“See Your Food.” That’s Valois’ motto, and a curious one at that until you realize that it’s a cafeteria, where you have the opportunity to see your food before you order it. And as in all cafeterias, you have to fight back the urge to pile your tray with more food than you can eat.
The folks behind the steam tables have a casual, laconic, seen-it-all manner about them. They know what goes with what and will lead you in the direction of, say, roasted potatoes if you order the short ribs. And those short ribs are amazing, well-browned before a long braising that leaves them in a state of pot roast tenderness. As a matter of fact, a good strategy at Valois is probably to zero in on long-cooked items like those short ribs. Our intuition tells us that the lamb shank with spaghetti, for instance, would be just as good.
The hot sandwiches are bargains at around five dollars. Our hot turkey came with an abundance of broad breast slices next to mashed potatoes and plenty of brown gravy. A grilled cheese sandwich will run you just two-and-a-quarter. Breakfast is particularly popular here. You’ll find all the usual suspects at low, low prices.
As in all cafeterias, not everything is wonderful. We had a pretty drab wedge of lemon cream pie and our late lunch biscuits were dry, hard, and staling. But the pumpkin pie fan among us loved her wedge. The peach cobbler was sweet, goopy, and huge.
Valois has a comfortable, urban, somewhat institutional air about it which we happen to find very appealing. It’s been around since 1921, at this Hyde Park location since the 1950s, with these owners since the late ’60s. The name? You’re in a heartland cafeteria, son, not a Paris bistro. The name rhymes with “the toys”; don’t say val-wha. The clientele is pretty much a cross-section of everyone who typically lives in a big city (and the current president was said to be a breakfast regular — scrambled egg whites, turkey sausage, whole wheat toast –before he relocated to Washington).1518 East 53rd Street Chicago IL 60615 773-667-0647 Valois’ Website Valois on Facebook