It's all about the humble egg at restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff's latest venture, the "diner" concept Au Cheval ("on horseback" in French), where you can get foie gras with scrambled eggs ($18), frites with a fried egg ($9), lyonnaise salad with an egg topper ($12.50) and a ham sandwich with, yes, more egg ($13).

We put "diner" in quotes because, as the spot's chicly cramped, romantically dim interior attests, this is no Denny's. And after a certain number of visits to its sister establishments--Maude's, Gilt and The Doughnut Vault--we've learned what to expect: delicious, Frenchified food...and crowds.

Go early (hours at this diner are dinner-only; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesdays through Sundays) to snag a stool at the counter and become mesmerized by the sight of a cook grilling you up a juicy cheeseburger with a buttery, slightly crunchy bun (the two-patty "single" is $10; the three-patty "double" is $12).

If you're going all-out with friends, charm (or wait) your way into a tufted leather booth, order the 32-ounce pork porterhouse ($39), sip a puckery Horse's Neck cocktail (rye, lemon, ginger beer, bitters; $9) and take notes about which songs from the groovy soundtrack you'll be downloading at home.

It's confirmed: Sodikoff's a whiz at creating the place to be. He's not bad with an egg, either.

Au Cheval, 800 W. Randolph St.; 312-929-4580 or

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