National Burger Day is upon us yet again and we decided to rank some of the best burger places in Chicago. While this town is mostly known for deep dish pizza, the burgers ain’t nothing to scoff at either. So we decided to find the best Chicago burger out thee. A burger has got to be pretty solid to make it on this list. Chicago is known for a being a tough town to make it in – so a burger that takes the #1 spot must truly be something to acknowledge…
In prison, you’re given a 6×12 cell to sleep in and store all of your belongings. In Chicago – it’s called a “studio apartment” and will run you about two grand a month. “Studio Apartment” is French for “I deuce in the same room that I eat.” Once again, similarities to prison are present making Chicago one of the toughest towns around.
“Wow, this all sounds terrible,” you say. So, why stay there? The allure of Chicago is that it is a challenge. It is a terribly over-priced city that lures in kids that do not know what they are getting into. Much like a straight-out-of-college kid from Ohio accepting at $40,000 a year job in New York City. “40 K?!!! I accept!” Hold on, Dumb-ass, we’re not talking Ohio priced rent here. The price of everything in Chicago is jacked-up because how else are tenants going to afford that downtown rent? There was a book store in the River North neighborhood of Chicago called “Afterwords”. “How quaint,” I thought to myself pondering how a shop that sells maybe eight $15 books a day could afford such lucrative reel estate. How the hell is a bookstore going to stay in business in a city that is probably costing $20 grand a month in rent? Well, it didn’t. It closed about seven months later.
And if you bring a car to Chicago – best of luck. I actually canceled my parking space in a remote operated garage that only cost me a cool $275 a month (yes, I am being sarcastic). My solution: buy a city pass and never give up my spot by never moving my car. Only problem is that your battery will die if you don’t drive your car every 2 weeks… My solution: start my car while remaining in park and rev the engine for 30 minutes to recharge the battery… genius.
Unfortunately, Chicago motorists hunting for spots, caught on to what I was doing and would shout “Asshole!” while passing by in their cars seeing that I got in the car, but had no intention of going anywhere! It also didn’t help that I was typically revving my engine around midnight after coming home from class. “I am going to kill you, stop revving your engine!” they’d scream from their windows… My solution: lock my doors and keep a screwdriver in my hand incase things got personal.
At first, I did detach my battery, but it still died after 3 weeks of not being connected which resulted in me having to get out the jumper cables in the middle of the road before a 350 mile drive to Cleveland. Now that you’ve had a taste of what living in Chicago is like, lets move onto the review…
For over 14 months, I dined at (and sometimes paid) at 33 of the most revered burger joints in Chicago.
The restaurant industry has become quite competitive over the last 20 years and there are numerous ethnic styles sprouting all over town – from Vietnamese Pho to Korean fusion – foodies have more options than ever before. I love whenever a restaurant puts “fusion” in their title which is basically code for “we threw some different shit from different countries together”. All of these new trends and yet, the burger still remains in demand.
“Health conscious” chains have also been popping up in Chicago over the last 20 years (Protein Bar, Lyfe) and even making its way to Cleveland (Core Life) yet the burger still remains king. Let’s not forget that this is the city that gave us the deep dish pizza and Chicago style hot dogs. Chicago, in an essence, is a heart attack waiting to happen. Maybe it’s just me, but i can’t help but feel a little annoyed by people who “can’t eat carbs” or won’t dare digest something with high fructose corn syrup in it. True, you shouldn’t over indulge in either one of these health hurdles, but living every minute of the day avoiding them is just tedious… and annoying. Especially if you’re a guy. Men who are too into their diets are usually too into themselves. I know what you’re thinking “You’re probably just fat…” Okay. I’ll give you that one, but even when I randomly thin down I still get annoyed by it.
