THE TOP TEN Burgers in Chicago
Slow down on fast food hamburgers. Whether you enjoy your burger old-school—ground chuck pounded into a patty with tomato, lettuce and onion—or new-wave—Kobe beef topped with foie gras or a turkey burger with avocado and sprouts on a brioche bun—have it your way at one of these Top 10 Burger Restaurants in Chicago, presented in alphabetical order. Do you want fries with that?
Slow down on fast food hamburgers. Whether you enjoy your burger old-school—ground chuck pounded into a patty with tomato, lettuce and onion—or new-wave—Kobe... more
Billy Goat Tavern
430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611 / 312-222-1525
This is one of Chicago's most famous and colorful bars. It’s a funky, no-frills kind of place and a living museum of Chicago journalism. Blowups of columns and bylines of famous writers from days past fill the place. The food is quick, cheap and burger centered (they make a good one, and it’s topped with tasty pickles you’ll want to pile on high). Don’t expect a lot in the way of service; if they’re making triples when you arrive, so be it since that’s what you’ll get. Items like Polish sausage and chicken sandwiches are on the menu as well. A little bit of history: this place is said to have been the inspiration for John Belushi's famous “Cheezebugah, Cheezebugah!” shtick from Saturday Night Live.
164 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611 / 312-938-8700
Some say, and we agree most heartily, that you won’t find many better burgers in Chicago. Plus, the bar-pub atmosphere is perfect for chowing down on one. We just wish that the french fries weren’t of the ho-hum variety. Salads are nothing to get excited about, except for the garbage variety, which has everything except the kitchen sink in it.
24 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603 / 312-372-4243
You can call The Gage many things---a pub, a gourmet dining experience, an after-work hangout, a swanky wine bar---but don’t call it a gastropub. At least not to owner Billy Lawless, a native of County Galway, Ireland, who feels the term often gets misunderstood in the States. Perhaps The Gage’s spot-on combination of creative-yet-recognizable dishes designed by talented chef Dirk Flanigan (Meritage, Blue Water Grill) paired with an impressive bar menu, including interesting wines, craft beers and a large selection of Irish whiskeys and single malts, and a chic-yet-cozy atmosphere can clarify things. Located in an historic building across from Millennium Park---the communal table by the front window offers the best view---this tavern has a menu that offers a variety of dining options. Create a meal from the appetizer list---the fried chicken livers, braised rabbit salad and beef carpaccio with roasted mushrooms are all good ways to start---or choose one of the hearty entrées, including roasted Amish chicken, roast saddle of elk or Guinness-battered fish ‘n’ chips. The house burger made with ground Angus beef topped with local Camembert and onion marmalade is a standout.
7316 Circle Ave., Forest Park, IL 60130 / 708-366-0750
There are times in every epicurean's life when haute cuisine, nouvelle cuisine, unsure cuisine---anything that even hints of gourmet---simply won't do. At these times a really good American burger is the only acceptable thing to eat. Goldyburgers, whose motto is, Never had a bad one, offers a lot of choices in the ground-beef category, any one of which can be satisfying, but the royalbleuburger (sic) is simply sensational. It's a half- pound of ground sirloin that's broiled to perfection, draped with a veneer of blue cheese and slabbed with strips of bacon. The bun fits the burger, and the burger gives fits to our taste buds. If you're even slightly crazy, you might want to give the big daddy a go---it weighs in at three-quarters of a pound. Homemade soup, several variations on the shrimp theme, a Friday fish fry and a bunch of french-fried veggies are as ambitious as the menu gets, but considering that this is just a neighborhood bar, that's ambitious enough for us.
