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Favorite Burger in Chicagoland


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Inspired by this thread started by yellow truffle, I am curious to learn what everyone thinks is the best burger in Chicagoland. There have been a few, fragmented discussions of this topic here but, from what I can derive via searching, no single thread exists where everyone makes their pitch for their favorite burger place.

I'm going to start out somewhat controversially by saying that certain places (in my neck of the woods) with heavy reputations are over-rated in my book. I'm thinking particularly of Charlie Beinlich and Hackney's. Sorry, maybe it's just that I've been going hitting these places for over 30 years, but they just don't do it for me at all (anymore).

Beinlich, for all its charm and wonderfulness, does not char their burgers, and even though their meat (sourced from Lakeside Foods) is outstanding, their burgers do not scratch the itch for me. For me, a burger that is not charred can never qualify as the best.

Hackney's turns out a decent product, but it's uneventful, boring and--as of late--inconsistent. I need something more than a mounded patty between 2 pieces of cold black bread and topped with a plank of raw onion to get me going. Yes, you can request grilled onions at Hackney's but that's not enough to push it into the upper eschelon, for me. The mustard options (Heinz Yellow or Grey Poupon) are virtually tragic. Great environment, terrific fried onion loaves, strong cocktails at the bar and average burgers.

Some places where I really like the burgers are Wiener's Circle and Gibson's. These 2 are at opposite ends of the spectrum but both satisfy fully. Wiener's Circle is clearly a lower-end joint but it typifies the 'Chicago-style' street level burger. Hot, juicy, greasy and you can choose from a dozen or so good toppings and condiments. Gibson's makes a fantastic burger too. It's a high-end affair, but very good quality and terrific flavor--even if it is somewhat pricey (although, not as pricey as the Kobe burger described in yellow truffle's thread :raz:).

My favorite burger (currently) is the very cheezily-named "2-hand Jam Burger" served at Player's Grill in Highland Park, IL. :shock:

At first I was skeptical--even as I was snarfing my first one down many years ago--but after ordering them again over time, I fully stand by my choice. It's a generous portion (1/2 pound before cooking?) of very good ground beef, charred nicely and cooked to order. Requesting a burger medium rare at Player's gets you a burger with some solid pink in the center. I've ordered it this way every time out, have always had it cooked as ordered and have never had any "uncooked" issues. There are no out of place seasonings on the burger at Player's and they are served on appropriately-sized egg buns which are not overly-dense, but just burly enough to host the burger properly. You can order it accompanied by ultra thin-sliced, fried onion strings which take the burger to an entirely new level. FWIW, Player's Grill also serves an outstanding slaw with their burger but their fries are, unfortunately, forgettable.

I'm really curious to hear what everyone's favorite burgers in Chicagoland are.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I don't have any places to recommend but I will say I agree with you about Beinlichs and Hackneys. I've never understood the appeal of Beinlich and go to Hackneys mainly for their loaf de onion and decent beer on tap.

Kevin

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I haven't had any Chicago burger that knocks my socks off. My favorite is really anyplace that makes a decent cheddar-char--I second The Wiener Circle. Also Gold Coast Dogs. I found the burger at the Printer's Row Hackney's underwhelming. My husband felt the same about Moody's on the North Side. For a non-fast food burger, Blackies is pretty good. Another old standby, I know. Just haven't found anyplace off the beaten path. What do people think of Kevin's near Comisky? It's next in line on my list.

This thread touches on the Hamburger America documentary, which was recently shown at the MCA. The film features some truly unique burgers (and people) from across the country, and represents Chicago with the Billy Goat burger (which I don't think is anything great in and of itself).

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Naha (on Clark Street in River North) serves an amazing cheeseburger at lunch: half-pound of very high-quality beef, cheese (I like it with blue cheese), a perfect bun, and some of the best fries I've had this side of Brussels. For ten bucks, it's an absolute steal--especially considering where you're eating it.

I've yet to find a really great fast-food burger in Chicagoland--nothing that compares to the West's In-N-Out Burgers. Unfortunately, fears of food-borne germs force most places to cook the hell out of their burgers. Like they do at Steak and Shake...UGH!!

The State Street Marshall Field's Seventh-Floor food court actually serves a good, old-fashioned burger. Half-pound (what's with these giant burgers!), with decent fries and a bit of slaw for only $6.50. Nearly fast-food prices, but served on a real plate and your fountain drink is in an actual glass. They also have a decent buffalo burger for a buck or so more.

BTW, the absolute worst burger in recent memory was also the most expensive: the $20-ish "Kobe" (Wagyu) beef burger at Yoshi's. Maybe it was an "off" day, but it was horrible: no flavor, cooked well beyond what I ordered, and served with unripe tomatoes, over-the-hill baby lettuce, a stale bun, and greasy/limp fries. And the scary/bad waiter rounded out the whole "experience."

