Lately, it seems like everyone is looking for the best burger in Chicago. Well unfortunately this blog post is not going to tell you the definitive answer, 1. Because I firmly believe that it is a personal choice based on a lot of factors and 2. There are a lot of really good options in Chicago. So take this post more as one more source to help form your short list. Happy salivating.
Au Cheval I think the burgers here make it on a lot of short-lists including Thrillist, TimeOut Chicago, Chicagoist, etc. It may be simple but it’s not over-sold. When it comes to the burgers, a word to the wise, a single is a double and a double is a triple and each is nestled in a toasted bun and topped with cheese (cheddar I think, I am crossing my fingers it isn’t American), dijonnaise, pickles and always served with a steak knife through the middle. It’s served medium unless you specify otherwise, I usually go medium rare. The real kicker here though is getting a side of the crispy fries with a soft boiled egg, mornay sauce and garlic aioli. Devouring a fry that I sopped up in egg yolk, mornay sauce and garlic aioli is probably the closest I’ve been to heaven. I should not forget to mention that they have a pretty solid beer list as well.
The Burger and Butcher This is a fairly new joint in Lincoln Park. It is intimate and the staff there are serious about the food. I went for an early dinner on a Sunday evening after doing a 10 mile run earlier that day, so a big juicy bison burger sounded awesome and completely guilt-free. This place, unlike Au Cheval, lets you chose from literally hundreds of combinations. You choose your bun (yes they have pretzel buns), spices for the meat, your meat (lentil veggie patty, pork, bison, turkey, salmon) and any and all accompaniments from sautéed fois gras to caramelized onions. You said it, amazeballs.
The winner for me: pretzel bun, medium rare bison burger, Umami spice (fresh garlic, ginger, scallion, black sesame seeds, sweet soy glaze), avocado, blue cheese, whole grain mustard and black truffle aioli with a side of baby spinach with bacon, goat cheese, and walnuts. Yes, I just replaced those 1500 hundred calories I spent running in about 20 minutes and I would do it again. Last note here, they are BYOB and have butcher classes, I haven’t been but sounds so cool.
Grange Hall This is the place that I probably frequent most due to the proximity to my house and the uber cute grandma vibe. Let me explain… small place, vinyl flowered tables cloths, they make their own jam, communal seating on picnic benches and they serve homemade pie from Tupperware. They also happen to have whiskey spiked milk shakes, which I did not have when visiting my grandma’s, but that I do appreciate when visiting Grange Hall. On the burger front all their is meat is grass-fed which is the first win. They are probably in between Au Cheval and The Butcher and Burger when it comes to toppings and choices. My go to here is a sesame & poppy seed bun with a 6oz patty, Colby jack cheese, a fried egg and sautéed mushrooms. This place also has a killer turkey burger with sage and white onion that I try to swap in on the days I don’t go on a 10 mile run. All their ingredients, from the awesome craft beer to the cheeses to the berries in their pie are from Midwest farmers. Oh yes and they deliver, which is pretty freakin’ awesome.
Grass-fed Shocking I like this place, I know. It is adorable, everything is white washed with green accents, an extensive and exotic cocktail list written in chalk, lines the back bar alongside their house infused liquors and they have a “darling back patio”. You could easily think you’re in East Nashville instead of nuzzled in Bucktown.
Your burger option here: butterkase cheese, shallot, cherry jam, baby arugula on a pretzel bun with the option to add bacon and or a fried egg and let me tell you, it is totally satisfying. That being said, I would be amiss if I didn’t also mention their out of this world chicken and waffles. I know it might be taboo to do in a burger post but in this case it would be wrong if I didn’t mention it. Try them both and hey, they also take reservations, which is a huge plus.
Kuma’s Let’s be honest, if I didn’t have Kuma’s on here I would lose all credibility as a foodie in Chicago. I do think they have pretty phenomenal burgers, even if they aren’t hands-down my favorite. Personally – I prefer their Belmont location vs. their new Diversey locale, as it has a little more character. I love the grunge setting, though I would be lying if I said I dug the too loud I can’t hear my table-mates talk heavy metal music. But I do take advantage of it to savor my burger. I could also do without the crazy long wait almost all the time.
90% of the menu is made up of burgers with a couple salads options (I love a good salad, but why bother here). I go for the “Lair of the Minotaur” caramelized onions, pancetta, brie and bourbon poached pear. I am also a big fan of waffles fries. Honestly – I wish the burgers were a little smaller than 10 oz, usually it is too much to eat in one sitting and it takes some significant will power to stop before you’re too full. It will probably always be one of those places you should try in Chicago.
Things these places all have in common: they offer a fried egg on top of their burgers, which is about as good as eating peanut butter from the jar and sprinkling in chocolate chips (add guilty-pleasure vice here). Most of them have grass-fed options and it’s not just the burger that makes it worthwhile to visit.
A few disclaimers:
1. As you may or may not know, I am a little crunchy. I was born in Colorado and care deeply about the environment and the humane treatment of animals. That being said, I have a strong preference towards grass-fed meat. Don’t know the difference? Here’s the quick and dirty without trying to make this a political issue, cows we’re meant to eat grass. When cows eat corn, they don’t digest it as easily and that’s often why need antibiotics and hormones. Grass-fed also infers they are likely to have a better, stress-free life on the pasture vs. in a confined space. On the crunchy note – I do still eat beef and love it but try and be conscience of my meat consumption considering it takes substantially more energy to raise than our plant based friends.
2. I love my neighborhood and there are so many awesome food spots, so you will see a disproportional amount of West Loop eateries, this is not to say they are better, this is just where I am more likely to frequent.