There's never a wrong time to eat a burger. Whether you want a cheap smash patty for lunch or late-night dining or you're looking for a fancy and juicy upscale version, Chicago's got a burger for you. This year, we're leaving it up to you to pick the best. Meet the 50 beefy contenders for Chicago's Battle of the Burger.
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the Battle of the Burger
With three cuts of beef (chuck as the base, brisket for juiciness, Wagyu scraps for fat), two types of cheese (Gruyère, Mornay sauce) and a bottomless reserve of umami (bacon-onion jam, house-made pickles), it's clear this burger has been obsessed over by chef Ryan McCaskey. All those delicious details are what make diners obsess over it, too. $18. —David Tamarkin
The two thin patties (a "single" is really a double here) aren't the star of this much-obsessed-over burger. Instead it's the generous schmear of mayo, the melted American cheese and the chopped raw onions that cut through the beef with a piquant bite. $10.95. —DT
A thick, juicy patty dominates opposite a toasted and chewy pretzel bun. Add melty provolone, LTO and pickles, and this burger's a picture-perfect example of how great a non-griddle burger can be. You could pick any meat burger on this menu and have the same meaty experience, but just make sure you ask for a pretzel bun. $10. —EA
This is a burger that you truly can't set down for a few reasons. It's on a biscuit, making any chance of reassembly nearly impossible and it's also probably the cause of your impending heart attack. Topped with Merkts cheese, two fried onion rings, red onions, caramelized onions and pickles, it's a mouthful, but it's also the ultimate comfort burger. $10. —EA
The steamed bun prevents the mess of two thin, juicy patties slathered with creamy, spicy house-made pimiento cheese and a heap of griddled onions from dripping onto your plate. You don't want even a morsel of this burger to go anywhere but in your mouth. $13.—Laura Baginski
The two-inch-thick patty made with short rib from deli/butcher Publican Quality Meats is the star: The meat is velvety, juicy and, true to its origins, screams quality. Toppings change often, but on my visit, mimolette "Velveeta" takes a backseat to pickled ramps and beef-cheek jam, all on a sesame brioche bun. $15. — Laura Baginski
“It’s 70-percent beef, 30-percent bacon,” our server proudly proclaimed of the patty. Honestly, I couldn’t care less whether the bacon infusion was responsible for the patty’s dripping juiciness or distinct umami flavor. All I know is, the burger, topped with micro shoestring potatoes, pungent blue cheese and a “special sauce,” is eyes-roll-back-in-your-head good. — Laura Baginski
There are many tempting options on this Portage Park burger joint’s menu, including sandwiches topped with crab cakes, Polish sausage and chili cheese Fritos. Frankly, you’re better off ordering the basic BRGRBELLY burger—it’s a simple cheeseburger that allows you to enjoy the patty’s flavorful blend of ground chuck and smoked pork belly without being distracted by decadent toppings. The burger is served with house-made sriracha pickles and your choice of cheese on a hearty sesame seed bun that’s baked in-house. Every sandwich comes with a free butter cookie, so make sure to save room for dessert. —ZL
Allen Sternweiler’s adorable burger joint doubles as a butcher shop. It’s a DIY affair: Customers pick their meat, bun, spice rub and toppings before the burger is made to order. If you stick to beef, go with “Grandma’s onion soup” rub and flank your burger with an order of the accomplished fries—you’ll be glad you did. Tack on a scoop of the house-made custard, and you’ll be even happier.
This Logan Square spot serves up a wealth of classic American dishes and crowd–pleasing favorites, like the burger. It's an 8-ounce patty topped with white cheddar and a dill pickle, a great choice before starting on your Saturday afternoon Logan Square bar crawl. $14.
Chef Pete Coenen pairs two thin char-griddled patties—and trust me, you'll taste the char—with bread and butter pickles, smoked gouda, caramelized onion and horseradish mustard aioli to create this monster of a cheeseburger. The lettuce and tomato give it height, making this one a mouthful any way you cut it. $16. —EA
Commonwealth, the gastropub Roscoe Village didn’t know it needed, serves a very simple burger—a half-pound patty, Hooks cheddar, bacon, house-made pickles and brioche bun. It’s perfectly executed and so delicious it’s worth a trip across town to get your hands on. Do yourself a favor and get the margarita, too. $12. —LB
There are two burgers on the menu at Community Tavern, the bacon cheeseburger on the bar menu and the double cheeseburger on the dinner menu. Order the double cheeseburger, because while it (appropriately) doubles in price, it's leaps and bounds above the bar burger. With two beef patties, Hooks cheddar, pickles, carmelized onions and a side of house frites, it's bigger and well worth the extra scratch. $16. —EA
The burger at Corridor Brewery & Provisions is a mouthful—a big, cut-in-half and still struggle mouthful. But it's delicious, with two steak patties, mustard herb mayo, melty cheddar, Detroit pickles all on top of a chewy sesame seed bun. Double points: You can get this one all day long. —EA
The Dawson's large location can be daunting, but the patio is always a good bet. It's one of the most gorgeous in the city—sprawling and perfect for a summer brunch packed with drinks from the bar. The food is American and the place feels like it's pretty much always open (evenings and open for brunch and dinner on the weekend), making it an easy choice in West Town to gather with friends.
