Mahalo burger at the Bad Apple

Mahalo burger at the Bad Apple

The Bad Apple

4300 N. Lincoln | 773-360-8406

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, BURGERS | LUNCH: SATURDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Craig Fass and Mandy Franklin (Menagerie, Cooper's) opened their beer and burger bar the Bad Apple a scant half block south of the venerable Jury's, and while that institution attracts a decidedly different crowd, its burger is formidable and has been justly recognized as such for years. Now, with the Bad Apple shipping in a custom-ground beef mix from New York wholesale butcher Pat La Frieda, it's difficult not to imagine a gauntlet has been thrown down between the generations gathering on each side of Lincoln Avenue. In various instances Cass and Franklin see fit to bedeck their pedigreed beef with lily-gilding school-of-Kuma's-type arrangements, offering options like pulled pork and onion rings, ham and eggs, ham and pineapple, etc. But I'd say Jury's has little to worry about in the burger department. Accessorizing all of these sandwiches are golden brown hand-cut fries available in seven different flavors (truffle, curry, Old Bay, etc). Where the Bad Apple clearly has the upper hand over Jury's—and most likely every other place in the neighborhood—is in its extensive and diverse beer selection. Beginning on May 20, lunch will be available from Thursday through Sunday. —Mike Sula

Billy Goat Tavern

430 N. Michigan | 312-222-1525

$

BAR/LOUNGE, burgers | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

More than 25 years after the heyday of the SNL skit, the Billy Goat is still trading on John Belushi's famous tagline, "Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger. No Pepsi, Coke. No fries, cheeps." Tourists continue to find their way into the subterranean dive under Michigan Avenue, and journalists remain among the regulars, drinking and risking heartburn against a backdrop of yellowing Royko columns and Billy Goat curse memorabilia. The cheeseburgers, flat and greasy, are probably best ordered in the form of a double, but they're helped along by raw onion and an unlimited supply of dill pickle slices. —Kate Schmidt

Boston Blackie's

164 E. Grand | 312-938-8700

$

BURGERS, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: MONDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Users like the low prices and the big burgers, which come in everything from plain to the namesake Boston Blackie Burger, with bacon and caramelized onions. "It is undeniably delicious and filling," says one, "and you can walk out for under $8 a person." Another likes the deco-inspired room, saying it's "kind of like a place where old-time Chicago gangsters would have met up." And in fact, the owner and his son have been charged with bank fraud in a multimillion-dollar check-kiting scheme. —Holly Greenhagen

The Counter

670 W. Diversey | 773-935-1995

$

BURGERS, ICE CREAM | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

There must be some latent anti-west coast bias in me that initially led me to smirk at the idea of a bunless "burger bowl," what the folks behind exploding Santa Monica burger chain the Counter call what is essentially a burger salad. But the two I sampled were really tasty. And that's the thing—if the natural beef patties here are all as consistently seasoned and cooked to order as the ones I've tried, then a bad burger can really only be blamed on the decisions of the customer. But building a burger from a clipboard list of options—with more than 312,120 possible combinations—is a daunting proposition, and the potential for crimes against nature is enormous. It's possible, for instance, to order a one-pound veggie burger with Danish blue cheese, hard-boiled eggs, grilled pineapple, corn-and-black-bean salsa, carrot strings, honey-cured bacon, and peanut sauce on an English muffin. However, if you feel incapable of wielding that power responsibly, the house Counter burger—with provolone, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette—is an excessive and reliably good default. —Mike Sula

DMK Burger Bar

2954 N. Sheffield | 773-360-8686

$

BURGers, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: every night TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

