The first time I ever tried chilaquiles was in Sayulita, a small surfing town on Mexico's west coast. My Spanish was wobbly, so I didn't exactly know what I was getting in to when I pointed at the word on the menu, but I do know that I've been hooked on the stuff ever since. So when I heard about the late-night Chilaquiles (17.95) at Au Cheval, I knew I needed to stay up past my bedtime to see what all the fuss what about.
'au cheval' on Serious Eats
Regardless of whether you devour dips with gusto or just want a tiny bit to complement your fried fare, there's no shortage of options around town, ranging from fudge desserts to mayo packed with Indian flavors.
I scoured the city for superlative examples. And without any strong expectations, I came away very impressed by the variety and quality of muffins Chicago's bakeries, diners, and cafés are turning out.
Few breakfasts excite me more than chilaquiles. While some people head straight for the maple syrup or all of the bacon and eggs in the morning, I crave spice and acid to help wake me up, and this dish gets that done like few others can.
In Chicago, cheese fries are more than a dish you consume after a night out. Whether this is related to Chicago's hot dog stand culture or that chefs here like to elevate simple dishes, I don't know. But I do know that you can find a very wide range of cheese fries here.
Now, we love Southern-style fried chicken, with its crispy and well seasoned crust, but we also know that numerous other cuisines have their own equally delicious way with the bird.
While devouring the largest, lightest, and airiest matzoh ball I've ever faced at Au Cheval last night, it finally dawned on me that Chicago is in the midst of something of a Jewish food wave.
I'll repeat what I've said in the past: in terms of sweets, Chicago is a blessed city. In no particular order—because it was hard enough to pick my favorites—here are my top ten for the year.
Is it just us, or are late night food cravings absolute and odd? Sure, after a few drinks any food becomes a good idea. But for whatever reason, only very specific dishes start sounding unreasonably perfect.
Every once in a while you come across a sandwich that so grabs your attention that you wonder whether you'd ever want to eat anything else. We asked all of our contributors to pick out their favorite sandwich in Chicago, and the picks are as diverse as you'd expect, from gut-busting behemoths to nicely proportioned ones.
Welcome to National Sandwich Month at Serious Eats Chicago! For the next four weeks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at the best bites between two slices of bread. First up are the best looking sandwiches we've eaten so far in 2012.
Every few weeks, we love to check in with chefs or food personalities in Chicago to see where they are eating in the neighborhoods they actually live in. Last time, Heather Terhune showed us around Lincoln Square. Now it's time for Justin Large to select his favorite spots around the West Loop.
Bologna is not a food with fond memories for me. Which is why it is so surprising that the Fried House Made Bologna Sandwich at Au Cheval is one of the messiest, most delicious sandwiches I've eaten in ages. It doesn't rely on a nostalgic food memory. It's good enough to create its own craving on the spot.
Put an Egg on It was born out of a very simple question: do all foods taste better with an egg on them? As far as savory courses are concerned, the answer seems to be almost a definite yes. (Very unscientific calculations were in the 99 percent range.) It doesn't matter if the egg is fried, poached, or cooked in a thousand dollar sous vide machine, that plump yolk—which should slowly erupt like molten lava—improves just about everything it touches.
It's not hard to notice Brendan Sodikoff's influence on Au Cheval. The diner influence is a little more difficult to make out, but you can see glimpses of it in the classic comfort food on the menu, the counter that faces a line of chefs at the griddle, and in the easygoing but knowledgeable servers.