One only needs to attend a Chicago Bears game to diagnose that half of the fans are colon cancer candidates or a clogged artery victim waiting to happen before being sent off to that big deep dish pizza in the sky. With that being said, let’s look at some of the best burgers in Chicago…
It’s as if someone went to Walmart, bought some store brand ingredients & overcooked them in their kitchen & served them to strnagers. The burger was dry, overcooked, while the waffle fries flavorless due to lack of salt. We also tried the tacos which were even more disappointing, the rice and beef were of low quality overcooked dry beef. And guess what? It wasn’t cheap either: $22!
When it comes to Italian Beef – Al’s Beef is delicious, but the burger, on the other hand – was quite modest. The Italian beef was the best item on the menu as they are known for, but the burger is pretty much run-of-the-mill as far as taste and quality.
$5.57 cheeseburger that is chargrille and comes with a decent amount of veggies, but overall nothing special. However, it did include mayo, tomato, red-onion and a lot of lettuce. Portillo’s hotdogs are awesome and a Chicago staple: poppy seed bun, sport peppers, tomatoes, onions, pickles and some mayo-type sauce which is delicious so if you make your way over – just order the hotdog and shut up.
The Billy Goat Tavern earned its name from the infamous Cubs fan who was denied admittance to Wrigley Field one game due to his companion (a billy goat) and put a curse on the Cubs to never win a World Series, which up until 2016 – everyone believed. It was also made famous by the SNL skit starring Dan Akroyd grilling up hamburgers in a diner and saying “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Coca Cola.”
It’s $6 for a double cheeseburger so you can’t complain. The bread quality is surprisingly decent. They do only put one piece of cheese on the bottom patty…You’re not fooling anyone: double cheeseburger means double both as in each patty should have a piece of cheese on it. The toppings are buffet style yet suspiciously missing tomato: you get pickles and onions but no tomatoes or lettuce – I guess that’s where they draw the line. Service was fast: in & out.
The Burger Bar patties are somewhat thin & a little over-cooked like a fast food chain. The bun was similar to the quality of McDonald’s sesame seed bun.
The tator-tots were delicious: salty & served with cheese. Not bad. Had no idea how much they cost as this was paid for by my employer. Double cheesed it of course, cause I’m cashing in on someone else’s money.
Steve’s Place is definitely one of the most off the radar places to eat in Chicago. From the outside looking in – it doesn’t look like anything special, but the food is pretty decent and really cheap.
The burger pretty much tastes like a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger. You could tell the patties were frozen, but it was good for the money. I really like Steve’s Places – the gyros are probably the best thing they have on the menu.
The turkey sandwich and salsa aren’t anything to write home about but they’re super cheap, decent proportions and they expect no tip. The menu has probably the most variety out of any of the restaurants on this list.
This place is dumpy and uncultured so I fit right in.
Cheap and somewhat fast-food like, but this burger was pretty decent. I ordered my burger medium, but it was way over cooked. Typically, medium-rare is the best way to get a quality burger, but with the amount I was consuming for this story, I did my best to at least somewhat avoid colon cancer.
The burger would have been solid if it wasn’t over cooked. I did like the epic sauce though, but their chicken sandwich was nothing memorable.
The patty was pretty good, but somewhat bland and a little overcooked. Overall this burger was somewhat dry & tasteless… just like me. No seasoning or taste to it really, just a burger with the basic veggies.
The fries were damn good though, but I’m pretty sure anything that’s smothered in Parmesan cheese and comes with dipping sauce will be good. I ate this burger while walking directly from work to class and ate on a bench in front of hospital which is probably the most depressing place to spend your lunch break to observe your surroundings. Order came to $16.25 total with fries – pricewise I would say that this place is pretty fair by Chicago’s standards.
Kerryman’s Bison Burger had all of the elements to be a decent burger, but lacked taste & something in the mix (maybe it was the gouda or jalapeño aioli) that gave it a weird bitterness. I love gouda and I love aioli, but it just doesn’t work together on this burger. The pretzel bun was decent, but there was too much red onion and I think the greens may have been too dark & bitter like a kale as opposed to the typical iceberg or romaine variety that you usually find on a burger.
