For those of you who don’t know, my name is Reema. I am college senior at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN pursuing a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. However, my personal hobbies and interests lie far from the world of math and physics. I love traveling, photography and FOOD.
Chicago is two and a half hours away from where I live, and since ya’ll have the airport, visiting the windy city is almost a necessity. I love to board Amtrak on random weekends and just walk through the city for my own leisure, or sometimes hop on the wagon with a couple of friends. Anything to get away from school, believe me.
After hearing the horrifying news of the closing of The Counter, and having Kuma’s overcooked, dry pretzel bun burgers scrape down my esophagus, I ventured out to hunt down Chi town’s best burger wonders, and it is not an easy feat, mind you! Here is my list of Chicago’s best burgers – a full insight of what is great and not-so-great about them (my opinion of course). I hope you enjoy reading about them as I much as I enjoyed gnawing on them.
GRANGE HALL BURGER BAR
Let me put it this way – This place is a DREAM! There are three things that make a great burger – the bun, the meat, the cooking. And Grange Hall Burger Bar hits all three spot on. The environment is absolutely amazing, with rustic style chairs and plaid napkins that don’t match. Old bronze cutlery and sprigs of lemons and cucumbers in the water. I felt like I had stepped in to heaven. Even though I visited during the morning and had a limited choice on the burger menu, “delighted” is a huge understatement as to what I felt.
The waitress was kind enough to let me build a burger of my own out of the three burger choices available on the breakfast menu. While my friends went for the Ultimate, I brought in garlic aioli, arugala and a grass fed patty together. I was practically all over the menu, but my order was prepared with perfection, which was SUCH a huge relief for a picky eater like me! The bun was a scrumptiously dusted with sesame and poppy seeds. It was firm but not dry, and I could tell it was fresh. The meat is grass-fed and has just the right amount of fat in it to produce divine juicy-ness. The burger was cooked to absolute perfection and the cheese just melted in the mouth. The sauces that came on the side were unique and I could tell they were prepared in-house. I guzzled my burger down with a glass of fresh orange juice, and closed my eyes in a state of Nirvana. Definitely my favorite place!
DMK BURGER BAR
This burger joint along Sheffield avenue is one of a kind. Dishing out grass fed beef and a bun that does not resemble a pretzel, I was super excited to pay a visit. I went during the afternoon, right after lunch time, and the place was not too crowded, but then again it’ s easy to get a single seat at the bar than a full table. The eatery is mostly packed with people who live around the area. I ordered myself a number two, with chili rubbed onion strings, amish bleu cheese and chipotle ketchup.
The burger was cooked perfectly. The quality of beef was beyond words and almost melted in my mouth. I particularly liked the bun, which was fresh and baked in-house. However, I would’ve preferred if it was a little softer on the outside. There was pure generosity with the onion straws (which happen to be my favorite burger topping). My only issue was the excessive amount of sauce laden on the burger. While there is no doubt that it was absolutely delicious, the sauce slightly overpowered the taste of the beef with it’s tanginess. Having said that, the burger was nevertheless an absolute miracle in the mouth, and DMK is definitely a place I intend to visit again and again and again. Of course next time I’ll ask for my sauces on the side :)!
OWEN AND THE ENGINE
This classic British-inspired restaurant on Western avenue is dishing out a burger that is probably Chicago’s best kept secret. The restaurant is absolutely gorgeous, with dark wood tables and booths and a classic bar. In a way, walking in here will remind you of old England. The restaurant has a menu that is inspired by English cuisine, and if you are a fan of tea, you bet you will be served a piping hot fresh cup in some of the most Victorian-looking crockery that exists in this era. The restaurant only has one burger on it’s menu, called the Slagel Farm Beef Burger and it anything but insufficient.
This burger is not for the faint hearted, for it brings together the world of indulgence and flavor right in your mouth. The burger patty is ground in house, and is a unique blend of 40% ground beef, 30% short rib, and 30% brisket. The potato bun is an absolute dream – soft and fluffy absorbing all the juicy goodness of the thick burger in it. The burger comes with a topping of caramelized onions that I skipped. The potato chips are hands down the best I have ever had. Soft in the center but crispy on the outside with just the right amount of salt. Dip them in the divine garlic mayonnaise that comes along in the dish and fly straight to heaven! My only complaint about this burger was the feeble, under-sized bun, which seemed to simply surrender to the mammoth-like goodness of the patty. The meat is also very greasy and can easily spread all across your face. On the bright side, the burger is huge and will satisfy all levels of hunger. It is nothing short of a treat!
