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, what we’ll euphemistically call "airy" buns, 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, a sandwich that seems it should be more than it is. 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.
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