The patty had a lack of seasoning therefore no flavor. Personally, I don’t think gouda is the most suiting cheese to put on a burger – it’s too mild. Blue cheese on the other hand was made for burgers, as it’s pungient, flavorful & would stand out more in the mix of all the other favors going on within the burger. The fries were plain, white, wedge-style and were pretty decent.
The Mac and cheese was interesting in that it had crushed potatoes chips & parmesan cheese, but was a little mild and dry whereas it would be great if it was on the creamier side.
The Seafood Soup was the best thing I actually had at The Kerryman as it was creamy & flavorful. The soup barely had any seafood it in – just chunks of potatoes and a few tiny pieces of lobster. They have a little sidewalk patio that is ideal for the warm weather.
Cheap, dinky, little burgers that are surprisingly good. You can’t beat this burger for only $6. I ordered mine medium but came out rare. the burger is pretty minimal as it only comes with lettuce & onion but patty was just right in the flavor zone. Not too greasy, but not dry either. The bun was cheap – nothing special. This burger falls under the “small, cheap, old-fashioned take-out style burgers” category. The fries were definitely fried in some type of rich oil which gave them a nice crispy texture andmade them quite filling. The poughboy was also decent.
A solid double cheese burger. No toppings, just pickle, cheese and patties. This burger would definitely be considered “fast food style” which is a little underwhelming considering it is $11 and does not include any fries or sides. Wouldn’t be surprised if at the bottom of the bag they left a napkin reading “go fuck yourself” for you to find after unwrapping your burger. I kid – the burger was pretty good, it’s just Chicago prices are jacked up so the restaurants can pay the rent.
While their burger may not be the best one the list: Bub City’s 16 hour lean brisket is one of my favorite things in all of Chicago. Not gonna lie – The Blackwood also has an amazing brisket. Bub City’s bbq sauces are pretty solid as well – I definitely prefer the MEMPHIS SPICY sauce over the BBQ SMOKE as it has a more vinegar based sauce with a little bit of heat. Their macaroni and cheese was ok.
I WOULD DEFINITELY BUY THIS BURGER AGAIN. BETTER DEAL THAN POUR HOUSE OR WEBER’S FOR THE MONEY. M Burger is a little bit better than Epic Burger in my opinion. Reminds me of a Wendy’s burger: cheap, small bun, two patties, still less beef than 1 gourmet patty. Epic sauce is basically McDonald’s secret sauce. The bacon was ok for a non-gourmet burger. Good deal for $5.49.
The Chicken Mikey is the closest to a healthy option as you’re going to get at a fast food chain. It’s two thinly sliced, skinless chicken breasts, mayo, lettuce, pickles and tomato… on one same small cheap bun. Three of these would be a good, healthier deal than buying a gourmet burger. The fries are McDonald’s style, but better and cheaper than Weber’s.
For all you fools who just order off of the menu: M Burger is known for its secret menu, but you have to know what is on the secret menu in order to request anything from it as they don’t list it at any of the locations. I’ll give you a hint: http://bucket.mburgerchicago.com/secret-menu.pdf
Patties were frozen unfortunately and had that uneven char on the outside/undercooked on the inside dilemma going on, but it was better than M burger. Burgers were bigger with wider buns than Epic and M Burger. Didn’t feel as “fast food like” as the other two, but more like a burger from ” a poor diner on the bad side of town where you might get stabbed” feel to it. Which is exactly what Mister J’s is.
The patty was unseasoned, but served with decent amount of toppings including sport peppers. The fries were a 7/10: unsalted, thick, white, Wendy’s cut style fries. Hot dog was dog sh*t, cheap, small over cooked wiener they said was Vienna beef on a cheap small soggy bun. No one touches Portillo’s when it comes to hot dogs.
I got all three and a can of pop for $15 not great but not bad deal. Who wants to live to be 90 anyways?
