In this meat-and-potato-crazed town, the humble hamburger has always been a mainstay. But now, with Chicago a prime player in the international food scene, there is an all-out burger battle raging amongst this town’s top chefs. Diners, dives, and even fine-dining steakhouses are duking it out for the title of best burger. Some contenders are basic, relying on the strength of the beef patty. Others are chef-constructed plates showcasing upscale toppings (perfectly fried eggs, house-made pickles) and innovative condiments (think bacon mayonnaise and fresh guacamole). Some rely on sheer size and age-old griddle technique to outwit the competition. In fact, a great burger is similar to great style. It all starts with a strong foundation—top quality meat—and strategic layering to achieve contrast, texture, and statement-making flavor. Then, of course, there is the creativity card. High marks go to thinking outside of the box to recast the simple burger into a masterpiece.
Au Cheval is a feel-good diner with a hipster edge that’s all about celebrating the simplicity of the burger. A “single” is two prime beef patties griddled medium and topped with smoked bacon, cheese, and a perfectly executed fried egg. Crunchy homemade bread-and-butter pickles are a lively foil to this gooey fat fest.
David Burke Primehouse
Marbled steaks may be this restaurant’s calling card, but Chef David Burke’s 40-day dry-aged prime steak “burker” makes a succulent statement. A pillow-soft potato bun is stacked high with garlic, spinach, crispy shallots, and bacon mayonnaise to create layers of flavor. Fried pickles, egg, and cheese are all optional add-ons. We recommend indulging in them all.
Kevin Hickey is the burly chef you want to kick back and have a beer with. His burgers reflect that persona: inviting, oversized, and packed with flavor, not pretension. His killer patties are a marriage of grassfed beef, chuck, and applewood-smoked bacon. To top it all off, a zesty sauce of mustard seeds, cornichon, and mayonaisse sings beneath a brioche bun.
DMK Burger Bar
The partnership of David Morton (yes, that Morton) and acclaimed chef Michael Kornik yields burger bliss in Lakeview. Nine different dishes ranging from your basic patty to one brimming with chorizo, guacamole, chipotle aioli, and cilantro give patrons a range of choices, all served on artisanal potato buns. Housemade milkshakes and parmesan fries with truffle cream are must-order sides.