Elevated Diner Classics | 30+ International Beers | Housemade Bologna | Duck-Heart Gravy
Where to Sit: Slide a stool up to the polished zinc bar, where you can look in on the kitchen and watch chefs work their magic atop the griddle.
When to Go: Dine before 3 p.m. on the weekends to sample the chefs’ unique takes on brunch fare, like housemade granola and specially made mimosas.
The Vibe: Taking cues from classic diners and pedestrian brasseries, Au Cheval’s hip take on greasy spoons features exposed brick, antique-style light fixtures, oversized mirrors, and ceramic tiles shaped like bowties.
Behind the Name: In French, the name “Au Cheval” translates to “on horseback,” at least within most contexts. But once you enter a kitchen, the phrase takes on a new meaning: a dish with a fried egg on top. Au Cheval’s chefs certainly live up to that definition, since they put fried eggs atop a large portion of their menu.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Tour the ever-changing gallery space at Elephant Room (704 S. Wabash Avenue), which showcases under-represented artists in the Chicago area.
After: Grab drinks and play games of giant jenga at Clover (722 W. Grand Avenue).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Head to Dillman’s (354 W. Hubbard Street), another brasserie-style restaurant (with a focus on classic deli fare) helmed by Au Cheval’s owner, Brendan Sodikoff.
Over the past four decades, Starbucks has bloomed from a single coffee shop in Seattle's Pike Place Market to more than 17,000 stores responsible for caffeinating 55 countries. The company’s smiling, green-aproned baristas have become the mascots of many people’s morning routine, pouring cups of dark, medium, and blonde roast for coffee purists and adding shots of caramel or white chocolate to more elaborate espresso creations and treats such as a Frappuccino blended beverage.
Concerned with more than flavour, Starbucks strives to fill its menu with responsibly sourced coffee, cocoa, and tea that protect the farmers and bioregions they come from. These efforts have earned the company a spot on Ethisphere's 2013 list of the world's most ethical companies.
A broad range of Italian and American classics fill out a Teena Mia's menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. Rich cups of Lavazza coffee accompany breakfasts such as stacks of pancakes drizzled with maple syrup and fried-egg sandwiches stacked with bacon, ham, or sausage. Their pizzas carry legions of toppings such as sausage, pineapple, jalapeños, and zucchini on a bed of melted shredded cheese. Customers can build their own pasta dishes by pairing their choice of noodle with rich marinara, alfredo, or vodka sauces or by hiring an architect to draft some blueprints on phyllo dough.
It’s rush hour at Ogilvie Transportation Center, and from the Canal Street entrance, you have a great view of late commuters sprinting to catch their train. For those who have a few minutes to spare, however, the long concourse offers more than a ride out to the suburbs. Explorers who follow the Chicago French Market’s red and blue sign will find the cute French café—Le Cafe du Marche.
Helmed by the owner of the popular restaurant, Bistro Voltaire, Le Cafe du Marche offers decadent French café fare, including housemade quiche, organic soups, and tuna niçoise and duck-confit sandwiches. The menu, which mirrors classic dishes from the cafés of France, is no doubt more casual than its parent restaurant. However, the attention to detail remains unchanged between the two establishments—chefs manually torch the sugar atop each housemade crème brûlée.
At each of Buffalo Wild Wings’ 825 locations, big-screen televisions blast sports games above tables loaded with sauce-slathered wings and apps. Dressed in a choice of signature sauces and dry seasonings such as teriyaki or mango habanero, the wings complement a selection of frothy beers and Coca-Cola soft drinks. Flatbreads sprinkled with toppings such as artichoke hearts and parmesan cheese crisp in an oven, and handheld options include burgers, wraps, and sandwiches. For mealtime entertainment, Buzztime game boxes challenge diners to answer trivia questions, such as which U.S. Congressional races are traditionally decided by chili cook-off.
“Japonais is a culinary experience that blends immense enjoyment with sturdy savoir faire,” declared former Chicago Sun-Times food critic Pat Bruno, writing of the sleek Asian eatery near the edge of the Chicago River. While one coexecutive chef, Jun Ichikawa, lends his expertise to the sushi side of the restaurant’s menu, the other, Gene Kato, designs its selection of hot plates. Together, they churn out traditional and modern dishes—such as the house-specialty Kobe prime rib and Le Quack Japonais, a house-smoked duck slathered in hoisin sauce and mango chutney—whose appeal led Condé Nast to name their establishment one of the top 66 restaurants in the world. Ingredients from both surf and turf star at the sushi bar, which serves options such as spicy king-crab nigiri and a Crazy Veggie roll that insists on wearing its lab coat and goggles at all times. As selections emerge from the kitchen, says Bruno, “the presentations … are elegant … the shapes and swoops of the plates are a feast for the eyes.” The two dining rooms at Japonais meld industrial Japanese design with a touch of European richness. Squares of gold velvet frame an oversize mirror that hangs over the Red Room, the restaurant’s more formal dining space. Across the hall, the Green Room’s slate-and-brick fireplace and whimsical tree centerpieces that occasionally don sweatpants add to its more relaxed atmosphere. Wavy ceiling panels and Lucite chandeliers accentuate the high ceilings that unite the two spaces, hanging over a staircase that leads downstairs to the riverwalk café. There, sheer drapery panels frame views of the Chicago River for those seated on pillow-laden couches and chairs. As they lounge, guests can sip specialty cocktails or enlist the top-shelf liquors to help them win gargling contests against the river.