This burger was actually voted best burger by WGN. This burger was fairly decent, barely noticed the the guacamole as it seemed more like just mashed up avocado, lacked veggies or any toppings for that matter. The fries were crinkle cut they don’t even give you a full size pickle spear on the side. They give you a half of a gerkin pickle spilt down the middle which translates to a pretty big “go fuck yourself” in my book. Just kidding – I reminded myself that some places won’t even give you half of a gerkin.
The loaded fries were probably the best thing, nothing like Taco Bell quality ground beef smothering your fries in cheese. This is something you’d eat after being fired or being diagnosed with some type of terminal illness or if you’re me – something you’d eat on regular ‘ol Tuesday.
I actually got left for dead by a group of friends by mistake at this bar the first time I visited. Well, I’m glad I stuck around and tried the burger as it was pretty decent. Blu cheese and bacon on one burger? Count me in. Similar recipe to many of the restaurants on this list: brioche bun, toasted, blue cheese.
The fries were decent: more on the seasoned style and has that “cooked in peanut oil” taste to it similar to the fries at Penn Station.
This burger was pretty decent and price wasn’t outrageous either. The dijonaisse (that’s mustard and mayonnaise for you hillbillys out there) was the highlight of the burger along with the brioche bun. Someone must have taken a blowtorch to the cheese because it was a little too melted for my liking. Overall the patty was well seasoned and the bun was of decent quality.
The Old Town Pour House Tavern makes a decent burger, the downfall is that it is overpriced and lacks flavor. The burger was actually filling and of high gourmet quality. It was a Kobe burger topped with shredded beef and sautéed mushrooms. Big proportion and quality ingredients only problem was the lack of flavor. I felt like I just consumed over 2,000 calories and barely tasted a thing which is waste of calories. I don’t mean I want some salt-loaded burger, but was an overall lack of flavor. It’s like they squeezed out all of the fat and juice from the Patty. $19 is a bit steep for this burger.
I ordered my burger “medium” and received it well done, which honestly isn’t the end of the world. I am not one of those people who will throw out their burger if its was cooked a few minutes too long, but it does effect the overall rating of the burger.
The fries were also a little underwhelming,picked up my order promptly but they seemed pretty old and soggy after eating it within a few minutes.. I would give the fries a 7/10.
Overall a decent burger. Tied with Pour House so would as far as taste and quality goes. The french fries are exactly like McDonald which ain’t bad – vert traditional and salty. The only problem is that the fires are not McDonald’s prices.
Known for its live music and spacious interior The Bottled Blonde opened in the River North neighborhood in 2015. Upon first impression, I thought it was going to be another obnoxious bar that in the 1990’s would have been known as a “sports bar” but cleverly disguising itself as a “gourmet burger beer garden” to cater to 2015’s snobby foodie market.
The Bottled Blonde is pretty decent as far as atmosphere and its food. If you’re like me – you don’t really want to hangout in a bar that would appeal to you in your twenties, but something quieter without the blaring rap music and elbow to elbow capacity. Overall the burger was solid: medium rare, accurately cooked to my request, toasted bun and the mayo-based sauce with red onions was quit delicious.
13. The Kinmont (closed)
Two patties, small burger, shake shack beats it in taste & especially in price. Cucumber like pickles fried egg, mayo on side. Fries better than Franklin room. Juicy patties tied with Franklin room.
Unfortunately, the Kinmont only lasted three years in River north:
This burger has every delicious topping you could want but – the patty itself gets lost in the mix. I really felt like I was eating a fried egg, cheese, bacon crab & something sandwich. The patty itself lacked flavor & got washed out in the mix when it should be the most prominent flavor of the sandwich.
Also, you got a lot of balls charging me $19 for a burger & then serving me Ore Ida waffle fries. Didn’t even give a decent amount. But they definitely had a lot of balls to do me like that. Just kidding – The Franklin Room has an awesome diverse menu and the burger is quite worthy.