Have to agree w/ Ronnie about Beinlich's and Hackney's. I still like Beinlich's because it's such a fun time-warp joint, but the burgers aren't worthy of legendary status.

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As a resident of the West Coast prior to moving to Chicago, I have to agree with Pugman's assessment that nothing in Chicago really matches up to In n' Out Burger. But my favorite burger here comes close--Portillo's. The burgers have a great char flavor to them that I think compares pretty favorably to a good home-grilled burger. And the toppings (onions, lettuce, etc.) always seem to be very fresh for a semi-fast food place.

I've had some good bar type burgers here too, including at Green Door Tavern.

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I love In N' Out Burger too (and I have the stained shirts to prove it :biggrin:)...wish they had a Chicagoland presence. :sad:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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As a resident of the West Coast prior to moving to Chicago, I have to agree with Pugman's assessment that nothing in Chicago really matches up to In n' Out Burger.

Certainly don't mean to turn this thread into a what area of the US has a better burger, but having had way too many In N' Out's at the urging of my west coast buddies and co-workers I can too easily say that there is nothing special about the burgers at In N' Out. A better burger than the average fast food outlet? yes for sure, but not much more than that.

I'm going to have to think about a Chicago area burger as I just don't have them when I'm out anymore.

Best burger I've had of late was last weekend, I stopped at the Nueske's factory outlet in Wittenberg, WI and they have choice ground beef with bits of their incredible smoked bacon in the beef. Charcoal grilled that up and by far the best burger I've had in years. http://www.nueskes.com/index.cfm

edited to add: paging Holly Moore.....

Edited by Sweet Willie (log)
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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I love Hackney's, perhaps its more the childhood memories of the place, I don't get up to the North Shore locations very often (and have never been to the downtown one), but when I am near one of the Hackney's locations I make it a point to

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Hackney's for memories (Memories, all alone in the stinkin heat, eating half an onion loaf, man will my breath be baaaaaad). erwin's for tastiness. There's nothing trendy or 'new' about the burger at erwin: it is just a very good honk of ground beef, juicy as all get out, with good cheese (and great bacon if you want it), on an excellent egg bun.

Granted, I can count the number of times I've had the burger there on one hand, as it always struck me as a little silly to go there and have that instead of any of the other delicious and more 'adult' things on the menu, but sometimes, you just want a really good burger.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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I love In N' Out Burger too (and I have the stained shirts to prove it :biggrin:)...wish they had a Chicagoland presence. :sad:

=R=

According to their website, there will be a Fatburger opening in Chicago soon. Not quite in n' out, but the second best thing don't you think?

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This is a little off topic but went to White Castle recently and was disappointed. I have fond memories of eating many of their burgers years ago with, well, various other glutinous people, and loving them. Now, I felt queasy afterwards and my kids made me promise not to go back there...

Kevin

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BTW, the absolute worst burger in recent memory was also the most expensive: the $20-ish "Kobe" (Wagyu) beef burger at Yoshi's. Maybe it was an "off" day, but it was horrible: no flavor, cooked well beyond what I ordered, and served with unripe tomatoes, over-the-hill baby lettuce, a stale bun, and greasy/limp fries.  And the scary/bad waiter rounded out the whole "experience."

Pugman, sorry your burger was not acceptable. I have had it twice and could not muster any other adjective greater than okay. But their kobe beef filet is wonderful, albeit +$50. You can cook that thing well and the meat would flake off like fresh fish. IMHO, I believe that one should not ground meat that good.

I have never been Hackney's or Beinlich's, so I cannot contribute to the bashing. :laugh:

Being a ye_truban (an urban yellow truffle, just for you ronnie_suburban), my favorite burger in Chicago would be Moody's blue cheese burger, appropriately named the 'moody blue.' Colon be damned, you will wake up in the middle of the night wanting a tall glass of water and bypassing breakfast. Ohh, the burger taste's great, done the way you want with blue cheese dressing and chunks of blue cheese. I believe it is about 3/4 pound or more. And one must have the their onion rings, very memorable. The place is very auratic, must check it out. BTW, they only take cash.

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This is a little off topic but went to White Castle recently and was disappointed.  I have fond memories of eating many of their burgers years ago with, well, various other glutinous people, and loving them.  Now, I felt queasy afterwards and my kids made me promise not to go back there...

Not off topic what so ever, niv. White Castle is one of those indulgences that I must have at least twice a year, usually late in night and heavily intoxicated. :laugh:

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usually late in night and heavily intoxicated. :laugh:

That may have been my previous experience as well and I can see enjoying that sort of burger in that condition. Just not sure if the old body can handle WC any more.

