Isn’t it funny that J’s favorite restaurant is a steak house? Here’s a place that celebrates steak yet J can’t stand the site of a medium rare piece of meat. Funny. We got back to J’s parents on Friday after a long day of shopping…yes, we got up for Black Friday sales and I got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. J got a new coat that she’s been wanting for a while and my mom saved hundreds of dollars on Christmas presents. After a nap, we headed back to Chicago where J’s mom said she was craving Al’s Char-House. J and I were talking about going there the other night but decided on BBQ instead. Once J’s mom got off work, we loaded up and headed to LaGrange for dinner.
Al’s Char-House is in downtown LaGrange which is beautiful. The area is a model for new urbanism with a number of restaurants, shops, and condos. We parked in a surface lot a couple blocks from the restaurant and walked. It gave us an opportunity to check out some of the other store fronts downtown. Al’s shares a building with a Mexican restaurant. When you walk in, your confronted with the choice of going straight ahead to the Mexican place or take a quick left and go down a flight of stairs to Al’s Char-House. The staircase going down is covered pictures of Western idols and memorabilia.
Al’s Char-House is a mix of Southwest and Old West. Being in the basement, there are no windows, but it’s not something that’s noticeable. We showed up on a Friday night around 8:00. My girlfriends parents were worried that the place was going to be full so we called ahead to get our name on the waiting list. When we got there, we found that wasn’t necessary. There were a number of people eating, but the restaurant is huge. The design is interesting. You walk to the different dining rooms on what almost feels like a catwalk. There are a number of dining rooms off the main walkway, but you have to either go up or down a step. We were shown to a booth in the back of the restaurant. It wasn’t the typical two people on either side booth. It was one of those u-shaped booths instead. J and her mom scooted in to the inside while her step dad and I took a seat on the wings. One of the most interesting decor features was the seat backs in the booths. Instead of cheap, plastic backing, they had real throw pillows. Those pillows could come in handy for an in between course nap.
Our waiter came over for drinks and since it was a Friday night, we all went with liquor. J also put in an order for cheese fries. J’s step dad and I both ordered beers. I got a Bud Light, he got a Miller Light. J and her mom both ordred a Texas Sunset which the house favorite. The huge bowl shaped glass consists of champaign, peach schnapps, and rum as a base. The rest of the drink is a secret. it’s a frozen drink and J let me take a taste. It was ok, but I’ll stick with beer.
The cheese fries came up and I thought they were going to be a meal on their own. A huge mound of steak fries is served with Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese, bacon, and a spicy ranch dressing. The appetizer was for the table, but J and I put a pretty good dent in it with me doing the most damage. No one told me they usually take half of the appetizer home. The spicy ranch dressing was sooooo good. I was scooping up bacon and cheese and just trying to get a little more. Finally, I gave in and finished off the plate.
I’m thinking there may have been a camera on us for the kitchen. They were really good about serving up the next course at just the right time. As I was taking the last bite of the fries, the waiter came out with our salads. J’s step dad and I both had side salads with our entrees. J ordered Pa’s Garden Salad to split with her mom. The side salads were served on small tin plates that had been chilled. The salad was a typical side salad with leaf lettuce, tomato, carrots, and black bread croutons. We both got Italian dressing. J’s salad was much bigger and the waiter brought two plates and tongs for J. The tossed greens came with cucumbers, tomato, carrots, onion, Cheddar cheese, croutons and the same black bread croutons. Between the two of them, they probably didn’t eat a quarter before giving up and getting it boxed to go. J’s salad came with a piece of garlic bread and there was raisin black bread for the table which we barely touched.
The waiter came for our salad plates and gave us a few minutes to digest. I was already stuffed and ready for a nap. A few minutes later, our entrees came up. I ordered a sandwich which sounded delicious. It was called a Filet Bleu sandwich. The idea was a sandwich of tender medallions of filet Mignon topped with bleu cheese on a garlic french roll. It sounded great on paper. When it was set down in front of me, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was expecting sliced steak or something, but this was a big piece of filet. The sandwich was sectioned into four quarters and skewered with a tooth pick to keep it together. I picked up the first quarter and bit into it, but it was really tough to eat as a sandwich. I had to rip the meat caveman style with my teeth, so I quickly abandoned that method and switched to a knife and fork. With the knife and fork method, it was really hard to keep the bread in the picture, so I went to plan of attack 3 and just ate the meat. The meat by itself was delicious with the bleu cheese. It was a great cut of steak. It was just a little too hard to eat as a sandwich. The sandwich came with steak fries, but since I had the cheese fries, I only ate a few. I was stuffed. Again, no one told me they usually take home half of their entrees. I was the only one that finished.
J and her mom split the BBQ chicken. They got two huge boneless chicken breasts covered in a sweet BBQ. They each ate about half of their chicken before giving up and getting a box. The chicken was nice and tender and the BBQ was great.
J’s step dad ordered the Char-Burger Plus. He got a humongous sandwich of with a large hamburger patty, lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickles. He was smart knowing he wouldn’t eat all of the sandwich, he cut it in half before starting.
The waiter noticed we all looked defeated and came over to see if we were finished. He took my plate away then took the other two plates to be boxed up. I had totally forgotten about the salad J had boxed up until he came back with three to go boxes and the check. The check was just over $100. In my head, I was trying to figure out why it cost so much considering J and her mom split an entree, but we did have five drinks and the salad J got could be considered an entree on it’s own. Al’s Char-House was amazing. The atmosphere is great and it’s a comfortable place to have nice family meal. It’s a typical steak house for those looking for that, but it can also be a nice, quiet night out if that’s what you’re looking for. J had been talking about Al’s forever and I’m glad I finally got a chance to see what all the hype it was about. The hype was deserved.