The French Way to Diner

Comfort food with an accent at Au Cheval
Au Cheval
The salad and the diner-style kitchen at Au Cheval (photos: Au Cheval)

If there was ever a classic American diner salad, we'd wager it's the wedge.

But at the new, diner-inspired Au Cheval, salad is a gorgeously Francophile dish. Its layers of lettuce are piled high, studded with endive and parsley, and dressed in mustardy preserved-lemon vinaigrette ($7).

Much of the rest of Au Cheval also nods to Gallic tradition. The counter is a long zinc bar, and the booths are made of tufted leather. Fries are gilded with Mornay sauce, aioli and a fried egg ($9), and potato hash is draped with duck-heart gravy ($10).

On a recent visit, the omelet du jour ($11) was a knockout, with triple-cream blue cheese, darkly caramelized onions and sautéed spinach enveloped in a silken fold of local eggs.

Not every menu item, though, is French-inflected. The mayonnaise-sauced burger is, to our taste, pitch-perfect. General Jane's fried chicken ($16.50), for example, is exactly as it sounds. The Chinatown homage is made with bone-in chicken thighs, and the leftovers are excellent cold, straight from the fridge. Another unexpected dish--saucy, Mexican chilaquiles ($14)--is only offered after midnight.  

No matter the time of day, dessert is requisite--specifically, the mille-feuille, a six-inch stack of puff pastry and mounds of vanilla-scented pastry cream.

Au Cheval, 800 W. Randolph St.; 312-929-4580 or aucheval.tumblr.com

Au Cheval 800 W. Randolph St. Chicago IL 60607
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