mean business, but not necessarily an uptight dining experience.
Once the server arrives, she informs us that Au Cheval translates from French to “with an egg on top” in English, and my eyes widen with even more excitement. We start off with the crispy fries with Mornay sauce, garlic aioli and a fried farm egg. While the menu does read “crispy fries”, the first bite will probably surprise you with just how crispy these fries are, which you soon realize is necessary to support the variety of dense accompaniments. Eat them with a fork, dip into the garlic aioli and fried egg and you’ve got yourself a gourmet potato appetizer – certainly no simple side of fries.
Next up on our list of must-tries was the fried house-made bologna sandwich. When this behemoth arrived, we had to devise a plan of attack to take down this monster. The house-made bologna piled high with layers of gooey American cheese is quite enjoyable, but a little too much bologna skews the sandwich proportions a bit too meaty.
Finally, the sole reason that brought us here, the single cheeseburger, which is actually a double, arrives. Let me preface this by saying that the Au Cheval burger is not your typical gourmet Chicago burger. In many restaurants you will find a variety of unique beef choices or obscure toppings. At Au Cheval, it’s kept simple. For under $10, you get two pre-formed patties cooked on top of a flat top griddle with American cheese, pickles and a refreshing Dijonnaise. And boy, does it work. The burger is cooked to perfection, and the crispy edges break after each bite into the decadent texture of the burger’s interior. Meanwhile, the cheese and relish complement the beef, rather than steal the show. The meal was topped off nicely with a wonderfully sweet $6 root beer float, which uses malted vanilla gelato from a famous Chicago staple, Black Dog Gelato.
It’s hard to validate Bon Appétit’s claim that Au Cheval hands out the “Best New Burger in America”, but it’s certain that this burger is an incredible change of pace. Yes, students have Edzo’s to fall back on, but we definitely recommend Au Cheval as it presents the ultimate factors to satisfy student diners: ease of access, trendy atmosphere and affordability. And in the current food scene where complexity is taking over, Au Cheval uses the ol’ reliable, all the while absolutely crushing it.
Price Range: $$
Address: 800 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (Dinner), Fri, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Lunch); 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (Dinner), Sat, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Brunch); 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (Dinner), Sun, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Brunch); 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. (Dinner)