Creative (but never overdone) toppings make the smashed-patty burgers at DMK sing. Try the No. 4, with roasted hatch green chili, Sonoma Jack cheese, smoked bacon and a fried egg. For $3, make it a double. The fries aren't to be overlooked either, and since they're available in two sizes, you'll be able to try two of the toppings without overdoing it. $10.50 single, $14.50 double.
Dove's applies its winning Southern-Mexican theme to a diner burger, which is only available on weekdays starting at 11am until it's gone. The result is a spin on a patty melt, with sharp cheddar, a smoky pepper relish and creamy aioli packed between sourdough. It doesn't come with a side, so split an order of the fried potato and shishito pepper hash with your date. Just don't split the burger—you want this whole thing to yourself. $10. —AC
The burger at DryHop remains one of the best: The brisket and sirloin patty is spread with ancho chile–tomato jam and creamy raw milk cheddar, with pickled onions to cut through the fat and arugula to lighten things up a bit. This is one balanced, beautiful burger.—AC
Invented in Minneapolis, the Juicy Lucy is a burger for anyone who prefers their cheese encased in beef instead of melted on top. The Dusek’s version stuffs American cheese into a Slagel Farm patty and tops it with butter lettuce and preserved tomatoes. The best addition to the burger is a red onion and bacon marmalade, which gives each bite a smoky-yet-sweet flavor. It’s served with a heaping portion of duck fat fries you can dig into while you wait for the burger’s molten cheese core to cool. $15. —Zach Long
I love a burger straight off the grill, and Fairways tastes like a smoky backyard burger that's been elevated with melted American cheese, LTO, pickles and dijonnaise. You’ll get a choice of frites, chips or salad on the side—the frites, cooked in duck fat and with a shake of truffle salt, is the only answer. $10. —AC
There are five burgers on the menu at this Midwestern spot—the Classic, the Barnyard, Three Sisters, Harvest and Trippel. They range from the weird (the Three Sisters has popcorn on it, giving it a crunch not normally associated with burgers) to the expected (the Classic boasts lettuce, tomato, onion and cheddar). Regardless of which one you pick, the burger will be cooked nicely, and you'll leave pleased. $13-$16. — EA
The first flavor that jumps out on the Feast burger is the generous slathering of red onion marmalade, which adds a sweet and rich caramelized onion flavor. The single burger is nestled in a brioche bun and topped with an extra creamy Saint-André cheese. Arugula and dijonnaise round out the flavor, but with 70-percent butterfat, the cheese is the secret sauce that makes this burger totally addictive. $14. —Martha Williams
Topped with aged cheddar, a hefty helping of crunchy giardiniera mayo and a bread and butter pickle, the burger at Forbidden Root is unique but familiar. The perfectly salty eight-ounce beef patty is tempered by all the toppings. Don't forget to eat the crispy fries that come with it—we almost ordered seconds. $14. —EA
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 made its Chicago debut last fall when it won the Hamburger Hop contest at Chicago Gourmet. And this is a winning burger—it hits all the right notes and textures, from sweet onion marmalade to salty bacon to sharp Roquefort and pungent horseradish mayo. $7.25. —AC
Cooking the meat correctly is crucial to constructing a good burger, and GreenRiver puts together a mean one. It sports a thick patty, with just the right amount of pinkness in the middle, melting cheddar cheese, briny pickles and a house sauce to tie the whole thing together. $21. —EA
Haywood Tavern’s double cheeseburger isn’t exactly groundbreaking (what burger is?), but it’s an extremely solid rendition of the venerable dish, boasting two Slagel Farm beef patties, a tangy dijon aioli and just the right amount of crisp pickles. Served with fries, it’s the right size for a not-overly-hearty meal or a late-night snack, leaving you with enough room for a beer or cocktail at the Humboldt Park bar. $14. —ZL
Cultures collide to make this burger great: Kimchi (Korean) provides the acidic bite, pickle aioli (French) offers creaminess, Gouda (Dutch) lends it a gooey, smoky flavor and the patty (we’re gonna go with American) is perfectly cooked. Hooray for globalization. —LB
Double patties are a constant throughout this list, but the cheeseburger at Johnny's Grill departs from thin patties and instead stacks two medium patties with cheddar cheese dijonnaise, pickles and onion. It's a traditional diner burger, but with a bright saltiness that brings out the best in those huge hunks of meat. $9. —EA
The servers here sport more ink than a Bic factory, and the metal is 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.