The chicken sandwich however, was pretty badass. Not fried either – grilled. Tomato, mixed greens, honey mustard, bacon vinaigrette, provolone, cheddar, pretzel bun You get a free tote bag with pick up orders so incase the cops discover your dead body and need to decide where you were coming from – one look at your custom-made The Franklin Room tavern and they’ll know your exact whereabouts of that evening.
While many might view Shake Shack as a cheap, low quality chain – it
s actually better than most non-chain privately owned franchises. Cheap and simple, cooked medium with a secret sauce that was better than Epic Burger’s secret sauce and Epic Burger’s secret sauce is the bomb.
The Double burger was only $9 compared to the $19 somewhat bland burger from Pour House. I really enjoyed the bun even though it seemed super cheap, wheat, flour-enriched bleached dough. The fries were cheap crinkle cut fries, a crinkle cut version of McDonald’s fries – not bad nothing great. I always opt out of getting bacon on a burger, I mean really? You already got ground beef and cheese shouldn’t that be enough.
I gotta applaud this place for prompt service. I have eaten here twice and both times I forgot to take pictures of my food. The burger was more on the basic side but cooked just right: medium rare, freshly toasted, somewhat doughy bun and crisp. fresh veggies.
While Brehon’s might be a little bit less quality than say Webber’s but at $11, Brehon’s is a much better deal. As shown in the picture above – the burger comes piles with tons of mushrooms and a generous amount of Blue cheese. The fries were a thick-cut style, white, plain no seasoning,. Nothing to write home to Mother about. The burger also came with a decent amount of fresh veggies.
The recently opened 1959 Bar is actually located inside of The Second City on North Ave. I was pretty impressed with this place, decent drinks specials and if you work at The Second City you receive a discount. I ordered this delicious paddy medium rare and it came with a mayo/mustard like sauce & typical American cheese. The paddy had just the right amount of juice and seasoning. The fries were good. Great deal for $12 especially in Chicago.
While the Farmhouse Chicago was definitely delicious it’s barely worth the $18 it costs. Not as bad as a place called The Flying Fig though ($22) – which is the most overpriced burger I’ve ever encountered and that was in Cleveland. I highly recommend a restaurant that is in the same River North neighborhood called 25 Degrees which was just as good and $7 cheaper.
One of the most unique burgers on the list – the patty was so tender that it crumbled apart and was topped with a delicious, heavy balsamic vinegar & baby spinach mix. The formula for this burger is very simple: no toppings, heavily drenched in balsamic vinaigrette, but the bun was toasted, square-shaped & awesome. I tried some sides from The Wildfire as well and their mashed potatoes are pretty awesome. On another visit I tried their Seafood pasta, but in all honesty – a little disappointing for $20.
Their pick up boxes even have little instructions & on how to correctly microwave the french fries incase you’re a moron like myself.
I found 25 Degrees to be much better than Farmhouse Chicago and $7 cheaper. The patty was delicious and they offer a variety of unique burgers compared to the other restaurants on this list. More of a gourmet burger than compared to Declan’s Irish Pub, but a little bit more experimental. You get more food for your money with Declan’s and their patty is more flavorful due to a noticeable kick of salt. 25 Degree’s Grilled cheese with bacon was one of the best sandwiches I have had in Chicago.
The price of the burger does not include fries though. A burger or chicken sandwich is $14 with no side so it hinders the overall value and the burgers/sandwiches are fast food sized (small). While I was blown away the first time I tried 25 Degrees, my experience wasn’t that impressive the second time around.
Delicious patty and runny aioli and melted cheese. The fried egg helped as well. I think the aioli with what looked like scallops or green onions in it – added a ton of flavor to it – which was delicious. $15 and came with some chips & pickle spears so HQ has it beat. Patty was ordered medium rare and practically fell apart while eating it. Pretty good overall, service sucked first time they said burger isn’t on brunch menu even though it’s listed on their site. Then the kid didn’t even say hello when I came in plus no napkins.
