Photo by Food Photographer David Fedulov on Unsplash
What food do you think of when you think of Chicago? In most people's mind, Chicago food is synonymous with hotdogs, deep dish pizza, or even Garrett's popcorn. There is the iconic Willis Tower, also still called the Sears Tower by many stubborn locals, and the famous bean structure in Millenium park. Everywhere around the area you can see street vendors selling Chicago dogs or walk a few blocks to the closest Giordano's or Lou Malnati's.
Despite all the competition for what food truly represents Chicago, the burger joints in Chicago are some of the best in the entire country. The top two of which are Au Cheval and Billy Goat Tavern.
Au Cheval has been praised by many critics from the Food Network, Eater, Bon Appetit, and Forbes to be the "best burger in the country" and the locals do not hesitate to say the same.
This burger joint is an establishment that takes a slightly elevated approach to the classic diner style bar and restaurant. They put a heavy emphasis on eggs with a wide variety of dishes including roasted bone marrow, chicken liver, and, of course, their famed signature cheeseburger. The kitchen and chefs at Au Cheval truly make the most of a huge selection of fresh ingredients such as foie gras and pork belly.
If you decide to visit Au Cheval make sure to show up several hours in advance as the seating at this diner is all first come first serve and not open to reservations. In the busier days of the week the wait can stretch upwards of three or four hours. There is also seating alongside the bar which might open up faster but will still have a hefty wait time.
You can find Au Cheval at this location: 800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
If long wait times sound like a nightmare to you, the same establishment has several other smaller locations which serve the same food albeit with slightly less options to choose from. These different locations also have a slightly different name: Small Cheval.
You can find Small Cheval at any of the following locations:
1732 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
1345 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610
150 N Riverside Plaza, Chicago, IL 60606 (Temporarily Closed as of 3/24/2021)
Billy Goat Tavern
The Billy Goat Tavern is another one of Chicago's well loved food establishments. The original tavern was created back in 1934 when the founder had purchased the tavern for a few hundred dollars. The original location was right across the Chicago Stadium or the United Center as it is now called. The establishment was not actually called the Billy Goat Tavern until a few years later when a goat fell off a truck that was driving by and accidentally walked into the tavern. The founder took the goat in and gained the nickname Billy Goat and then chose to change the name of the establishment to the Billy Goat Tavern.
One of the most familiar sounds of any regulars or locals will hear is the "Cheezborger Cheezborger Cheezborger" of the workers at the Billy Goat Tavern. The founder was Greek and his habit of shouting out "Cheezborger" would be immortalized into the current day. These cheeseburgers are also said to be some of the best in Chicago. They have captured the love of many with their kaiser rolls, paper thin patties, pickles, and suprising lack of lettuce and tomatoes. The running joke is that the goat had eaten all the lettuce and tomatoes that were in stock.
You can find the Billy Goat Tavern in many locations around Chicago but the original is here: Lower, 430 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611