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Photograph: Martha Williams

The 18 best burgers in Chicago

From diner-style classics and loaded cheeseburgers to over-the-top creations, these are the best burgers in Chicago

By Morgan Olsen
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This city has long been known for its deep dish pizza and namesake dogs, but locals know the truth: The best burgers in Chicago are the real star of the show. These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a menu that doesn't feature a patty, whether it's a Michelin-starred restaurant or one of the coolest cocktail bars in Chicago. The best of the best are unapologetically messy and come piled high with indulgent toppings, like caramelized onions, thick-cut bacon and ooey-gooey cheese. Whether you like your patties thin and griddled or thick and juicy, there's something on the list of the best burgers in Chicago for every carnivore.

RECOMMENDED: Check out more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Best of the city under one roof

Mini Mott
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Mini Mott at Time Out Market Chicago

Restaurants West Loop

Only in Chicago could a burger be so good that it deserved its own eatery. The story of Mini Mott's signature dish began in 2016, when the patty at parent spot Mott St was recognized as one of the nation's best. At the time, the burger was available only at the restaurant's tiny bar. Mini Mott was born to supply the demand, turning out juicy patties layered with melted American cheese, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapenos, miso butter, pickles, sautéed onions and a cloud of sweet-potato frizzles. Now you can snag the delicious stack at a third location: Time Out Market Chicago.

Best burgers in Chicago

Gretel Griddle Burger
Photograph: Starr Nordgren (@chicagofoodiegirl)

1. Gretel Griddle Burger at Gretel

The best burger in Chicago is also its newest (shocking, we know). But the folks behind Gretel in Logan Square do have some experience slinging pristine patties at sister spot Little Bad Wolf, which is also on this list. Though the dining room hasn't opened just yet, you can get your hands on the namesake griddle burger via a walk-up window or delivery. And trust us, you'll want to: The messy mélange of flavors is wonderfully indulgent, with a cascade of garlic aioli and American cheese dripping out of every crevice. A handful of pickles and a sprinkle of red onions add some much needed acidity to the mix, but the cloud-like sesame seed bun really takes things over the edge. This freshman may be new to the lineup, but damn if she's not already a first-string player.

loyalist, burger, cheeseburger, the loyalist
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

2. The Loyalist Dirty Burg at the Loyalist

Bars Cocktail bars West Loop

This dark and sexy basement bar offers everything from foie gras eclairs to mussels in bacon cream, but the Dirty Burg is what keeps us coming back again and again. A juicy patty is sandwiched between squishy sesame-seed–studded buns and adorned with melted American cheese and a mess of pickled and charred onions. It's not exactly the kind of thing you want to devour on a first date, but we're not judging if you do. A chaser of thick-cut fries and garlicky aioli is the only thing that will keep you from scarfing down this handheld in five minutes flat.

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Region burger
Photograph: Ben Macri

3. Single Cheeseburger at The Region

Restaurants Hamburgers North Center

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 house sauce, bright green relish and raw onion. Frankly, it's the only burger that's ever made us want to hop in the car and travel to Indiana.

Red Hot Ranch's special burger. Two thin burger patties with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and their special sauce. Get it at their new location in Lakeview: 3055 N Ashland Ave.
Photograph: Hannah Bourne

4. RHR Double Cheeseburger at Red Hot Ranch Lakeview

Restaurants Hot dogs Lake View

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. It's also a helluva deal—you can toss in hand-cut fries and still keep your order under $7.

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StopAlong Burger
Photograph: Christoper Rios

5. Stop-In Burger at the StopAlong at the StopAlong

Restaurants Pizza Bucktown

This Wicker Park restaurant utilizes the slightly misleading tagline "Pizza & Stuff." You see, we consider the fan-favorite Stop-In burger to be more than just "stuff." The double cheeseburger is a masterpiece worthy of the marquee treatment. The caramelized onions are jammy, the pickles zingy, the thousand island dressing creamy and the brioche bun pillowy. It's a fine specimen that easily rivals the city's top oldies.

au cheval, burger, battle of the burger
Photograph: Kevin J. Miyazaki

6. Single Cheeseburger at Au Cheval

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

We know, we know. You have a hot and cold 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.