An hour and a half before my train back to Purdue, I found myself wondering if I should take the bus to Milwaukee avenue and fetch this burger, or go straight home. I chose the latter, and without regret. Paramount Room is a very trendy little lounge on Milwaukee avenue. While the eatery dishes out other amazing entrees like fish and chips, fried chicken and what not, the wagyu burger is unparalleled to all. I particularly love their “No crap on tap” policy, and no doubt the beer selection is quite fine!
The wagyu burger obviously incorporates the finest quality of meat, that simply melts in your mouth. The bun is dense, but goes well with the thick stubby wagyu patty. The burger is like a magnified version of a slider, and is very simple. Since it was a wagyu burger I asked for a medium rare and was very pleased to see that gorgeous red center to it. The patty is seasoned with some sort of Italian seasoning (oregano or basil perhaps) which slightly put me off, but if you are a fan of herbs, you will thoroughly enjoy this burger. I read a lot about how famous their tempura fried green beans are, and so I ordered a side with my burger. Though they lacked seasoning the texture was amazing, and the sauce complimented the both the beans and the burger well. I packed half this burger and took it back home, and it tasted even better after taking a “medium cooked” form after I microwaved it (a sin, I know!). Over all the experience was great and this place is definitely worth a visit!
Right across the North/Clybourn red line station lies Burger Bar, a chic burger spot I was very excited to try. I must say the location is absolutely amazing, and I spent most of my time trying to bring the skyline in to focus. The area is buzzing with eateries and is just so busy and lively, it warms my heart. In the midst of it all, if you happen to have a burger craving, Burger Bar will open it’s doors wide for you.
To put it in as few words as possible, I’d say this – If you love your burgers laden with toppings, Burger Bar is your place. They are piling heaps of toppings on your burger and serving them up really well. When my burger arrived, the grease-loving monster inside me fainted with joy. I munched on the pile of onion strings like a greedy kid and savored the burger while I was at it. The bun is great and nicely sized for the patty, and overall the burger is very decently sized. Make sure you ask for their house sauce (it is amazing!). My only issue with the burger was the quality of meat. Even though Burger Bar claims to dish out grass fed beef patties, the texture of the ground was very rubber-ish. The burger was overcooked beyond medium and had no pink center at all. Once again, sauces and toppings came to the save. My advice – if you like em’ piled high, go here.
THE BAD APPLE
If you are wondering what good a place named after a rotten fruit can do, a visit to The Bad Apple will revive your senses. Much like the name itself, the burgers are thick, mean and behaving bad. I went during the afternoon and was greeted by a host who fetched us a table promptly. The interior was a little dim and dark for my taste but I guess the devilish coasters and corked glass water bottles really brought my spirits up.
I ordered The Bad Apple Burger and at first glance felt satisfied. The quality of meat was good, but I would’ve enjoyed it better if there was more (or any) seasoning. The medium burger I ordered came to my table well under-cooked, with a deep raw red center. The toppings and sauce were, however great and so were the fresh house fries, both of which I believe made a great save for my meal as I ate my burger around the edges. I was a little sad, but this place definitely has potential, mostly because when I microwaved my leftover half at home, it was simply amazing! I would suggest ordering a notch above the degree you want your burger cooked (i.e. ask for medium well if you want medium) since the patties are so thick, and keep those salt and pepper shakers close.
BUTCHER AND THE BURGER
I headed over to this little Burger shack earlier in the day on my birthday weekend. The place is painted red hot and black, and is very trendy with bar stools and wooden table-tops. The staff is very friendly and the cashier recommended I get the Chicago seasoning on my burger. Since I was their first customer of the day I got a topping of avocados for free (sweet, I know).
I was ecstatic when the burger appeared before me. The thing comes on a wooden board with your own personal serrated steak knife to cut right through it! The bun is very fresh and moist. However, the burger itself was satisfactory at max. The meat tasted good as it was grass fed and was also cooked perfectly with a slight pink center, but something about its firm texture put me off. The patty was not soft as the burger does not have enough fat, and hence it did not give me the chewy yet melt in your mouth experience I was craving. The seasoning, for which the staff claims the place is famous, was also quite over-powering and did not sit well with me. Even though Butcher and The Burger was my least favorite burger spot in the Chi town, I still believe it is possible to fetch a good burger from there if you skip on the seasoning and maybe gamble a little with your luck. Happy Burger hunting!