A cheeseburger with fries and a milkshake at River North's new Burger… (RedEye photo by Lenny Gilmore )
There’s no question that Chicago is a big burger town, but the scene just got a major boost with four new burger joints firing up their grills. We took an early look to see how they’re stacking up.
The Burger Point
1900 S. State St. 312-842-1900
Best for: South Loopers looking for a closer option than Epic Burger. It’s not necessarily worth a trip unless you’re in the neighborhood.
Who’s there: Condo owners from the building upstairs.
Tasting notes: Though we weren’t asked how we’d like our patty cooked (it arrived medium well), a nicely charred exterior and not-too-salty interior won us over. Toppings on the New American Classic burger—thick-cut bacon, fresh avocado, wasabi mayo and a perfectly fried egg—all were excellent quality. The menu offers classic combos (blue cheese and buffalo sauce) and unique ones, too, such as the Crunchy Burger with potato chips and a double helping of American cheese, or the Jersey Shore with pepperoni, fresh mozzarella and marinara. Fries are thin with good flavor, but slightly soggy.
Price point: $8.25. A combo with small fries and drink is $11.
Beyond burgers: Chili (beef and vegetarian options) and wings with 10 sauces, from barbecue-honey mustard to super-spicy Three Mile Island.
675 N. Franklin St. 312-440-8600
Best for: Late-night jaunts or a quick-grab lunch. This subterranean spot is the speediest of the pack.
Who’s there: Dude groups doing workday lunch.
Tasting notes: Griddled patties are thicker than most quick-serve spots but still cooked all the way through. Though the bun compresses a bit, it still holds a mess of shredded lettuce, oozy American cheese, onions, tomato and thick and crispy pickle chips. Golden fries are piping hot but could use some more crisping—though that wouldn’t stop us from snarfing them soaked with Merkts cheddar after a long night out. Considering it’s within stumbling distance of River North’s late-night clubs, the 5 a.m. closing time on weekends is right on.
Price point: $5.55 for a single cheeseburger; $6.55 for a double and $7.99 for a hamburger with regular fries and a drink. Extra toppings (bacon, giardiniera, fried egg) are 99 cents apiece.
Beyond burgers: Poutine, chili- or cheese-topped hot dogs, Polish sausage, gyros and milkshakes.
Butcher & The Burger
1021 W. Armitage Ave. 773-697-3735
Best for: Discerning (and creative) eaters. Thanks to four bun choices, 10-plus patty options, about a dozen spice blends and 20-plus toppings, the combinations are dizzying.
Who’s there: Couples with kids, hipster foodies
Tasting notes: Our grass-fed wagyu beef burger with simple salt-and-pepper seasoning teetered at the point of perfect on a pretzel bun with griddled mushrooms, Swiss cheese and potent black truffle aioli. Thick and meaty slabs of Benton’s Tennessee bacon are worth the $2 add-on, but only if you let the bacon shine alone; its smoky flavor overpowered the cheese and Cajun seasoning we chose on another burger. Fries made from heirloom Kennebec potatoes are just thick enough and addictively crispy.
Price point: $8.25-$9.50 for beef burgers. No charge for basic cheeses and toppings such as barbecue sauce, griddled onions and wasabi mayo; $1 for specialty cheeses, mushrooms, avocado or fried egg. $2.25 for fries.
Beyond burgers: Breakfast sandwiches, beignets, chicory coffee and frozen custard in fun flavors such as smoked bacon.
Grange Hall Burger Bar
844 W. Randolph St. 312-491-0844
Best for: Locavores and nostalgia lovers. The menu’s Midwest-centric and the vibe is countrified cool with vintage napkins, twangy banjo tunes and a bar built atop a row of antique dressers.
Who’s there: A trial night on Wednesday brought a handful of e-mail subscribers, plus some random walk-ins who couldn’t get into Girl & the Goat nearby. It’s due to start up dinner service again on Tuesday to prepare for a grand opening mid-month.
Tasting notes: A sesame and poppy seed-covered bun tasted plenty fresh, but the bottom half grew floppy under the juicy patty. We would have liked to see our Wisconsin white cheddar melted instead of just stacked on. Here’s hoping they’ll smooth out the kinks as the official opening approaches.
Price point: $8.95 for 6-ounce burger and $11.95 for a 9-ouncer. Basic toppings such as lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard and pickles are free; cheese, avocado, mushrooms and caramelized onions are $1 a pop. Fries or onion rings are $3.
Beyond burgers: Garlicky mac ’n’ cheese and baked beans are welcome fry alternatives. Fruit pies, fresh-churned ice cream (in floats, sundaes or cones), $3 domestic canned beers and cocktails in juice glasses add to the down-home feel.
Staffers visit restaurants anonymously and meals are paid for by RedEye.