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7. “Who Betta” Burger at Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat

When you see the food coming out of the kitchen, the name of this Hyde Park restaurant makes perfect sense. The "flexitarian" menu puts plant-based products on a pedestal, forging a delectable path ahead for those who are transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. The loaded Philly cheesesteak and the meatless Chicago dog might distract you, but you're here for the "Who Betta" burger, which finds a quarter-pound Impossible patty dressed up with fresh greens, tomato, pickles, grilled red onions, Epitome sauce and cheese (go vegan or dairy). Meat or no meat, this classic burger holds its ground against every entry on this list.

Double Cheeseburger at Community Tavern;
Photograph: Martha Williams

8. Double Cheeseburger at Community Tavern

Restaurants Pan-Asian Portage Park

Meat lovers, this one's for you. Two colossal, cheese-draped 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.

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Swill Inn burger
Photograph: Garrett Sweet

9. Signature Swill Burger at the Swill Inn

Bars Gastropubs River West/West Town

The secret to this double-patty stack is creamy, house-made pimento cheese that's studded with juicy jalapeños bits. Fair warning: Your fingers will be covered in the stuff by the time you're done. The kitchen adds more American cheese to the mix (for good measure, of course) before cutting all that fatty goodness with crisp house pickles. Customization is key here, and guests can opt to add on bacon or a fried egg; you can even swap in a veggie patty for no additional fee.

Little Bad Wolf
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

10. Wolf Burger at Little Bad Wolf

Restaurants Contemporary American Andersonville

Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you want to blow a week's worth of calories in one sitting, grab a seat at Little Bad Wolf in Andersonville and order the Wolf Burger with a side of mac and cheese. This delicious monstrosity includes three patties, fat strips of bacon, molten American cheese, onion straws, house-made pickles, a swath of mayo and a fried egg crown. It'll take a second or two to figure out how to get your mouth around the thing, so order a pour of bourbon to wash it all down.

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BDK Burger at Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

11. BDK Burger at Blue Door Kitchen & Garden

Restaurants American Rush & Division

For years, Time Out Chicago hosted an annual event called Battle of the Burger, where the city's best stackers faced off for the winning title. It's been three years since the final iteration of the event, but we're still thinking about the reigning champ: Blue Door Kitchen's BDK burger. Two thin patties are glued together with cheddar and topped with tangy pickles and a layer of garlic aioli. The whole thing is cushioned by a perfectly toasted brioche bun that practically melts in your mouth.

Photograph: Courtesy Kuma's Corner

12. Slayer at Kuma’s Corner

Restaurants Hamburgers Avondale

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. 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. (We'll let you catch your breath.) That, and the extensive menu of craft beers, including plenty of limited-edition local brews to snag before they’re gone.

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368.rb.eo.op.hotdogstands.philslaststand4952px.jpg
Photograph: Tessa Marshall

13. Super Ooey Gooey at Fatso's Last Stand

Restaurants Hot dogs Ukrainian Village

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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

14. Pub Burger at Pleasant House Pub

Restaurants British Lower West Side

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.

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Edzo’s Burger Shop
Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

15. 8-ounce Char Burger at Edzo’s Burger Shop

Restaurants Hamburgers Evanston

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.

Good Stuff Eatery
Photograph: Joe Shymanski

16. Prez at Good Stuff Eatery

Restaurants Hamburgers Loop

When D.C. Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn opened the first Chicago outpost of his casual burger joint, he airlifted the menu straight from D.C. That explains the name of the Prez 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.

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Photograph: Jessica Lynn Capron

17. OIB Burger at Old Irving Brewing Company

Bars Breweries Portage Park

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.

Top Notch Beerburger
Photograph: Erica Gannett

18. Basic Beef Burger at Top Notch Beefburgers

Restaurants Hamburgers Beverly

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.

Best burger restaurants in America

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