One look at the menu at Edzo’s Burger Shop in Lincoln Park and it’s clear proprietor Eddie Lakin is a patty purist. The letter-board menu offers just one style—crispy-thin griddled (a second, the juicy cooked-to-order char, is available only at the Evanston shop). Toppings are basic: cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato. Take Lakin to a place like Lincoln Park neighbor Butcher & the Burger, known for its DIY approach to building bespoke burgers from ten patty options and as many spice blends and add-ons, and it’s like watching someone play Go Fish with Nate Silver.
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“My strategy,” Lakin says before stepping up to Butcher & the Burger’s counter, “is to choose a style first, then derive it to make your choices. Do you want to go classic? Asian?” If you simply choose ingredients you like without a theme in mind, he warns, “you might wind up with stuff that doesn’t go together.” Below, Lakin offers a tutorial on building a classic burger.
“I usually order medium-rare, to be sure to get medium or less, in case they overcook it. I’d rather have my burger undercooked than overcooked. My ideal is medium: pink throughout, no red.”
Simple spice blend
B&TB’s purest option is simply a mix of kosher salt and black pepper—chosen, Lakin says, as to not overwhelm the lean beef.
Lakin briefly wavers between cheddar and American, but opts for the former because it’s sharper. “I like American for thinner, In-N-Out–style burgers because it melts well. But on a larger burger, especially a char-grilled one, you need a cheese with a bolder flavor to stand up.”
Split-top butter egg bun
A croissant may work for a breakfast-style burger, but not for Lakin’s theme. He chooses a timeless split-top bun.
Lettuce, tomato, ketchup
Here, Lakin does take inspiration from the classic In-N-Out burger. Plus, he says, “I always include ketchup as a classic topping, mostly for acidity.”
Grilled onions, bacon
The grilled onions are an automatic—they’re a staple at every old-school burger joint. The bacon isn’t a must, but it doesn’t clash with the other ingredients, and Lakin likes the flavor it adds.
Grass-fed prime beef
“It’s simple, and it’s healthier,” Lakin says. “I heard the owner say it’s kinda lean.”