BDK Burger
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The 26 best burgers in Chicago

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

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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. We've scoured the city in search of the finest offerings, rating burgers on quality, creativity, value and more. 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 $7 and change. 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

Time Out Market Chicago
  • Hamburgers
  • West Loop

Drawing inspiration from the modest origins of the hamburger, chef Jorge Kauam’s German-American concept offers a variety of smashed creations that blend the comfort of familiarity with striking inventiveness. Options include the namesake Gutenburg Burger and the indulgent Guten Belly Burger, which comes adorned with luscious caramelized pork belly.

Best burgers in Chicago

  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

This dark and sexy basement bar offers everything from French onion 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.

  • 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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  • 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 has left you ravenous, opt to add a fried egg or thick cut bacon.

  • 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
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • 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.

  • 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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  • Pan-Asian
  • Portage Park
  • price 2 of 4

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.

8. “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.

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  • River West/West Town
  • price 1 of 4

You’ll find a burger concept inside River West bar The Drop In, where it’s the only food offering. A collaboration between Michelin-starred chef Phillip Frankland Lee and professional skateboarder Neen Williams, the Not a Damn Chance Burger sports two wagyu smash patties along with American cheese, onions, pickles, jalapenos and a special sauce. It pairs perfectly with a cold beer, or is great if you’re still hungry after dinner downstairs at Sushi by Scratch.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago

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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  • Hot dogs
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 1 of 4

This “last stand” serves grilled and smashed burgers to neighborhood regulars and late-night revelers. 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 onions. 

  • 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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  • 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 skip 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.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Uptown
  • price 1 of 4

This casual Middle Eastern spot in Uptown dishes out more than just falafel. The burgers are mighty impressive, with the Oklahoma Onion Burger being our favorite. A four-ounce patty comes topped with sweet caramelized onions, American cheese and—the thing that really sets it apart—za’atar mayo. If you want to make it somehow even better, add a smashed falafel to your burger.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Hamburgers
  • Belmont Cragin
  • price 1 of 4

Boasting patties that are 90 percent beef and 10 percent bacon, the greasy-in-the-best-way burgers at this counter service spot in Hermosa are 100 percent delights. We’re big fans of the namesake Charly’s Burger, which is adorned with cheese, grilled onions, pickles and special sauce, but you can also try enticing options like the La Piña Burger—chihuahua cheese, grilled pineapple, jalapenos and garlic aioli.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • 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.

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  • Bucktown
  • price 2 of 4

Tucked away on a sleepy Bucktown side street, The Leavitt Street Inn & Tavern should be on your radar. The tavern’s food menu is short but sweet, boasting a terrific one-third-pound smash burger. Crisp double Angus patties are topped with American cheese, caramelized onions, pickles, and tangy house sauce, and it’s best enjoyed on the outdoor patio.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • Japanese
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Boka Restaurant Group’s subterranean izakaya below Momotaro probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind when thinking about burgers, but you’d be remiss to overlook the Momo Royale. The East-meets-West creation holds two juicy patties in between a housemade bao bun. It’s one of the more unique burgers in town and served with sweet potato fries.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • Gage Park
  • price 1 of 4

Believe it or not, Chicago has its own style of burger, too. Born on the Southwest Side, the Big Baby features two griddled patties—with a slice of American cheese between them—over pickles, ketchup and mustard (the placement is important). On top of the beef goes a pile of grilled onions, and the whole thing is placed on a toasted sesame seed bun. Simple, yet delicious.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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