I'm more than little sad that David Morton and Michael Kornick's most enjoyable contribution to the burger boom is nothing beefier than a nicely sagey turkey patty with smoked Swiss, arugula, and Dijonaise. DMK wants to be the burger place for everyone, offering a house-molded veggie option, two turkeys, a lamb, a portobello mushroom, and now a salmon burger in addition to six grass-finished beef varieties. But Kornick and Morton (son of Morton's founder Arnie) have clearly taken a cue from the architecturally topped burgers pioneered by Kuma's Corner. While it makes good business sense, the patties favored at DMK can't stand up to heavy strata of toppings. These are skinny burgers: five ounces, cooked medium. And any flavor or subtlety to the beef is submerged under the equivalent of a Reuben or an order of huevos rancheros or layers of bacon, cheddar, and BBQ sauce. Even DMK's pleasantly gamy grass-fed lamb patty disappears between salty layers of feta, black olive tapenade, and tzatziki. Fries, offered in an almost equally varied selection of flavors and sauces, are more appealing—well browned and crisp. Deep-fried pickles and okra, onion strings, and two choices of grilled cheese join house-made soda, ice cream sandwiches, and lumpy milk shakes to complete a set of referents to burger drive-ins past. But they haunt a slick, dark bar with an extensive beer list, two custom wines, and "classic" cocktails such as negronis and sazeracs denatured with rocks and blasphemously sugared around the rims. —Mike Sula

Edzo's Burger Shop

1571 Sherman, Evanston | 847-864-3396

$

BURGERS | lunch: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

My first thought was: Edzo's Burger Shop is to burgers as Hot Doug's is to encased meat. And in fact Eddie Lakin purposely patterned his Evanston burger hut after Doug Sohn's renowned hot dog stand in certain respects—his cruelly limited hours, for example. But where Sohn is an innovator, Lakin's genius is in going back to the basics. His hamburger, ground daily and unmistakably fresh, is available in two forms: a thin griddled patty or a nice, fat charburger. The former's best in the form of a double; the latter's irresistible cooked medium rare. Lakin, a chef who's worked at the likes of Tru and Nacional 27, did go hog wild with his hand-cut fries, which are available in six flavors, from truffle to garlic-parsley to "angry," topped with jalapeños, sriracha, giardiniera, and buffalo sauce. But best of all might be the "old fries," crispy brown remnants perfect as a complement to Lakin's soft, decadent cheese fries (made with Merkts sharp cheddar spread). And don't skimp when it comes to the "$5 shake"—just $4—try the chocolate-banana number or a Nutella malt, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. —Kate Schmidt

Epic Burger

517 S. State | 312-913-1373

$

BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This South Loop quick-service joint promises all-natural burgers and sandwiches, fresh-cut fries fried in oil free of trans fats and seasoned with sea salt, plus extras like cage-free organic eggs, nitrate-free bacon, and Wisconsin cheeses. No doubt because of all the hype on the menu, which is printed with "Epic Rules" like "The bun is the beginning and the end," I was initially a little disappointed with my cheeseburger: the puffy bun overwhelmed the thinnish meat patty. I couldn't much discern the vaunted "Epic sauce" (its ingredients, the counter guy told us, cannot be disclosed), but once I'd applied some Grey Poupon and smooshed the thing down some I was pretty well satisfied—the pickles and grilled onions are a nice touch. My friend felt the same about his turkey burger with horseradish Havarti, though here again the horseradish wasn't readily detectable. Tasty fries are worlds better than at other fast-food joints and come in a good-size bag, plenty enough for two. A second location is slated to open in Lincoln Park in June. —Kate Schmidt

Five Guys Burgers & Fries

2140 N. Clybourn | 773-327-5953

$

BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This is one of several local outposts of the Virginia-based burger chain, an absurdly popular concept defined by fresh-cut fries, free toppings, free peanuts while you wait, and fresh, hand-formed patties cooked well-done. It's that last little hedge against a potential Jack in the Box-type catastrophe that bugs me most about Five Guys—you'd think a company that boasts about using no fillers and no preservatives in its beef would want to show it off a little more. But these burgers are overcooked and underseasoned, undeserving of the rapturous accolades from across the country that cover the walls. The fries, though, thick, long, and crispy, are something special. —Mike Sula

Hackney's Printers' Row

733 S. Dearborn | 312-461-1116

$

BAR/LOUNGE, BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: ThurSDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS not accepted

The sole city location of the largely suburban family-owned chain has the feel of a neighborhood pub and is frequently packed with regulars. Hackney's, founded in 1939, is best known for retro-ish specialties, particularly the daunting french-fried onion loaf and the Hackneyburger, served on either a bun or dark rye. That's not to say that Hackney's is behind the times: there's a California burger stuffed with chorizo and queso fresco, a turkey burger stuffed with spinach and feta, and several vegetarian options, among them a black bean burger. —Kate Schmidt

