Iconic Los Angeles-based burger chain Fatburger, famed for its popularity among rappers like Ice Cube and the late Notorious B.I.G., is back in Chicago after a nine-year absence. The pandemic has taken some thunder out of the chain’s return as they’re open for delivery only using a River West ghost kitchen at 850 W. Superior Street.
It’s a joint operation with another FAT Brands franchise, Buffalo’s Express, says FAT Brands CEO Andy Wiederhorn. Fatburger features customizable burgers (patty options include turkey, soy, and the Impossible Burger) with extra ingredients like chili, bacon, and cheese, a plethora of fries, milkshakes, onion rings, and more. Buffalo’s Express centers on — who guessed it — Buffalo wings.
This isn’t Chicago’s first encounter with Fatburger: rapper Kanye West signed on in 2007 to open 10 franchise locations, and managed to launch two by 2009 — in Beverly and suburban Orland Park. Two years later, the deal fell apart — the chain closed one restaurant and bought back the other. Other celebrity Fatburger owners have included Magic Johnson, Janet Jackson, Montel Williams, and Pharrell.
Wiederhorn wouldn’t commit to opening a restaurant with a dining room, but he says he thinks “there will be opportunities for additional ghost kitchen locations in Chicago, in additional to traditional franchise locations.”
The chain’s history dates back 73 years. In 1947, founders Lovie Yancey and Charles Simple opened Mr. Fatburger in Los Angeles, but when the couple split in 1952, Yancey dropped the “Mr.” The company began to franchise in the 1980s and went on expand outside of California in the late ‘90s. It currently has U.S. locations in 10 states, as well as restaurants around the world in countries including Canada, Malaysia, Japan, Egypt, and Iraq.
Chicagoans curious about the West Coast burger chain (the other one) can now see what the fuss is about. Fatburger is open for delivery.