As someone intimately familiar with the pressing necessity of various food cravings, very few stand up to the urge to take a big bite of a perfectly done hamburger. Once you start thinking about it, no salad is going to quell the siren song of meat, fresh off the grill and accessorized to spec.
I know you're hungry, but don't fret. You couldn't be in a better city to celebrate National Burger Month. I've rounded up a few personal favorites below but don't hesitate to add to our list in the comments section.
Kuma's Corner (2900 W Belmont or Kuma's Too at 666 W Diversey Ave)
First on the list, but not because it's a forgone conclusion when you speak the word "burger" from within Chicago's city limits. No. Kuma's gets first dibs because I am a card-carrying philosopher from the school of "stuff." I want everything on it almost every time and that counts for pizza, too. The more, the better and Kuma's delivers every time. Frizzled onions, buffalo sauce, Cajun seasoning... it's all here. There will be a wait. You will be hungry by the time you sit down. If that makes you surly, well then you will be right at home amidst the heavy metal blasting through Kuma's hallowed halls. But in the name of Yob, just be nice to your servers. You can also stick a little closer to downtown by checking out Kuma's Too in Lakeview.
The Billy Goat Tavern (430 N. Michigan Ave at Lower Level)
Welcome to the seedy underbelly of Michigan Avenue. The Billy Goat has provided cheeseborger-shaped sustenance and brown ale to generations of Tribune reporters, overtired political staffers, and, most famously, a certain Saturday Night Live star. All took the stairs down to Lower Michigan in search of something and what they found wasn't fancy... but it was and is delicious. Who knew an iconic meal could cost less than $7 in the (blackened) heart of downtown Chicago? You can get your fix at another of their eight locations but the original is the most "authentic" experience.
Owen & Engine (2700 N Western Ave)
This burger is jolly good but so is most of the rest of the menu when you're pub grub-minded. Bonus points for great fries on the side with malt vinegar and I'll take my burger with a not-insignificant amount of the exceptionally spicy house mustard, please. It's also worth mentioning that O&E is right across the street from a movie theater. All the makings of a solid date night, I think.
DMK (2954 N Sheffield)
Get on the Brown line. Get off the train at Wellington. Waltz 100-ish paces west into DMK. Ask nicely for a table. When they seat you, pick out a beer. I recommend an order of the fried okra and pickles with the house ranch dressing to go with your ale. Order your burger. I've had at least three on the menu and all were good but believe it or not, the one I've ordered most is the turkey burger. If you're anything like me, you can now have a milkshake because turkey burgers qualify as "healthy." You're welcome.
25 Degrees (736 N Clark St)
Speaking of milkshakes (no, I have not forgotten that this is a burger round-up)-you should probably prepare yourself for 25 degrees. Skip straight to the bottom of this page and start wrapping your head around a Bananas Foster milkshake. Then try to put that together with the Number Two, stuffed with burrata and topped with pesto. This is the perfect place to break a fast. And, yes, they do have a breakfast menu and there is a burger on it.
Three Aces (1321 W Taylor St)
On top of being one of the best patio bars in Chicago, Three Aces gets credit for one of the best burgers. With those powers combined, you're all encouraged to get yourselves to Taylor St. Stat. I also met Dan Savage there once. That has little to no bearing on how incredible this burger is but I think it tastes a little better having once enjoyed it in the presence of an American hero.
Au Cheval (800 W Randolph St)/ Bavette's Bar & Boeuf (218 W Kinzie St)
I may get busted for combining these two. As someone with a sibling, I know how frustrating it can be when you're forced to share things. The reason I'm doing it here is because I want to acknowledge that this family knows a little something about burgers. Both are Brendan Sodikoff's restaurants. Maude's, Gilt Bar, and the highly-anticipated-by-me Dillerman's are also among his realm. So you should understand going in that if there's a burger on the menu, it's going to be exceptional. I have to admire a man who so consistently gets the classics right. In order to keep the peace, I should note that these burgers are not identical; they're just both delicious. They are special and unique in their own delicious ways.
Paramount Room (415 N Milwaukee Ave)
The Paramount Room and its respective Wagyu beef burger have been described as "sneakily amazing." I don't know about the sneaky part but if you didn't know what you were looking for, you might miss the place altogether. Thankfully, that won't be a problem for you. You're looking for one of the best burgers in Chicago and you've come to the right place. The fries are good but spring for the tempura green beans as your side dish-a sneak attack of vegetables amidst a delicious onslaught of meat and cocktails.
Hoyt's (71 E Wacker, inside Hotel 71)
My favorite part of putting together a best-of list is polling the local talent for their takes. Even as someone who has been hungry and living in Chicago for years, I learn several somethings new with every rendition. So it was with Hoyt's. It's a modern tavern nestled inside Hotel 71 and their burger was recommended to me in the same breath with their truffle fries. Far be it from me to separate such a talented pair.
Go forth unto the land. My only promise is that each of these burgers will be done well. You better have a doctor's note if you order anything on this list "well done."
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