Hamburger Mary's

5400 N. Clark | 773-784-6969

$

BURGERS, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11:30 | RESERVATIONS for large groups only

The cartoony logo, the heavy-handed, slightly risque puns sprinkled throughout the laminated menu, the proud lavender facade—it's all part of this San Francisco-founded franchise's campy, gay-friendly shtick. Obviously, the specialty is burgers, specifically, half-pound 100 percent Angus patties in combos like Buffy the Hamburger Slayer, with garlic aioli, red wine sauce, and Swiss. I hunkered in for the Meaty Mushroom burger only to find it light on the mushrooms and a little dry. I could just manage about a quarter of it, but I polished off my veggie slaw, a welcome alternative to sides of fries or bacon potato salad. You can also sub veggie, turkey, chicken, or buffalo patties on any of the burgers. All this with a disco beat, karaoke in the upstairs lounge on Sundays and Wednesdays, and special menus for the kiddies. —Kathie Bergquist

Hop Haus

646 N. Franklin | 312-467-4287

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 5, WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY TILL 4, SUNDAY-TUESDAY TILL 11:30 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Brewpub meets sports bar in this concept restaurant from the owners of Leona's—and the sports bar wins. Televisions cling to every spot with a sight line in this cavernous River North space, and the walls are decorated with photos of mildly risque sports bloopers. The burger menu includes "global" takes on the basic steak burger and exotica like kangaroo and ostrich. The German burger was pretty good, topped with rich butterkase, sauerkraut, and robust brown mustard. But the wild boar was a disappointment, the meat tough, greasy, and well past medium rare. Both come on weirdly puffy egg buns that can't bear the weight of their contents and are accompanied by seasoned potato wedges. But the beer list is excellent, with close to 40 imports and craft brews bottled or on tap and suggested beer-and-burger pairings helpfully provided, though we went off menu with some refreshing Reissdorf Kolsch. With the kitchen open till an hour before closing I suppose you could do a lot worse for late-night sustenance—especially if you're looking to catch the SportsCenter recap. There's a second location at 7545 N. Clark (773-262-3783). —Martha Bayne

J. Wellington's

2045 W. North | 773-687-9142

$

BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 11 | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Named for J. Wellington Wimpy, the Popeye comic-strip character with an undersize bowler hat and a hamburger fixation, J. Wellington's offers upscale burgers and sandwiches in a casual but classy space. The menu is brief: three signature burgers; a few other sandwiches including meatloaf, tilapia, and a tofu burger; two pasta dishes, and chili, plus shakes and a root beer float. But there are still plenty of decisions to be made here. In addition to the standard burger toppings you can pick one each of five cheeses and sauces, and for a buck apiece add on bacon, a fried egg, giardiniera, sauteed mushrooms or onions, fried pickle chips, and coleslaw. As the menu says, "You figure it out?!?" We opted not to, going for a couple of the signature burgers instead. Both were done medium-well (we weren't asked how done we wanted them), but still good and juicy. The Wellington—topped with cheddar, bacon, fried onions, and the house's special sauce—was excellent, though the onions were a bit overpowering and I couldn't tell what the sauce was. But the One-Eyed Runt, with bacon, fried egg, blue cheese, and sriracha mayo, was the favorite by far, the unlikely-sounding blue cheese working perfectly with the other toppings. The fries were decent but unremarkable and went mostly uneaten, overshadowed by the much better burgers, shakes, and mac 'n' cheese, which despite its pale, bland appearance turned out to be creamy, cheesy, and comforting—though by that point in our meal, lying down for a long time without moving was sounding more comforting than anything else. —Julia Thiel

Jury's

4337 N. Lincoln | 773-935-2255

$$

AMERICAN, BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Every hot and happening restaurant row should have one old-school place still chugging along, resistant to all trends, and that's the function Jury's serves on this stretch of Lincoln Avenue just south of Montrose. With its white-tablecloth interior and supper club menu, the place clearly aims for more sophistication than the other taverns along this strip, though its main claim to fame is still its hamburger, which won a best-burger-in-da-city contest some years back. For once one of those things got it right: this is a terrific example of the classic bar burger, a half-pound slab of quality beef seared to a steaklike char and accompanied by nothing more exotic than Grey Poupon and a manly mound of steak fries. There's a patio in back, and a small sidewalk cafe where canine companions are welcome. —Michael Gebert

