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