Kevin

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I love In N' Out Burger too (and I have the stained shirts to prove it :biggrin:)...wish they had a Chicagoland presence. :sad:

=R=

According to their website, there will be a Fatburger opening in Chicago soon. Not quite in n' out, but the second best thing don't you think?

I will definitely look forward to that. As far as chains go, these (In 'N Out & Fatburger) are really the 2 best I've experienced...and if properly intoxicated, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference (until I found the receipt in my pocket the next morning) :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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This is a little off topic but went to White Castle recently and was disappointed.  I have fond memories of eating many of their burgers years ago with, well, various other glutinous people, and loving them.  Now, I felt queasy afterwards and my kids made me promise not to go back there...

Hmmm

That's pretty sad when you're disappointed (edit: sp) by White Castle. If White Castle can't live up to the (very) low expectations, they should just call it quits. I've never been a fan - I understand them if you're a little too drunk to know better (sort of like gin for me, if I'm drinking gin I'm probably too drunk to know I'm drinking it), but why anyone would ever consume that stuff sober is beyond me. Now, sit me down with a fat Rallyburger, or the CheddarBurger (back in the day they used to sell these bad boys for $.69 each) from Rally's and I'm set.

As far as burgers in an around the city...I've really had trouble finding a 'good' one. The best I've had is probably at the Dark Horse Tavern (on Monday's they are only $3!), on Sheffield just south of Wrigley. Anyway, just my $.02.

Edited by jglazer75 (log)
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This is a little off topic but went to White Castle recently and was disappointed.  I have fond memories of eating many of their burgers years ago with, well, various other glutinous people, and loving them.  Now, I felt queasy afterwards and my kids made me promise not to go back there...

Not OT at all Niv, but if you dis White Castle again, I may have to ask you to step outside :biggrin:

Seriously though, it's been about 2 years since my last WC (pun fully intended) experience and I remember it being about the same as it's always been.

Do you think it was an off-night, or has quality descended (is that even possible?) at White Castle? Or...is it a case of your tastes changing? Weren't you the guy who covered one entire wall of his dorm room with emptied White Castle boxes? :wink:

Either way, I do find it interesting that your kids didn't like it either. I'm sure that indicates something, although I'm not exactly sure what.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I'm partial to R.J. Grunts' burgers.  They're just about perfect, no matter how you top them.

Brasserie T used to have the best - God, I miss that place!  :sad:

I miss Brasserie T too (although I never had their burger) :sad:. It was directly accross the street from my office and I miss the convenience of having a quality place so close to our front door. The new establishment in that space isn't very good, IMO.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Do you think it was an off-night, or has quality descended (is that even possible?) at White Castle? Or...is it a case of your tastes changing?

Could be I had a different chef that night. I doubt WC changed; I think what changed is my stomach and colon.

Weren't you the guy who covered one entire wall of his dorm room with emptied White Castle boxes? :wink:

You must have me confused with someone else.

Kevin

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I'm partial to R.J. Grunts' burgers.  They're just about perfect, no matter how you top them.

Brasserie T used to have the best - God, I miss that place!   :sad:

I miss Brasserie T too (although I never had their burger) :sad:. It was directly accross the street from my office and I miss the convenience of having a quality place so close to our front door. The new establishment in that space isn't very good, IMO.

=R=

And Gale Gand's Coconut Cream Pie was the best I've ever had. And I live practically around the corner from that space. Sigh...

I agree that mk north just doesn't cut it.

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Although it's a chain, Blackie's makes one heck of a good burger. I also like Meyer's (sp?) at the west end of Wilmette off of Lake Street, although you need two to really fill up. Haven't had Beinlich's in years, but I remember loving them.

In the end, if the meat isn't too lean, is cooked medium rare, and has grilled onions and bacon, I'm gonna' like it.

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Although it's a chain, Blackie's makes one heck of a good burger. I also like Meyer's (sp?) at the west end of Wilmette off of Lake Street, although you need two to really fill up.

I don't know, Michael, I think Blackies used to be better. Their original place in Streeterville used to cook up a mean burger but lately (at least the one in Glencoe) has been disappointing. Plus, one time by nephew was served chunks o' glass in his water at the one that was (is?) in Deerfield.

Meyers if fun and brings up happy memories of drunken high school teachers. Good tater tots.

Kevin

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Well, there's liking a burger, and there's making me go off my mostly vegetarian diet. I'm not there yet. Surely someone's got one that can make me do that? :)

While I find matters of taste to be largely subjective, perhaps this is the standard by which all burgers should be measured. :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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