9 Great Chicago Burgers | Midwest Living

9 Great Chicago Burgers

The Midwest's biggest city offers something for everyone, including burgers for the budget traveler, the picky eater and the hungry adventurer.
Photo Courtesy of The Gage

The Gage

You'd expect a place with a perfect location for tourists—across from Millennium Park and a block north of the Art Institute of Chicago—to sling standard fare at touristy prices. But no. Come for the classy gastropub's The Regular ($11). It sounds simple: a grilled patty with your choice of cheese and a tomato-lettuce-onion cap. But take one bite, and you'll find nothing average about it. A slab of cheddar oozes over a char-grilled, seasoned patty—and over some of the hand-cut fries alongside. And the bun? Soft, fresh and eat-it-plain good. (312) 372-4243; thegagechicago.com

The Gage

Edzo's Burger Shop

A tiny storefront with 1970s decor in downtown Evanston doesn't look stand-out, but trust us on this one. Cooks grind the beef for the grilled Burgers fresh each morning then cook them to order with your choice of cheeses, veggies and sauces ($3.89 plus toppings).

We picked American cheese, bacon, a fried egg and garlic butter, and it arrived hot, juicy and piled into a bun that could barely contain it all. (They don't skimp on toppings—two slices of bacon!) After sampling both the charbroiled and griddled patties, we came away loving the greasy grilled mess best. (847) 864-3396; edzos.com

Edzo's Burger Shop

Hot Chocolate

Yes, we showed up Saturday at 11:30 p.m., and the kitchen was closing at midnight. But the little Bucktown place known for its outstanding desserts was packed, and our sunny waitress gladly brought us a simply titled Hamburger ($15). Our toppings: four-year-old cheddar, organic bacon, slices of fire-engine-red tomato, housemade pickles. She said if we'd like, we could top it with a perfectly fried egg crisped around the edges. We did like. A lot. (773) 489-1747; hotchocolatechicago.com

Hot Chocolate

The Gage

You'd expect a place with a perfect location for tourists—across from Millennium Park and a block north of the Art Institute of Chicago—to sling standard fare at touristy prices. But no. Come for the classy gastropub's The Regular ($11). It sounds simple: a grilled patty with your choice of cheese and a tomato-lettuce-onion cap. But take one bite, and you'll find nothing average about it. A slab of cheddar oozes over a char-grilled, seasoned patty—and over some of the hand-cut fries alongside. And the bun? Soft, fresh and eat-it-plain good. (312) 372-4243; thegagechicago.com

The Gage

Small Bar Division

First of all, let's just say: These burgers are beautiful. Ours arrived with a thick slice of shiny melted white cheddar, hints of black from the grill, a mound of onions and Dijon aioli on a buttered bun, and a beautiful pile of fries. This Wicker Park bar serves up meaty Angus burgers, including a simple veggie-topped Cheese Burger ($10) and a Bacon Jam Burger ($12) sporting caramelized onions, Brie and bacon jam made with a hint of jalepeno. Be sure to order a brew from the massive beer book. (773) 772-2727; thesmallbar.com

Small Bar Division

Big Jones

Opened in 2008, Big Jones bills itself as a Southern heirloom restaurant. We didn't notice anything inherently Southern in its burger, but that's OK. A half-pound Townhouse Barbecue Burger showcases locally raised, grass-fed beef grilled in butter and served on an egg roll from a neighborhood bakery. Organic baby Swiss, grilled mushrooms and onions, and aioli turn this $14 burger into a destination-worthy meal. (773) 275-5725; bigjoneschicago.com

Big Jones

Billy Goat Tavern Original

Saturday Night Live fans know this joint from John Belushi's "Cheezeborger, cheezeborger, cheezeborger" skit. And it's true to life: Step up to the counter in an agreeably gritty lower Michigan Avenue storefront, and a man behind the counter gives the famous call. A Cheeseburger fries up on a griddle and arrives hot and greasy on a kaiser roll with a bag of chips (no fries). Patties are thin, so order a double or a triple ($6.75). Cash only. (312) 222-1525; billygoattavern.com

Billy Goat Tavern Original

Kuma's Corner

It's probably best to prep for the atmosphere before you go. Picture heavy metal music, dark artwork (a cartoon bear with blood in its mouth) and a tiny 10-table dining room. But oh, the burgers. The Absu ($13) satisfies with spicy deep-fried chilies, queso fresco, pepper Jack cheese, avocado relish and tomatillo salsa on a pretzel bun. The Pantera ($13) is rich with roasted poblano peppers, bacon, cheddar, Monterey Jack, ranchero sauce and tortilla strips. Colorful and messy, the burgers balance sweet, spicy, smooth and crunchy. You might have to wait (sometimes for hours) but it's worth it. Pass the time at the quiet Square Bar across the street. (773) 604-8769; kumascorner.com

Kuma's Corner

Hamburger Mary's

In Andersonville on the North Side, Hamburger Mary's mixes classic diner eats with a dash of burlesque cabaret. Mary, a plastic, winking, buxom blonde, greets guests at the door and graces the menu. Diners choose from among more than 20 burgers ($9 to $14), including the Daddy Mac, loaded with homemade mac 'n' cheese, and the Gouda Morning, brimming with Gouda, bacon, spinach and eggs. No matter the toppings, at the heart of each sandwich you'll find a half-pound of Angus beef. (773) 784-6969; hamburgermarys.com

(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2012.)

Hamburger Mary's

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