Chicago knows a thing or two about burgers. Whether you like 'em with the classic fixings or piled high with outrageous ingredients, there's a burger here for everyone. This year, we're leaving it up to you to pick the very best. Here are the 50 beefy contenders for Time Out Chicago's Battle of the Burger.
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to Battle of the Burger
If you’re willing to get down and dirty at Restoration Hardware, the burger is your best bet. In other words, this isn’t the menu option you order on a first date. The burger comes with two patties, melty American cheese, pickles, dijonnaise and LTO. And because it's made by the people behind Au Cheval, you know it's going to be good. $17. –EA
This high-end South Loop eatery is known for its tasting menus, but the bar menu boasts a scrumptious burger that's worth the hype. The thick, pink patty is topped with salty bacon, "special sauce," truffle cheese mornay, pickles and onions. The flavor profile is rich and meaty with a vibrant zing courtesy of the pickles and onion. Pro tip: A glass of rosé is the perfect companion for this burger. $15. —Morgan Olsen
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. —David Tamarkin
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. —Elizabeth Atkinson
Bad Hunter specializes in all things veggie, even when it comes to their namesake burger. The black bean patty is cooked to perfection—neither gooey nor tough—and topped with cheddar, house-made tomato jam, onion and mustard aioli inside a chewy brioche bun. If you want to get wild, add bacon to your otherwise vegetarian dish and chow down on a side of fries. $15. –EA
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. —EA
You're not here to count calories, so go ahead and order the Fat Jones burger, which starts with Slagel Farm beef griddled with onions. The juicy creation lives up to its name with oyster remoulade, crispy bacon, lettuce and tomato. The combination is both classic and unexpected, offering bite after bite of meaty goodness.
Chef Art Smith is best known for his fried chicken, but he churns out a damn good burger, too. It’s topped with cheddar, LTO and pickles and served with hand-cut fries and garlic aioli (two perfect accessories for this creation). Piled high on a toasted brioche bun, the double patty burger is just right for the sunny outdoor patio. $16. –EA
Boeufhaus specializes in all things beef, and their burger is no exception. They use a house-made blend of strip, hanger and tenderloin beef to create an extraordinarily rich ground beef. It's topped with frisee, onion and pickle and served with a trio of mayo, horseradish mustard and ketchup. Served with beef fat fries on the side with a light garlic aioli, this burger will have you trekking to Boeufhaus for your next lunch break. $16. —EA
“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. $19. —Laura Baginski
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
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
Providing the perfect example of how to top a burger, Dixie serves their double-decker with pimiento cheese, chow chow and red onion. Upon first bite, the pimento sinks into the meat and overflows, making the whole thing deliciously melty and cheesy. The chow chow and red onion add a nice zing just when things get too indulgent. A side of seasoned fries provides a vehicle for any pimento cheese that may have fallen on your plate. $13. —EA
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 white cheddar, green chili mustard, caramelized sweet onions and mayo on a toasted cemita bun. 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.
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. $13. —Amy Cavanaugh
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
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 8-ounce burger is a textbook example of beefy perfection and arrives topped with "everything" (a.k.a. ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato). $9.
Burger Au Poivre at Ella Elli
Expertly plated, the burger at Ella Elli is both decadent and gorgeous—you might even have a hard time taking the first bite. But when you do, you won’t regret it. The juicy patty is topped with St. Andre triple cream cheese, watercress and slices of cornichons. The plate is accompanied by a pan sauce for dipping, which only solidifies how over the top this burger really is. $14. —EA
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
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
Sarah Jordan (Johnny’s Grill) does it again at Revival Food Hall’s Graze Kitchenette. Not quite the same as its Logan Square counterpart, this burger can be ordered as a single or a double with grass-fed beef, cheddar, pickles, onion and dijionnaise. You can even dress it up with Swiss or blue cheese, mushrooms, avocado, a farm egg, bacon or jalapeños. If you’re craving a burger for lunch, book it to this Loop food hall to hit the spot. $8–$10. —EA
Cooking the meat correctly is crucial to constructing a good burger, and GreenRiver puts together a mean one. It sports two thin patties, 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. $16. —EA
The Burger at GT Prime
For a true umami bomb, GT Prime’s burger is the way to go (no surprise, as the chic spot specializes in all things meat). If you're not afraid of getting a little messy, saddle up to the bar and sink your teeth into the hunk of beef topped with cheddar, sun dried tomatoes, onion marmalade and porcini dust. It's a hefty handful, which somehow still feels elegant, if not totally over the top. $16. —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. $16. —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 Famous Kuma burger, for one. Topped with Applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato and onion, this stacked masterpiece is a work of art—and taste. $13.
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
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. —Cate Huguelet
This monster of a burger is huge in size and fantastic in taste. Chef Michael Shrader made the burger, and we absolutely love it. Served with white cheddar, grilled onions, crispy slabs of bacon on a chewy house-made bun with fries, it’s just the thing you need when you’re throwing back a few cold ones (which you’re bound to be doing at this brewery). $14. —EA
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
You’ll love everything about this burger. It comes on a hearty brioche bun with a big tender patty, cheddar, pickled onions, a huge tomato slice and special sauce—and it’s the kind of burger that will have juice running down your arms. Dig into the delicious chips (fries) that come on the side: They’re soft in the middle with a nice crunch on the outside and make for the perfect sidekick. $15. —EA
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
This simple burger at Publican Anker doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the menu, but when you’re hunkered down at the bar and drinking beer, it’s just the thing to order. It has a simple patty and is topped with melty American cheese, special sauce, lettuce and onion, with a chewy bun. You’ll want to grab a side of fries for this one, but the crisp edges of this burger are the thing that put it over the top. $12. —EA
We hoped and prayed to the Red Hot Ranch gods, and they finally listened—now both locations of this hot dog and fried shrimp dive are serving Red Hot Ranch 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.
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. —LB
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
Pickles on a burger will always rocket that bad boy toward the top of our list, but this one is great all around. The patty comes on a sesame seed bun with house-made American cheese, pickled cucumbers and onions and is finished off with a blob of mayonnaise. The burger itself is juicy and rich, made with a mix of short rib, bacon and chuck that gives it it a fattiness we can’t get enough of. $16. —EA
Hidden amongst upscale menu items like duck rillettes and sea scallops lies this inconspicuous burger that's anything but ordinary. Upon first bite, you might think you’re sinking your teeth into Au Cheval’s prized patty, but Lunatic's perfect burger is topped with Hook’s cheddar, aioli, house pickles, tomato, lettuce and caramelized onion. The result is an indulgent, classic taste that will leave you wanting another. $12. —MO
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 are a must order, 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
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. $14. —EA