Best burgers in Chicago
This dark, sexy basement bar offers everything from foie gras eclairs to mussels in escargot butter, but the cheeseburger is what keeps us coming back again and again. In fact, we consider it the best in town. The patty is perched atop a squishy sesame seed-studded bun with American cheese, pickles and a mess of onions. Once you demolish this burger, your only regret will be not ordering a second.
Perhaps you've heard of this fabled burger that's only available at the tiny bar at Mott St. We can confirm that this hard-to-get morsel is worth the wait: Two chuck patties are draped in American cheese and topped with crispy sweet potato frizzles, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapeños, dill pickles and miso butter. Each bite is a mashup of textures and flavors so unique that you'll find yourself fantasizing about it at the most inopportune times. (Maybe that's just us.)
Channeling old-school burger joints in Northwest Indiana, the Region is known for its smash burger, with an iconic, lacey-edged patty that extends well past the bun. Every inch of crispy beef is dressed with American cheese, mayo-based Region sauce, bright green relish and onion. It's the only burger that's ever made us want to travel to Indiana.
The second location of the late-night hot dog and fried shrimp joint is a little glitzier (televisions, seats), but the most important difference is that it was the first of the two Red Hot Ranch restaurants to offer burgers: thin, griddled patties with perfectly melted cheese, LTO and special sauce. With fries, the double cheeseburger is less than $6, which also makes it an awesome deal.
We know, we know. You have a love-hate relationship with Au Cheval. The West Loop spot is known for its award-winning double-decker burger and its hours-long wait. Truthfully, a trip to Au Cheval is an ordeal, but that won't stop us from commending its signature dish. Whether you order a single (two patties) or a double (three), the meat here is topped with Kraft singles, Dijonnaise and house-made pickles. If the wait left you ravenous, opt to add a fried egg, bacon or foie gras.
Spawning as an offshoot of Mott St. (No. 2 on the list), Mini Mott specializes in burgers and other fast-casual handhelds. Order the Original, with two patties, melty American cheese, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapeños, pickles, miso butter, sautéed onions and a cloud of sweet potato frizzles. Your fingers will be coated with umami flavors by the time it’s all over, and you’ll hardly notice yourself licking them clean.
You'll cruise the menu at Owen & Engine, considering the cavatelli with crumbly Italian sausage and kale or the bangers and mash with cider onion gravy—but we both know that you're here for the burger. Topped with a nest of caramelized onions and served with malt vinegar mayo and house fries, this patty is crafted with a rich blend of chuck, short rib and brisket, making it lightyears better than its fast-food counterparts.
This two-Michelin-starred South Loop kitchen is known for its pricey tasting menu, but insiders know that you can saddle up at the bar for a damn fine burger that's just $15. The thick, pink patty is topped with smoky bacon-onion jam, truffle mornay and molten gruyere. It's a mélange of rich, creamy, salty and savory that's best enjoyed on the restaurant's small sidewalk patio come summertime.
The reigning champ of Time Out Chicago's Battle of the Burger, the BDK Burger at Blue Door Kitchen & Garden is simple and expertly crafted. Two thin patties are glued together with cheddar and topped with tangy pickles and a swath of garlic aioli. The whole thing is cushioned by a perfectly toasted brioche bun that practically melts in your mouth.
As the only vegetarian option on this list, the namesake burger at Bad Hunter in the West Loop has some seriously big shoes (er, buns?) to fill. You won't miss red meat when you sink your teeth into the moist but solid black bean patties, which are layered with cheddar, tomato jam, onion and lettuce. Carnivores, be forewarned: You might consider going meat-free after trying this burger.
As the name implies, this an offshoot of Au Cheval (No. 5 on this list), and the menu is inspired by the restaurant’s most famous item—the cheeseburger. This isn’t the exact same burger, but enumerating the differences feels like splitting hairs. It’s a little smaller and a bit cheaper. You can add bacon (it’s thinner than at Au Cheval), and lettuce and tomato, though the burger doesn’t need them. The super-thin patties themselves don’t add much flavor, but the perfectly melted cheese, Dijon, onion, pickles and puffy bun add up to a delicious combination.
The servers at Kuma's original Avondale location sport more ink than a Bic factory, and the metal is often cranked up so loud you can’t hear yourself talking, but therein lies the charm. Squeeze through the ass-to-elbows crowds and up to the long bar, where you might be in for a lengthy wait. What’s the draw? Well, the Slayer burger, for one—a pile of fries topped with a half-pound burger, chili, cherry peppers, andouille, onions and Jack cheese on a pretzel bun. That, and the extensive menu of craft beers, including plenty of limited edition local brews to get before they’re gone.