Au Chavel is known as one of the best burger places in all of Chicago. It’s where all the tourists go because it’s on the top of all the “best Chicago burger” lists. I known because I consulted every Chicago burger list and rating I could find while conducting this experiment. Honestly, Au Chavel adds a touch of class to the burger market: it has the allure of a high scale steakhouse or wine-bar when you walk in: dimly light, quiet, all oak furnishings from the bar to each individual chair – and get this – they only allow a certain amount of people in at one time to keep it from becoming overcrowded – I know cause we waited in line for about 20 min to get in.
The bun has a toasted, buttery consistency as described above, the patty is quite simple but flavorful. It was overcooked from what I requested but it was still great. The toppings are minimal which I actually respect in a burger: they consisted of an american/white cheddar cheese combination that they would not tell me, the choice of egg and no tomatoes or onions, but pickles and a mayo-based sauce that worked perfectly.
As for the burger it really is that good. You watch the cook that’s on shift grill it right in front of you if you are lucky enough to get a spot at the bar. The buns are buttered and toasted by sitting on a toasting rack that is perched over a live flame canister before being flipped and sued to assemble the actual burgers.
In my opinion, Au Cheval was great, but still overrated and somewhat overpriced.
This place is absolutely delicious. If you love over the top, oversized, gluttonous entires – this the place to go to. The burger was greasy, but juicy and ordered medium/rare, but came out rare and had a mayo like Dijon that mixed with the cheese and grease that was mouth-watering. The juice exploded as you bit into it. Not really any veggies – just two pickles I believe.
Also – THE BEST FRIES I’VE HAD SINCE IVE BEEN IN CHICAGO. Rosemary, sage and super fried fries in peanut oil that is awesome. Their salad was quite impressive as well. Prices were good – portions were a little small though. I love this place!
I pass this bar every day while walking to The Second City. It’s a Notre Dame-backed bar and seeing the Fightin’ Irish sticker in the window somewhat turned me off being an Ohio State fan. That is one of the polarizing things about Chicago – it has bars reserved for every big university (especially big ten teams) you can imagine:Buckeyes (Woodie’s Flat), Hawkeyes (Merkle’s), Wolverines (Diag’s) and so on.
But let’s get to the #1 ranked burger already. It’s actually a pretty simple… and cheap. It doesn’t have all the crazy toppings that you can get at HQ Beercade, but it’s beauty simply lies within the patty itself. In my opinion, the best burger isn’t necessarily the one that is loaded with a ton of toppings as it subtracts from the actual patty’s taste. It’s not over seasoned or overcooked but is cooked just right to the point where it has the ideal amount of grease, fat and salt working together. Teamwork at it’s best… working together to eventually kill you. It’s actually a pretty simple art.
Trust me, I’ve tried every burger seasoning concoction you can imagine: Worcestershire, Salt, Pepper, McCormick seasonings (over 10 of them) and even a strange experiment that involved italian dressing. I’ve tried every meat type: ground sirloin, angus, chuck, etc, but what it all comes down to is a perfectly balanced patty – a little bit of char (caramelization) on the outside and red and its center – the patty should encompass every level: well done (outside) medium (inner layer) rare (its bloody core). Never squeeze the juice out of a patty when you’re grilling it – you’re evacuating all the flavor!
The burger itself is only $11 which is a steal in Chicago. The patty was thick and delicious. I wasn’t thinking this place was going to be anything to write home about: I went the subtle route: American cheese on a pretzel bun, medium rare. The fries were not impressive: super thick, bland, but very filling. They also give you the option of tator tots which are quite superior.
On later visits I also tried the corned beef reuben which was good, but it was somewhat dry as it does not come with dressing, but served on buttered pumpernickel bread. For the money, this is one of the most filling diners/bars I have dined at. And by “dined” I mean I ate a burger out of the brown paper bag they served it to me in ta n alley while it was raining. It is a great deal compared to the much more expensive alternatives within a half mile radius.
So there you have it… 33 of Chicago’s mot popular burgers ranked. I just took 7 years off of my life so I hope this was informative to you.