18 great burgers

The best burgers at non-burger restaurants.

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  • Photograph: Jason Little

    NO. 1 BURGER
    Acadia burger at Acadia

    With three cuts of beef (chuck as the base, brisket for juiciness, Wagyu scraps for fat), two types of cheese (Gruyère, Mornay sauce) and a bottomless reserve of umami (bacon-onion jam, housemade pickles), it's clear this burger has been obsessed over by chef Ryan McCaskey. All those delicious details are what make diners obsess over it, too. 1639 S Wabash Ave (312-360-9500). $14.—David Tamarkin

  • Photograph: Kari Skaflen

    Cheeseburger at Au Cheval
    The two thin patties (a "single" is really a double here) aren't the star of this much-obsessed-over burger. Instead it's the generous schmear of mayo, the melted American cheese and the chopped raw onions that cut through the beef with a piquant bite. 800 W Randolph St (312-929-4580). $10.—David Tamarkin

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    TOP FIVE
    Pimiento cheeseburger at Big Jones

    The steamed bun prevents the mess of two thin, juicy patties slathered with creamy, spicy housemade pimiento cheese and a heap of griddled onions from dripping onto your plate. You don't want even a morsel of this burger to go anywhere but in your mouth. 5347 N Clark St (773-275-5725). $12.—Laura Baginski

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Short-rib burger at Blackbird
    The two-inch-thick patty made with short rib from deli/butcher Publican Quality Meats is the star: The meat is velvety, juicy, and, true to its origins, screams quality. Toppings change often, but on my visit, mimolette "Velveeta" takes a back seat to pickled ramps and beef-cheek jam, all on a sesame brioche bun. 619 W Randolph St (312-715-0708). Lunch only. $15.—Laura Baginski

  • Beef and chorizo burger at Bread & Wine
    Technically, this is a double-patty burger: The beef is topped with a smaller patty of chorizo, which gives the dish its deeply savory edge. The crowning jewel is the Cedar Grove cheddar, a sharp choice that could be the best cheese used on any burger in the city. 3732 W Irving Park Rd (773-866-5266). $18.—David Tamarkin

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    CDA burger at Café des Architectes
    The well-seasoned patty on this guy feels smaller than its ten ounces. This makes the smoky bacon, tangy Boursin aioli, crispy fried onions and pretzel bun (from Morton Grove's Z Baking) perfect accompaniments, rather than overkill. 20 E Chestnut St (312-324-4063). Lunch only. $16.—Julia Kramer

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Brunch burger at Frog n Snail
    Lightly sweet, challah-ish bread and a schmear of herbaceous cream cheese lighten and brighten the beef. Even the bun is clever, hollowed out to tuck away pickled green tomato and shallot rings. This is a meal meant to pair with a Bloody Mary. 3124 N Broadway (773-661-9166). Brunch only. $14.—Brent DiCrescenzo

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    The Big Baby at Little Market Brasserie
    To eat this burger is to imagine being hooked up to an IV that injects your bloodstream with bliss. Chef Ryan Poli modeled it after the style popular on the Southwest Side: Two thin, crispy-edged patties melt together with layers of American cheese and a mass of deeply caramelized onions on a toasted brioche bun. 10 E Delaware Pl (312-640-8141). $13.50.—Julia Kramer

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Hamburger at Maison
    Chef Perry Hendrix's burger is manageable in size (it weighs just under a half pound) but aggressive in flavor, with Roquefort dripping down the sides of the house-ground patty. Too much? Hendrix balances all that richness with some pickled red onions and a handful of arugula. 330 E Randolph St, suite 300 (312-241-1540). $15.—David Tamarkin

  • Hamburger at Mindy's HotChocolate
    The house-ground Heartland beef burger arrives expertly cooked, christened with a cross of crispy bacon and a melting slice of aged cheddar tucked under a toasted garlic bun. Give it a few squirts of housemade ketchup and mustard, then layer on the housemade pickles. 1947 N Damen Ave (773-489-1777). $13.—Lauren Viera

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    The Nightwood cheeseburger at Nightwood
    The new iteration of this wood-grilled burger is a tall, two-patty affair layered with pickles, "special sauce" (a garlicky combo of mayo and ketchup), cheddar sauce and an onion ring. The bun is ciabatta, which is a good thing—brioche would crumble under all this weight. 2119 S Halsted St (312-526-3385). $15.—David Tamarkin

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    OTS at Old Town Social
    Maybe it's because the quality of the meat is so good—half cows from Q7 Ranch in Marengo, Illinois, are broken down, aged and ground in-house—but chef Jared Van Camp works to make this burger's meatiness shine, topping it with equally savory toppings: housemade bacon, a fried egg, aioli and Gruyère. 455 W North Ave (312-266-2277). $13.—David Tamarkin

  • TOP FIVE
    Slagel Farm burger at Owen & Engine

    When this behemoth on an onion-studded potato bun hits your table, you'll vow to bring half home. Then you'll take one bite and realize no one has that kind of willpower. Beef this velvety is thanks to the fat in the blend—chuck with short rib and brisket. Wear stretchy pants. 2700 N Western Ave (773-235-2930). $14.—Marissa Conrad

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Le Hamburger at Paris Club
    Ignore the lame name—particularly because this is actually a cheeseburger, with your choice of Gruyère or blue—and enjoy the port-grilled onions, which add a pleasant hint of sweetness to this perfectly pink patty on a butter-slicked bun. 59 W Hubbard St (312-595-0800). $13.—Marissa Conrad

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Bakery burger at Pleasant House Bakery
    If you can manage to forgo the incredible savory pies and order the burger instead, you'll be rewarded with a patty so juicy, melted cheddar so gooey, Dijonaise so drippy, and lettuce and tomato so slippy-slidey, they make a mockery of the thin brioche bun trying in vain to keep it all together. 964 W 31st St (773-523-7437). Tuesdays only. $10.50.—Laura Baginski

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Rosebud cheeseburger at Rosebud Prime
    An obnoxiously thick burger stabbed with a steak knife? Not at Rosebud, a steakhouse that shows restraint with its simple inch-thick patty layered with two slightly charred slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles, all bookended with a pretzel bun. 1 S Dearborn St (312-384-1900). $13.—Laura Baginski

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Tortoise Club cheeseburger at Tortoise Club
    This burger passes the ultimate test: The flavorful beef, a house blend, would be good sans condiments. But it's even better with just a hint of pickles, red-wine onions, aioli and Uplands cheddar, which add subtle pops of taste and texture. 350 N State St (312-755-1700). $14.—Marissa Conrad

  • TOP FIVE
    TrenchBar burger at Trenchermen

    Wizardry is the only explanation for the splendor of this bun: The potato dough-foccacia hybrid is impossibly light, yet—this is where the magic happens—it doesn't collapse, or even lose a touch of integrity, under the juiciness of the mind-bogglingly beefy and flavorful ground-in-house chuck patty, topped with pickles and cheddar. 2039 W North Ave (773-661-1540). $13.—Julia Kramer

Photograph: Jason Little

NO. 1 BURGER
Acadia burger at Acadia

With three cuts of beef (chuck as the base, brisket for juiciness, Wagyu scraps for fat), two types of cheese (Gruyère, Mornay sauce) and a bottomless reserve of umami (bacon-onion jam, housemade pickles), it's clear this burger has been obsessed over by chef Ryan McCaskey. All those delicious details are what make diners obsess over it, too. 1639 S Wabash Ave (312-360-9500). $14.—David Tamarkin


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