Kevin's Hamburger Heaven

554 W. Pershing | 773-924-5771

$

AMERICAN, BURGERS | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: 24 HOURS EVERY DAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Kevin's Hamburger Heaven is a 24-7 "city that works" diner in a light-industrial area a few blocks south of Sox Park. Early morning you'll find steel-toe-shod working stiffs fueling up on good-size portions of crispy hash browns, nicely spiced sausage, three eggs over easy, and toast. Those needing a little extra to stoke the engine opt for hot-off-the-griddle pancakes or creamy grits with dollops of butter winking up at you in defiance of future cholesterol checks. Burgers rule at lunch, and these are juicy, rich, flavorful patties, roughly formed and sizzled on the grill. Topped with pickle slices, grilled onions, and a toasted bun, they satisfy in a way that'll make you swear off drive-through McQuickies forever. But it's nighttime—more specifically, the hours after the bars close—that's given Kevin's its citywide rep as the ne plus ultra of greasy spoons. The sotted and soused come from far and wide for coffee, chili burgers with mounds of fries, or steak and eggs served with Kevin's house-label steak sauce; late one evening I heard a guy say blearily, "Gimme one of everything on the breakfast menu." The late-night security guard sits at the counter as unobtrusively as a man tough as nails and armed can. —Gary Wiviott

Kuma's Corner

2900 W. Belmont | 773-604-8769

$$

BURGERS, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The menu at this gussied-up corner tap is focused squarely on bar food—but finger-lickin' bar food it is. Kuma's serves whopping hunks of juicy, lightly seasoned meat on delicious, chewy pretzel rolls in more than 20 metal-themed iterations (the Motorhead, the Mastodon, etc), each also available as a chicken sandwich or garden burger. My Iron Maiden burger, topped with a sinus-clearing load of cherry peppers, chipotle mayo, and pepper Jack, was filling yet oddly clean-tasting—refreshing, even, for meat. It was so good I almost forgave the kitchen for running out of avocado. There's also a make-your-own mac 'n' cheese option, appetizers like the mussels cooked in Allagash white ale with garlic and chiles, and an excellent beer list. Next time I'm trying the Slayer: fries topped with a half-burger plus chili, cherry peppers, andouille sausage, onions, jack cheese, "and anger." —Martha Bayne

Lockdown Bar & Grill

1024 N. Western | 773-451-5625

$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, burgers | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY TILL 3, monday-friday TILL 2, sunday till midnight

Catty-corner to Empty Bottle, this bar-cum-restaurant differentiates itself from other burger zones with Disney-like prison decor. There's a higher ratio of flat-screens to humans than you've probably encountered anywhere, but despite all that noise, the food shows a sure hand in the kitchen. The hideously named "Cruelty to Animals" is an absolutely delicious hamburger crowned with chorizo, prosciutto, and bacon on a pretzel bun and garnished with arugula and red onion. To help pass the time while you're waiting out your dinner sentence, there's a changing repertoire of concert videos featuring much metal, and despite the forbidding penal appointments, front and back of the house staff are pleasant and thoughtful. Lunch starts at the end of the month. —David Hammond

M Burger

161 E. Huron | 312-254-8500

$

BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

M Burger is Rich Melman's take on the fast-food hamburger stand. Suggesting some kind of irony, its stripped-down customer area has big windows overlooking the kitchen of Tru, one of the more splendid locations in the Lettuce Entertain You empire. Over the years part of the Melman approach has been to riff on traditional dining genres, like the bistro (Mon Ami Gabi), the crab house (Shaw's), and the red-sauce neighborhood Italian joint (Maggiano's). In these frequently well-executed renditions the goal seems to be to achieve the standard of excellence characteristic of such highly recognizable restaurant types. With fast food, the bar is set low, and M Burger clears it—barely.If your preferences run toward tiny, nondescript beef patties and standard toppings acceptable to anyone five years or older, M Burger has the food for you. For $2.49, the single hamburger is pretty much what you'd find under the Golden Arches; for $2.99, the vegetarian Nurse Betty pushes the limits of the value equation with a simple slice of refrigerator-cool Jack cheese, lettuce, pickle, tomato, and avocado smear. There's a "secret menu" (ask the counterperson) featuring a Doctor Betty (same as Nurse Betty, but with meat) and a Hurt Burger, with varying amounts of jalapeños providing three levels of heat. Of all the regular menu items, the M Burger with "secret sauce" (hasn't that name been licensed?) pleased us most: a generous layer of bacon helps a lot, and a beef patty this pedestrian needs all the help it can get. Our shake was no better or worse than you'd find at any other fast-food place, and that seems precisely the point. —David Hammond

