Between the Bun | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

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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

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