As you’re probably aware, we here at Food Republic take our burgers seriously. Some might say too seriously. When I was asked to list my 5 best burgers in Chicago, the city I call home, I already had three of the five down for sure.
This shouldn’t be looked at as the definitive list. These are my favorites. And I live on the North Side, so it’s what I know best. I also hate blaringly loud heavy metal music and two-hour waits. (Sorry Kuma’s Corner. You might be on every other list in the city, but you aren’t on mine! And who decided to get rid of The Melvins burger? That was the jam!) Sadly, I still haven’t been to Edzo’s in Evanston, another buzz burger; however, my buddy Paul, a man whom I know to have exquisite taste in all matters hamburger, swears by the place. That said, here are my favorite burgers in Chicago:
- Tiny Lounge
You wouldn’t expect a swanky cocktail lounge to make a great burger, but the “Tiny Burgers” here will surprise you. First off, these aren’t tiny at all! An order comes with three (plus fries). And each burger, though small in diameter, is a thick, juicy, quarter-pound of locally raised, grass-fed, grilled deliciousness. The homemade tamarind ketchup, applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and pretzel roll are just the icing on the (meat)cake. Wash it down with one of their stellar cocktails (I’ll have the Wyatt Earp). As a bonus, all that meat, bread, and grease in your gut will allow you to enjoy several! $15, or single burgers can be purchased for $5
4352 N. Leavitt, Chicago, IL 60618, 773.463.0396, tinylounge.com
- Bistro Campagne
There’s a lot to like about Bistro Campagne. Organically farmed and/or sustainable meat, fish, and produce that’s local, when at all possible. (You can still get a salad during the height of the Chicago winter.) They serve a seasonal menu of perfectly prepared French cuisine. And when the weather is nice, you can dine on one of the loveliest patios in the city. They also do a hamburger. And it is a great one! The “Bistro Burger” is a half-pound of Black Earth Farms (grass-fed, local) beef, shallot marmalade, and St. Andre cheese atop a perfect brioche bun. The cheese (like a super-ripe, richer, and more flavorful brie) comes crispy along the edges where it has melted, and the shallot marmalade brings out the flavors of everything, adding sweetness and tang to the savory richness. If I could only eat one burger in Chicago for the rest of my years here, it would be this one. It is outstanding. $13
4518 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60625, 773.271.6100, bistrocampagne.com
- Hackney’s on Harms
There are six of these places in and around Chicago, but take a field trip out to the original Glenview Hackney’s. Opened in 1939, this place is Old School! Right across the street from the Forest Preserve, it’s like pulling up to a tavern in the woods somewhere. (If you know the Midwest, think “Up North Michigan” or Wisconsin supper club.) The interior is dark wood, with a barroom in front. Drink pours are strong (but don’t go asking for anything more upscale than Beefeater or, say, Maker’s Mark. They aren’t going to have your newjack “handmade” spirits). And keep your order simple. (No, they won’t know how to make a classic Negroni, let alone an East Indian one!) But we aren’t here to talk about drinks and interiors. “The Famous Hackneyburger” is what you order. And it’s a thick, juicy half-pounder. You can get it on any roll you want (white bun, whole grain, pretzel, etc.) and with any cheese, but keep it classic—try the house dark rye with Swiss. Slap on a big slice of raw onion while you’re at it. It was good enough for Nana, so it’s certainly good enough for you! This place should be a registered historic landmark. An experience, to be sure. $10.50
1241 Harms Road, Glenview,IL 60025, 847.724.5577, hackneys.net
- Epic Burger
If you’ve spent any time in the Loop, you’ll know that there aren’t a whole lot of good burgers to be found. Especially if you’re at all interested in sustainable, all-natural ingredients. That’s why Epic Burger is pretty special. This is a fast-food/diner style burger—a flatter patty (I believe a single is a quarter pound) that is fried on a flattop grill so that the edges get a little crispy. The kind of burger that you just sort of crave sometimes—the kind you can’t grill yourself. They use nearby Wisconsin cheeses—choice of buttermilk blue, 1-year aged cheddar, and horseradish havarti. And you can get great add-ons, like an organic, cage-free fried egg. My usual is a single patty with blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, and raw onion. The veggies are all very fresh, thickly sliced, and tasty. The fries are skin-on, crispy, and delicious. Epic Burger may not be all that good for you, but at least you can wolf it all down with a clean conscience! $8.99 w/fries and fountain drink.
517 S. State St., Chicago, IL, 60605, 312.913.1373, epicburger.com
- Bad Apple
The Bad Apple serves a lot of creative and very tasty burgers. But I order their veggie burger, the mysteriously named “Strange Famous,” more often than not. This is a thoughtfully concocted meatless sandwich; its creator definitely gets that vegetarians have taste buds and enjoy food, as well. It’s not a slapped together patty of mush—some unholy cross between a giant (and bad) smashed falafel and a soggy piece of multi-grain bread. No, this is an absolutely delicious sandwich. Its flavor is heavy on mushrooms and the texture has real bite to it. It’s served on a bun, topped with red onion, spinach, goat cheese, and sage marmalade. Bad Apple also gets points for serving poutine, a hard-to-find dish in Chicago. $8
4300 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60618, 773.360.8406, badapplebar.com
OK Chicagoans, have at it. What's your favorite burger in Chicago? Does Adam have it right or should he be taken to a burger re-education camp? Speak up in the comments or forever hold your peace.