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Photograph: Ben Macri

The 22 best burgers in Chicago

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

Written by
Zach Long
,
Morgan Olsen
&
Jeffy Mai
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Chicago has a reputation for pizzas of all styles and hot dogs, but locals know the city excels at burgers as well. Nearly every restaurant and bar has one on its menu these days, from no-frills stands to neighborhood taverns. You can order your burger with thin and smashed or big and beefy patties plus a variety of indulgent toppings like caramelized onions, thick-cut bacon and giardiniera. The list features several of the more popular spots in town, such as Au Cheval and the Loyalist, alongside some under-the-radar gems. And you don’t have to spend too much either, as the options are wholly affordable—Redhot Ranch’s double cheeseburger is less than $7. So prepare to get messy in the most satisfying way by checking out our guide to the best burgers in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Check out more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Best of the city under one roof

  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • West Loop

You’ll never be bored at Big Kids, a ‘90s-inspired shop with sandwiches that incorporate everything from a secret spice mix and potato chips to fried Spam—basically, the stuff of any stoner’s munchies-fueled dreams. The signature Original Shiddy Burger began as a weekly special before the demand couldn't be ignored. It stars a smash patty, which has been mixed with shredded cheese so the edges caramelize when cooked, shredded lettuce, American cheese and a Big Mac-esque secret sauce. And you can now get it every day at Time Out Market Chicago.

Best burgers in Chicago

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

This dark and sexy basement bar offers everything from foie gras eclairs to mussels in brandade cream, but the burger 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Hot dogs
  • Logan Square
  • price 1 of 4

This hot dog and fried shrimp stand is a favorite for greasy late-night eats and its double cheeseburger is arguably the best deal in town. Thin, griddled patties with perfectly melted cheese, LTO and special sauce will only set you back $7—and it comes with free fries.

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  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

You'll browse the menu at Owen & Engine, considering the haddock fish and chips 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 from Slagel Farm, making it lightyears better than its fast-food counterparts.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

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 item. 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 or thick cut bacon.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pan-Asian
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

Originally conceived as a limited-time special, the overwhelming response to Edward Kim’s burger earned it a permanent place on the menu. The namesake creation consists of two chuck patties, crunchy sweet potato shoestrings, melty American cheese. pickled jalapenos, dill pickles and Asian-inflected miso butter onions and hoisin aioli. Your fingers will be coated with umami flavors by the time you’re finished eating and we totally won’t judge if you lick them clean. After 7pm, the burger’s only available at the bar so plan accordingly.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Andersonville
  • price 2 of 4

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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  • 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.

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“Who Betta” Burger at Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat
Photograph: Courtesy Can't Believe It's Not Meat

9. “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.

A relative newcomer to the burger scene is also among the best. 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. 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.

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  • Bars
  • Avondale

Quality and simplicity are the keys to the excellent burger at this retro-chic tavern in Avondale. The kitchen uses locally-sourced beef for its patties, which get flattened on the griddle and placed alongside American cheese, housemade pickles and horseradish sauce on a potato bun from Highland Bakery Co. You can (and should) request to add raw onions and if the weather’s nice, snag a seat on the spacious back patio. The burger should help soak up all the old fashioneds and bottles of High Life, too.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Evanston
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Food court
  • Loop

Serving their creations out of a stall inside Revival Food Hall, Bianca's Burgers dresses up four-ounce beef patties with all manner of toppings, but our favorite is a tribute to a familiar fast food staple. The Memory Lane is reminiscent of a Big Mac (minus that superfluous middle bun), topped with thousand island dressing and white American cheese that mingles with the textures of raw onions, shredded lettuce and tomatoes. No offense to Ronald and the gang, but we prefer Bianca's take.

  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Irving Park

Irving Park sandwich shop JT’s is heavy on Midwestern comfort, offering items like a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich and a Coney Island hot dog. It’s easy, then, to overlook the burger, but doing so would be a blunder. Owner Christopher Cunningham’s special burger sports two griddled Angus patties, caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, dijonnaise and a unique ingredient—slices of Granny Smith apple. The fruit adds a subtle bit of tartness that helps cut through the otherwise rich bites.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Rush & Division
  • price 3 of 4

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 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. Do note that the burger is only available on the daily brunch menu.

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • East Village

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 one of the brewery's botanic-inspired beers for an impeccable combo.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Avondale
  • price 2 of 4

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 some limited-edition local brews you'll have to snag before they’re gone.

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

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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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Beverly
  • price 1 of 4

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 like it’s 1965, finish up with a thick chocolate shake.

  • 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 (it has one of those on the menu if you want it), the Wood-Fired Burger features a stacked 8-ounce hunk of Prime beef that's tucked inside a brioche bun and blanketed in white cheddar, caramelized onions and vinegar aioli. It's the kind of thing you'll crave after gulping down a flight of beers.

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