Moody's Pub

5910 N. Broadway | 773-275-2696

$

BAR/LOUNGE, BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 2, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 1 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

A good place to grab a burger and beer for lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack, even on Sundays. The menu is small, its centerpiece a burger that's been called the best in town (it's also been called the most overrated). Also available are fries, steak and grilled chicken sandwiches, a dinner salad, and fried cod and shrimp. The beer selection is limited, but the margaritas and sangria are outstanding. In summer the large garden is the place to sit; in winter the two fireplaces keep it cozy inside. Good value for hungry (but not too fastidious) people on a budget—plus there's free parking next door. Cash only. —Ellen Joy

Patty Burger

72 E. Adams | 312-987-0900

$

AMERICAN, BURGERS, ICE CREAM | BREAKFAST: MONDAY-FRIDAY; LUNCH, DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The whole thing about this Loop fast-food joint is the made-to-order Angus beef burgers, available as singles, doubles, and triples. In fact, the place serves little else besides: a few breakfast sandwiches, fries, and milk shakes round off the menu. The foil-wrapped single I ordered with American cheese and grilled onions was a sloppy mess by the time I made it to a table. All burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion, and Patty's special sauce, a zingy-flavored orangish concoction that added to the overall goop factor. Patty Burger strives to be more than a fast-food burger joint, and the prices prove it—my burger, small fries, and small shake topped ten bucks. —Kathie Bergquist

Skylark

2149 S. Halsted | 312-948-5275

$

BAR/LOUNGE, BURGERS | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 2

My gawd, behold the Skylark Burger: big and juicy, topped with a dollop of tangy slaw, cheddar cheese, and beer-battered onion rings, and accompanied by an ample portion of supercrispy seasoned tater tots. These people know how to accessorize some grilled meat. The big bowl of mac 'n' cheese is worthy too. Rotating specials include a panko-crusted chicken breast with portobello mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and a side salad and Friday fish-and-chips. This is better than bar food—it's great food that happens to be served in a bar. —Susannah J. Felts

That's-A-Burger

2134 E. 71st | 773-493-2080

$

BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY, MONDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Idiosyncratic owner, out-of-the-way location, 20-minute wait for burgers, no seating, orders placed through bulletproof glass, impatient staff, and did I mention idiosyncratic owner? But all is forgiven after one big juicy chin-dripping, eye-rolling chomp into one of the better burgers in Chicago—maybe even the best if one factors in value. My burger of choice here is a half-pound of coarse ground beef with a sumolike ratio of fat to lean, topped with fried egg, tomato, onion, and sport peppers. It's a purist's choice in the face of the Whammy Burger, which is served dripping with cheese and crowned with a split Polish sausage, or the T.A.B. Special, which throws chili, cheese, bacon, and egg into the mix. Scented with sage and surprisingly moist, turkey burgers are also a draw, and turkey chili is tasty as a stand-alone or on burgers. Terrific fresh-cut fries are nestled in with the sandwiches. —Gary Wiviott

Top Notch Beefburger

2116 W. 95th | 773-445-7218

$

BURGERS | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY

After finishing the first hamburger I sighed, gave the plate to the waitress, then ordered another. She didn't look surprised. There's institutional memory to spare at this classic burger joint. Around in a couple different incarnations since 1942, it makes a trip to Beverly de rigueur. Fries are hand cut, the beef is ground on-site—all that's needed for the complete experience is a rich, thick shake. —Elizabeth M. Tamny

Related Locations

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera Northwestern University Block Museum of Art
September 17
Music
December 05

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories

Follow Us

Sign up for newsletters »

 Early Warnings
 Food & Drink
 Reader Recommends
 Reader Events and Offers