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Small Cheval

Restaurants, Hamburgers Wicker Park
3 out of 5 stars
Small Cheval
Photograph: Kevin J. Miyazaki Small Cheval

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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The most famous burger in the city is now available in Bucktown.

Six months after opening Roxie’s by the Slice, restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff shuttered the pizza joint and reopened it as Small Cheval. As the name implies, it’s an offshoot of Au Cheval, and the menu is inspired by the restaurant’s most famous item—the cheeseburger. This isn’t the exact same burger, but enumerating the differences feels like splitting hairs. It’s a little smaller and $1 cheaper. You can add bacon (it’s thinner than at Au Cheval), and lettuce and tomato, though the burger doesn’t need them. The super-thin patties themselves don’t add much flavor, but the perfectly melted cheese, Dijon, onion, pickles and puffy bun add up to a delicious combination.

To get it, you’ll need to wait in line, which snakes outside the restaurant. At 8pm on a Wednesday, it took 20 minutes to reach the counter and 20 more for the food to be ready. Servers on the patio will fetch extra drinks, but you pick up your food at the counter. Forty minutes isn’t outrageous—it’s much shorter than peak-Au Cheval waits, but longer than lunch or late-night, when you can easily get a seat.

But here’s the main difference between the two places: Au Cheval does many things well beyond the burger, but Small Cheval does not. The cocktails are watery but expensive. The only other food is fries, and they have the texture of cardboard. You can partially redeem them with a swipe through garlic aioli, an Au Cheval export that’s better than the Sir Kensington’s condiments available. If you only want a burger, you’ll be fine, but for a better overall experience, stick with Au Cheval.

Vitals

Atmosphere: With a full patio and interior space, it’s pretty lively. It’s directly under the path of the Blue Line, so it’s a little noisy, but this isn’t the sort of spot you’ll want to spend all day like Parson’s Chicken & Fish.

What to eat: Cheeseburger ($9.95).

What to drink: The drink list includes shakes, beers and cocktails, and a server helpfully takes drink orders while you wait in line. We ordered the old-fashioned and a double chocolate martini, both of which are dispensed on draft and served in plastic cups with ice and a maraschino cherry. They’re weak and watered down, and, as we realized when we entered the restaurant and saw the menu, $12. The drinks are insulting, given that most Sodikoff restaurants serve great cocktails (the painkiller at Au Cheval is especially good). Go for a cheap beer, like $3 draft PBRs and $4 Coors Banquet Beer, instead.

Where to sit: You can sit inside, but the patio is the obvious choice, at least while it’s nice.

Details

Address: 1732 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago
60647
Transport: El: Blue line to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72.
Contact:
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-midnight, kitchen closed between 3-5pm
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