With its tremendous reputation, tiny space (just 1,400-square-feet), and no reservation policy, Au Cheval is one of the more difficult seats to snag in Chicago. After failing to score a table without a tortuously long wait several evenings in a row, I decided that dining right when the doors opened at 11 AM was my best bet. Sure enough, I was seated without a hitch at that early an hour.
Opened in 2012 by restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff (Gilt Bar, Doughnut Vault, Maude’s Liquor Bar, Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf), Au Cheval is the quintessential upscale diner. Sodikoff and Executive Chef Jason Vaughan (L20, A16) have dreamed up a sensational menu featuring updated diner classics and globally-influenced fare. The execution is phenomenal, surprising and delighting diners at every turn.
Joining The Astronomer and me for our super-early lunch was our friend Britta. More bellies means more smiles and more food—everyone wins!
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I’ve got a thing for fancy diners, so I made time to visit two of Chicago’s best while in town.
First up, a late brunch at Chef Stephanie Izard‘s Little Goat. I’d dined at her more formal Girl & the Goat on a previous trip and had a ball—Pig Face, anyone? I expected nothing less than a stupendous time at her latest venture.
Opened in 2012, Little Goat serves done-up American diner classics with a smattering of new school hits. Like Girl & the Goat, the diner is perpetually packed. The Astronomer and I waited 25 minutes for two seats to open up at half past three on a Sunday afternoon.
Even though I was slightly annoyed with the wait, Little Goat’s sunny interior, full of natural light, bright accents, and happy diners, made it difficult for my frown to stick around.
Twas impossible to stay upset with this cute little goat face staring back at me.
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It is a tradition among my food blogging friends, especially those dining in and around the San Gabriel Valley, to sip milk tea following late night meals. Chewy tapioca balls are a common add on, but usually my company prefers their drinks straight up and fully caffeinated. While a post-dinner milk tea is perfectly lovely, I’d like to propose a new ritual that’s equally sweet, social, and local: hot fudge sundaes at Twohey’s Restaurant in Alhambra.
Twohey’s (pronounced “2EE’s”) has been around the San Gabriel Valley since 1943. The restaurant’s symbol, a gentleman with a clothes pin pinching his nose and tears running down his cheeks, is known as “The Little Stinko-O.” It was trademarked by the restaurant’s founder Jack Twohey upon overhearing a woman exclaim, “Oh, Stink-O,” when a patron seated next to her was served a hamburger garnished generously with onions and pickles. True story.
The Astronomer and I have driven past Twohey’s florescent-lit “Little Stinko-O” sign hundreds of times over the years, but it wasn’t until Jonathan Gold mentioned the restaurant’s famous hot fudge sundaes in an old column that I had any desire to check it out. Following last Friday night’s pho feast at Noodle Guy, it was finally time to put my curiosities to rest.
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Down home meals prepared with local ingredients and served in hip but homey settings are a Seattle specialty, so The Astronomer and I found ourselves eating plenty of American comfort food during our stay.
After such thoroughly satisfying meals at both Local 360 and Steelhead Diner, we did not hesitate to seek out another upscale diner experience. This time, we headed to Capitol Hill’s Skillet Diner for lunch.
Skillet Diner began as a mobile food trailer called Skillet Street Food, which was launched by Chef Josh Henderson in 2007. The trailer garnered a passionate following throughout the Pacific Northwest serving American comfort food prepared with classic technique and seasonal ingredients.
The brick and mortar restaurant, which opened in spring 2011, serves the same kind of easygoing fare that resonated with fans of the mobile establishment.
The Astronomer and I grabbed two seats along the counter which peered into the restaurant’s open kitchen. We worked up quite a sweat trekking from downtown to Capitol Hill, so we were pleased as pie to be greeted with a bottle of chilled water and ready mason jar glasses.
Continue reading ‘Skillet Diner & High 5 Pie – Seattle’