What makes a burger special? Whether it's a longtime favorite or a newcomer, an essential burger has lasting effects on eaters, other restaurants, and the scope of the Chicago food scene at large. From giant beef patties to smashed, griddled delights, Chicago restaurants are taking a classic dish and freshening things up. The latest additions to the list include Northwest Indiana-style specialist the Region, the veggie-based burger at Bad Hunter, and River West standout Maillard Tavern.Read More
The 20 Most Essential Burgers in Chicagoland
From giant beef patties to smashed, griddled delights
1. Edzo's Burger Shop
Edzo's makes arguably the best fast-casual burger around. The smashed, griddled patties are highly addictive, highlighting the quality and care that owner Eddie Lakin exhibits.
2. Paradise Pup
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Make a visit to this small roadside shack in Des Plaines for terrific burgers that rank among the suburb’s finest. Similar to any good cookout burger, the sizeable patty is packed with beefy flavor and smoky char from the grill. It’s served on a challah bun and folks can add gooey Merkts cheddar spread, an optional but highly recommended condiment.
3. Little Bad Wolf
This Andersonville gem was formerly a burger spot so it’s no surprise the kitchen knows how to assemble a great one. There are several variants: The “Bad Burger” is a double cheeseburger with pickles and mayo while the “Wolf Burger” is a behemoth that holds three patties, bacon, onion straws, and a fried egg.
4. Community Tavern
Portage Park residents adore this neighborhood restaurant and the burger is a part of the reason why. It’s a diner-style double cheeseburger that doesn’t need much except for pickles, caramelized onions, and a special sauce. On Sundays, a rotating version is available at the bar for just $5.
5. The Region
Inspired by the smashed burgers found in Northwest Indiana, the Region is an exemplar of the style. The beef is pressed onto a hot grill until it’s extra thin and the sides are scraped down in order to produce crispy, wafer-like edges with maximum caramelization. Diners can have single, double, or triple patties and every burger includes cheese, relish, onions, and a mayo-based signature sauce.
6. Kuma's Corner
The iconic metal-themed restaurant and bar mini-chain has put out a variety of creative, thick burgers for many years, including specials of the month and a commotion-causing "Ghost Burger" topped with a communion wafer. But it was the original “Famous Kuma” burger that started it all, featuring a fried egg before it became en vogue.
7. Owen & Engine
Every reputable gastropub has a burger on its menu. While fish and chips are a fine choice at this British-inspired spot, the burger is not to be missed. Set on a housemade potato bun, the patty is a blend of Slagel Farm chuck, short rib, and brisket, and it’s topped with caramelized onions.
8. Hot Chocolate
Mindy Segal’s award-winning desserts aren’t the only reason to stop into her restaurant. An outstanding burger has long been a staple on the menu, featuring a juicy and well-seasoned Slagel Farm beef patty topped with Carr Valley cheddar and pickles on a house-baked sesame bun. Nueske’s bacon and a sunny-side up egg are optional add-ons.
9. Mott Street
Edward Kim’s Asian fusion restaurant is home to an amazing burger. Sit at the bar and devour some street fare but save room for the ballyhooed “Mott Burger.” This beefy sandwich has it all: Double chuck patties, miso butter, sweet potato shoe strings, pickled jalapenos, hoisin aioli, American cheese, and dill pickles. It’s an East-meets-West riff loaded with an umami punch. The burger is so popular it spawned its own spin-off spot — Mini Mott.
10. Forbidden Root
There’s no such thing as a “Chicago-style” burger but if there ever is, it should definitely incorporate the city’s quintessential condiment — giardiniera. This West Town brewery pairs its botanic beers with a burger covered in aged cheddar, onions, bread and butter pickles, and mayo mixed with spicy pickled vegetables.
11. Fatso's Last Stand
Open until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Fatso’s is often where Chicagoans make their last stand. This West Town shack fuels nocturnal cravings with juicy char-grilled or smashed burgers. Try the “Super Ooey Gooey” for a tip-top end to the night — griddled patties stuffed with Merkts cheddar, bacon, and giardiniera and dressed with Fatso’s sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. Fatso’s also has a new location in Lincoln Park.
12. Maillard Tavern
Named after the process that gives browned food its distinctive taste, this River West tavern from the duo behind Piccolo Sogno churns out exciting burgers topped with a host of ingredients. Each one features double four-ounce patties that are cooked on a gas griddle until they’re perfectly charred and caramelized. Get the “City Slicker” for an indulgent combination of beef, foie gras, Swiss cheese, black truffle pesto, caramelized onions, foie gras mayo, and prosciutto di Parma.
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13. The Loyalist
John and Karen Urie Shields arrived in the West Loop with a two-pronged opening in 2016. Although Smyth, the fine dining restaurant, gets most of the accolades, its subterranean tavern companion is an equally superb place to eat and drink. The burger patty, one of Bon Appetit’s three best in 2017, is a blend of short rib, chuck, and ground bacon that is further enhanced with American cheese, pickles, onions, and onion-infused mayo.
14. Bad Hunter
Many people believe that traditional veggie burgers pale in comparison to their meat counterparts but Bad Hunter’s house-made version bucks the trend. Two black bean patties are fused together by Hook’s cheddar and topped with sweet tomato jam, mustard aioli, and the standard fixings. It’s a satisfying burger that focuses on winning flavors instead of imitating meat.
15. Au Cheval
The burger at Brendan Sodikoff's take on a diner has been exalted around the country, including being named best in the U.S. by Bon Appétit, and stands as perhaps the finest example of a restaurateur bringing the thin, griddled, American classics into a 21st century restaurant setting. There are no frills on the basic burger, just griddled four-ounce patties, American cheese, Dijonnaise, and pickles. Thick-cut bacon — an extra add-on — lifts the burger to another level.
The vaunted creation at Acadia is what happens when the chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant, who offers elevated tasting menus in the dining room, puts his all into a burger that's only available at the bar. The restaurant's “Acadia Burger” (bacon onion jam, truffle mornay, gruyere) makes for an excellent casual dinner option.
17. Illinois Bar & Grill
The self-proclaimed moniker of “best burger in the USA” is debatable, but there’s no doubt these beefy offerings are a contender for the biggest mouthful. The patties weigh in at a hefty 13 ounces and the popular bacon burger adds additional thick-cut strips of pork. Diners who finish it all in one sitting deserve a pat on the back and possibly some Tums.
18. Nicky’s the Real Mccoy
Birthplace of the “Big Baby,” Nicky's is the best place to try this Chicago-only burger. Two griddled patties are sandwiched around American cheese and placed over, rather than under, pickles, ketchup, and mustard.
19. Top-Notch Beefburgers
A timeless South Side establishment that’s been around since 1942, Top-Notch Beefburgers is one of the last of a dwindling breed of classic Chicago grease joints and perhaps the best. The burgers, which come in three sizes, are made exclusively of cow leg meat and topped with griddled onion pieces, American cheese, and pickles on the side.
20. Schoop's Hamburgers
A local favorite in Northwest Indiana and the southern suburbs of Chicago, Schoop’s has been flipping burgers since 1948. The regional chain mastered the art of the smashed burger long before places like Shake Shack popularized the style. The technique is simple: Fresh beef is pressed on the griddle until it develops a nice sear and crispy edges. The finished patty protrudes past the bun and is best enjoyed with bacon and slices of melted cheese.