Ordering a fried egg on top just isn’t enough anymore. When it comes to burgers, chefs and diners alike are pushing the boundaries on what can be contained between a beef patty and two buns.
When chef/owner John McLean opened Burger Bar in Lincoln Park two years ago, he aimed to set his bar apart with his signature "stackers," aka beef patties topped with even more meat, from pulled pork to beef shortribs. This month, he outdid himself with a burger special that stacks a beef patty on top of a full grilled ribeye steak, plus toppings inspired by steakhouse side dishes. It’s been so popular that he plans to make it a permanent fixture on the menu.
"Don’t get me wrong, I love a plain, classic cheeseburger," McLean said. "But I think people are always looking for something different ... and I think it’s here to stay."
Burger bars ranging from Kuma’s Corner to The Fifty/50 continue to raise the bar on sounds-weird-tastes-good combos, and recently opened Champaign, Ill. import Fat Sandwich has drawn attention for its sandwiches piled high with bar-food favorites such as chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks.
Slapping wacky toppings on burgers doesn’t always work, though, as was the case when McLean tried to make a chorizo burger with fruit salsa. "We had great intentions … but the first [one we made] was awful," he said.
So how much is too much? We taste-tested eight burgers with toppings that range from slightly off-kilter to totally over-the-top to see what works and what doesn’t. All burgers feature a classic beef hamburger base, and we’ve assigned each a rating on a scale of 1 to 5 according to weirdness (from slightly unorthodox to off-the-charts odd) and messiness (from just a little sloppy to a big ol’ mess)R