Our current favorite on M Burger's lineup has to be the Chicago Double. It's a simple combination, with two juicy patties covered in American cheese, grilled onions, pickles and mustard. Are we in heaven? M Burger just put all of our favorite things on a single bun and now we don't know what else to eat for lunch. Seriously. $5.99 —EA
You have to walk through the downstairs bar at Maple & Ash to get up to the second floor lounge, or you could just stop there and settle for a limited menu and drinks. If you do the latter, you can order the Downstairs Burger, piled with gooey cheese and onions—you should add some thick and tender bacon, too. You may feel classy sitting at Maple & Ash, but this burger is messy enough to bring you back down to earth (be careful not to stain your nice clothes). $14. —EA
The house-ground Slagel beef burger arrives expertly cooked, christened with a cross of crispy bacon and a melting slice of aged cheddar tucked under a toasted, house-made sesame bun. Give it a few squirts of house-made ketchup and mustard, then layer on the in-house pickles. $14. —Lauren Viera
Our favorite among the trio of burgers on offer during Nico’s lunch and brunch services tastes like a Big Mac that’s been sent away to finishing school. A freshly ground blend of Slagel Farms chuck, short rib and sirloin makes for a patty of magnificent tenderness. The juices run and mingle with the tangy house-made Thousand Island dressing that tops it, eventually coming to rest within the crumb of a supremely soft potato bun. Shredded iceberg lettuce adds a pleasant crunch, while salty provolone contributes a note of umami funk. $14. —CH
When this behemoth of an onion-studded potato bun hits your table, you'll vow to bring half home. Then you'll take one bite and realize no one has that kind of willpower. Beef this velvety is thanks to the fat in the blend—chuck with short rib and brisket. Wear stretchy pants. $16. —Marissa Conrad
Named after the infamous Pulp Fiction line, this British-Indian pub's Royale with Cheese is fantastic, despite sticking out like a sore thumb on the menu. Doubts are quickly dashed when this juicy hunk of a burger comes out with spicy pickles and melting cheddar. You'll want to order everything at Pub Royale, but you might want to include the burger near the top of that list. $14. —EA
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 also offers burgers, thin, griddled patties with perfectly melted cheese, LTO and special sauce. With fries, the double cheeseburger is less than $6, which makes the Red Hot Ranch Burger not only the best burger, but the best deal as well. $5.43.
The caramelized onions, smoked ketchup and sliced blue cheddar (no crumbled blue here) are all layered on the brioche bun in perfect proportions, but it's the well-seasoned mix of chuck and brisket, which has a slight char on the edge, that steals all the glory. $14. —AC
An obnoxiously thick burger stabbed with a steak knife? Not at Rosebud, a steakhouse that shows restraint with its simple inch-thick patty layered with two slightly charred slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles, all bookended with a toasted brioche bun. $14. —Laura Baginski
There are two burgers on the menu at RPM, but our server didn't hesitate on suggesting the truffle burger over the dry-aged steakburger. One bite, and it's clear why: The flavorful grass-fed beef comes with melting foie gras butter, truffle aioli and red onion jam. This is decadent, yes, but skip breakfast if you have to, as you're also going to want to go to town on the perfect fries, served with Caesar dressing for dipping. $17. —AC
A burger pairs perfectly with a pint of beer, and at Sidecar at LR, it's pretty much a necessity. This burger from Beard & Belly has two thin but substantial patties with butterkäse cheese, pickles and special sauce. The pickle-filled bites are the best, but given how tender the meat is, it's easy to demolish the whole thing in a matter of seconds. $10. —Elizabeth Atkinson
As the name implies, this is an offshoot of Au Cheval, 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 $1 cheaper. You can add bacon (it’s thinner than at Au Cheval), and lettuce and tomato, though the burger doesn’t need it. 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. $8.95.
Served on a potato roll, this griddled patty covered in butterkäse, pickles and dark onions pairs well with a dry cider, a drink that is more abundant at the Northman than anywhere else in the city. It comes with fries and curried ketchup, which we would order again, even without the burger. $13. —EA
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. $4.25.
Part of the recently revamped lunch menu at Rick Bayless's fine dining spot, this $19 burger is a juicy blend of ribeye and shortrib topped with chorizo. But wait, it gets more decadent: Melted cheddar coats the whole thing. Somehow, the roasted poblanos add enough acidity to keep this from becoming a gut bomb. It’s pricey, yes, so cut it in half and eat the rest for dinner, if that makes you feel better. $19. —LB
Wizardry is the only explanation for the splendor of this bun: The potato dough–foccacia hybrid is impossibly light, yet—this is where the magic happens—it doesn't collapse, or even lose a touch of integrity, under the juiciness of the mind-bogglingly beefy and flavorful ground-in-house chuck patty, topped with pickles and cheddar. $16. —Julia Kramer
It may seem like your typical burger, but combined with a caraway brioche and house-smoked bacon, this burger is over the top. The cheddar and Coca-Cola onions contribute to a well-balanced flavor that is a departure from what you'll find on the rest of Untitled's new menu. $18. —EA
Serving brunch by day and burgers by night, Whisk is a spot from brothers and chefs Rick and David Rodriguez. It's bright and lively with a sunny atmosphere—and the patio is littered with Ron Swanson memorabilia. Try the Chicago Avenue Burger, two thick patties topped with brisket, LTO, pickles and an onion ring.