Meat lovers, this one's for you. Two colossal, cheese-topped patties take center stage, completely outweighing the sturdy but soft bun they're housed within. Pickles and caramelized onions put in work to add a touch of brightness to every bite, but they're no match for the beef. If you're all about the toppings, skip ahead.
This “last stand” serves Fatso's and Smash burgers to neighborhood regulars and late-night revelers. Open until 4am on Friday and Saturday, the Ukrainian Village outpost is ready and waiting whenever your next patty craving strikes. If you're a hungry newbie, order the Super Ooey Gooey, two Smash patties stuffed with cheddar, bacon and giardiniera and topped with Fatso sauce, tomato, lettuce and onion.
Chicago’s resident royal pie baker has a seriously delicious, seriously messy secret: One of the city's best burgers is hiding in plain sight on its menu. The Pub Burger layers two griddled patties with cheddar, bacon aioli and red onions on a brioche bun made in-house. Forget your manners and dig in.
Uncommonly thick Nutella shakes, fries with truffle salt—where does the low-brow end and high-end begin at Eddie Lakin’s burger shop? The answer is that it’s intertwined, because the most crucial, highfalutin things Lakin does—grinding his own meat and hand-cutting the potatoes for his fries—pervade almost every dish. The burgers actually taste beefy, and the fries are textbook examples in frying. So while we’re happy Lakin took those surly, greasy Vienna shops as his inspiration, we’re equally stoked he chose not to follow their practices.
There are so many delicate, carb-free plates on the menu at this public-facing restaurant inside Soho House Chicago, but the burger is not one of them. This refined all-American patty is simple yet effective: beef, bacon, tomato and lettuce. The combination hits all the right notes and can be paired with a craft beer as easily as it can sing alongside a flute of bubbly.
A burger at an Indian restaurant? Go with us on this one. Pub Royale's namesake handheld is fantastic, despite the fact that it sticks out like a sore thumb on the menu. Doubts are quickly dashed when this juicy hunk of meat arrives at your table coated with oozy aged cheddar and aioli and topped with spicy pickles and diced onions.
Topped with aged cheddar, a hefty helping of crunchy giardiniera mayo and bread and butter pickles, the burger at Forbidden Root is unique but familiar. Pair it with the delicate Wildflower Pale Ale, which is crafted with elderflower, marigold and sweet osmanthus blooms.
Exclusively available on the lunch menu, Boeufhaus's burger is worth venturing out for in the daylight. The kitchen uses a house-made blend of strip, hanger and tenderloin to create an extraordinarily decadent ground beef. Each patty is grilled to perfection before it's topped with frisee, onion and pickle and served with a pile of equally outstanding beef fat fries.
When DC Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn opened the first Chicago outpost of his casual burger joint, he airlifted the menu straight from DC. That explains the name of the Prez Obama burger, which hits all the right notes and textures, from sweet onion marmalade to salty bacon to sharp Roquefort and pungent horseradish mayo. Order fries so you can make a trip to the mayo bar for sriracha mayo, and don't leave without trying the creamy, gooey toasted marshmallow milkshake.
We're not totally sure why the Juicy Lucy hasn't caught on at more Chicago restaurants. Rather than sitting on top of the patty, cheese is stuffed inside the meat for an ooey-gooey surprise. The version at Dusek's is balanced with smoky red onion-bacon marmalade, crisp butter lettuce and preserved tomatoes.
Most breweries aren't exactly known for their food, but the kitchen at Old Irving Brewing Company proves that sustenance is just as important as the suds. Negating the double-patty formula of its competitors, the OIB Burger features a stacked 8-ounce hunk of beef that's tucked inside a rosemary bun and blanketed in white cheddar, caramelized onions and aioli. It's the kind of thing you'll crave after gulping down a flight of beer.
The Beverly neighborhood has a relaxed small-town-in-1965 feel, and one of the contributing reasons is this dose of Americana, both old enough and friendly enough to be your grandmother. The namesake burger is old-school minimalist, a deeply satisfying quarter-pound patty of fresh ground round sauteed in its own juices and served with the simplest toppings—grilled onions and ketchup-mustard-pickle on a feather-light bun. Just as good are the fresh-cut fries, cooked in beef tallow, and as long as you’re dining as if it’s 1965, finish up with a thick chocolate shake.