Hackney's on Harms
1241 Harms Rd., Glenview, IL 60025 / 847-724-5577
Though several other sandwiches are tried-and-true tasty possibilities, it would be a mistake to forego the half-pound hackneyburger, a marvel of juicy, quality beef topped with mellow cheddar and laid between home-baked dark rye. This beauty is escorted by fine fries, which are sweet tasting and perfectly al dente every time. But to gild the lily, order Hackney's original french-fried onion rings, a crispy, crunchy loaf of onions that will leave you breathless. On Thursday, pass on the burgers and have the corned beef and cabbage. This quaint little spot is over 50 years old and is still going strong. Majestic silver poplars make the summer patio especially appealing; inside is a cozy bar with friendly bartenders who you'll get to know, since there's usually a wait for a table.
646 N. Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60610 / 312-467-4287
If Hop Haus didn’t refer to its burgers as “gourmet,” we’re sure we would like them better. They’re not bad burgers, mind you---there are even some out-of-the-ordinary ingredients to be found---it’s just that they don't live up to that moniker. Take for example the lamb burger. While the juicy patty is generously topped with feta, the bland accompanying string beans disappoint. So do the so-called “delicious” french fries, a sacrilege for a burger joint. The selection of 20 burgers do offer a variety of options---creative types can build their own from the list of 26 toppings, including 12 cheeses---and we appreciate the well-thought-out beer pairings listed with each.
5910 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660 / 773-275-2696
With dark-wood walls, wood tables and booths, a big bar and a jukebox, Moody's evokes memories of pubs you used to crawl your way through in college days. The only update is the big-screen TV. The menu lists a steak sandwich and a couple kinds of steaks and chicken. But burgers are the thing here: half-pounders made with quality beef and cooked exactly as ordered, more often than not arriving buried under a mound of crispy, hand-cut Idaho fries. You’ll also find sizeable salads as well as fried shrimp. There’s a fun drink menu, too, with options like the Moodymama, a rum-laced concoction with coconut, orange and pineapple juices.
2050 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614 / 773-929-5363
It hasn't changed a bit over the last few decades. In fact, it's little more than a small bar, rather hard booths and a few tables. Pictures of employees past and present adorn the walls, as does work by Peter Max. It was a funky place back in the '70s, and it still is. The home of the original salad bar, along with some of the best burgers in town, this is a Grateful Dead kind of place that's still very much alive. When it comes to burgers, we head for the number with fried onions and blue cheese on top---after downing a mound of wings. Don't expect anything even close to fine dining (many of the menu items are served in a basket or a beer tray) and you won't be disappointed.
501 N. Ogden Ave., Chicago, IL 60622 / 312-666-1500
This quasi-biker's hangout is rather rough around the edges (and intentionally so), but its hamburgers are among the best in the city. Juicy, big and tasty, they’re best washed down with a meal-in-itself Road Rash Mary, a condiment-loaded bloody Mary that comes with a beer chaser. Other finds (all solid) include a massive fried egg sandwich on thick-cut rye, barbecue Kobe beef brisket and falafel. In the summer months, you can sit at one of the umbrella tables on the roof and watch half of Chicago pass by.
524 W. State St., Geneva, IL 60134 / 630-262-0100
Bob and Jeanette DiPasquantonio, who live in the day trip-friendly town of Geneva, are clearly onto something with their ever-packed, casual-upscale burger joint that’s steps from the shopping district. Avocado- and butter-colored walls, flagstone accents and leather furnishings do exude a swanky, sophisticated vibe---we’re just not totally convinced it’s Chicago they invoke. Still, people are lapping up the concept (and the designer burgers). Start with the shrimp Alyx appetizer (or get it as an entrée); the crunchy breaded crustaceans reside in a pool of hauntingly good citrus cream sauce. Fried pickles with spicy ranch sauce are a good way to go, too, as long as you don’t mind paying about 75-cents a pop. Artisanal burgers---choose from beef, turkey, organic veggie, salmon or chicken breast---are topnotch on a chewy white roll with toppings like Brie, a fried egg, roasted poblano peppers or chimichurri sauce. Creative sandwiches, salads and wood-grilled pizzas are generally solid, too.
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