Food & Drink

Where to get the best burgers in Chicago, by price

Sean Cooley Published On 10/17/2014 Published On 10/17/2014

Whether you're living like a ramen-diet student or a Playpen lifer, you deserve the best burger that money can buy. So we're giving it to you: here's a rundown of the best Chicago burger for 22 different price points (starting at $1). Now go get the best burger bang for your buck.
 

Bar Louie

Multiple Locations
Every Tuesday, the hamburger special (available from 5pm to close) gives you a meat patty, lettuce, and a bun (toppings and tots cost extra, but still, not bad for a buck). Of the $1 burgers floating around various sports bars, Bar Louie provides the strongest base from which to work.

Sean Cooley

Henry’s Swing Club

River North
There’s a litany of slider options at Henry’s and for less than $3 you can get any slider with typical burger toppings or Merkt’s cheddar, soon to be chased with a Malort/Old Style boilermaker.

Jim Vondruska

Choppers

Wicker Park
Choppers' quarter-pound char-broiled burger is packaged Whopper-style with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, mustard, ketchup, and mayo on a toasted bun.

Titus Ruscitti

Redhot Ranch

Logan Square
In addition to Polish and Depression dogs, this respected hot dog stand offers a griddled double cheeseburger WITH fries for under five bucks.

Jim Vondruska 

Top Notch Beefburgers

Beverly
Top Notch is no misnomer, especially when you have Beverly’s tastiest cheeseburger, ground daily and griddling in its own juices, on your hands.

Fatso’s Last Stand

Fatso’s Last Stand

Ukrainian Village
The stacked patties of the Double Fatso with cheese are not to be missed at this unashamed fast-food spot. Pretty soon you’ll get to sample their wares in the former home of Hot Doug’s.

Flickr/Ed Fisher

That’s A Burger

South Shore
Come to this standing-room-only burger shop to channel your inner Champ Kind with the Whammy Burger, topped with a whole Polish sausage.

Sean Cooley

Edzo’s Burger Shop

Lincoln Park, Evanston
We could have easily plugged in Edzo’s almost anywhere on the list with great burgers on the cheap. But since there're also plenty of upgrades on the menu to soup up your sandwich (and some of them are crazy good), we put it here: spring for the Slagel Farms beef burger with some added bacon.

Jim Vondruska

Leadbelly Burgers

Portage Park, Jefferson Park
Among a lineup of rock n' roll-themed burgers, the Midnight Special stands out with a fine coating of chili cheese Fritos, pico de gallo, and chipotle cream.

DMK Burger Bar

DMK Burger Bar

Lakeview
For around $10, you can take your pick of most any burger on the DMK menu, ranging from a roasted green hatch chile and bacon burger to a smoked Swiss patty melt.

Kari Skaflen/Hogsalt

Au Cheval

West Loop
The single cheeseburger (which is actually a double burger) at Brendan Sodikoff's uber-cool greasy spoon is the best around, even if you scrimp on the thick-cut pepper bacon and fried egg.

David Burke’s Primehouse

David Burke’s Primehouse

River North
You won't be viewed as a heretic for ordering a burger in one of Chicago's top steakhouses, especially when it's the 40-day dry-aged prime steak burger complete with crispy shallots and bacon mayonnaise. You'll find it on the bar and lunch menus.

Mike Barish

Kuma's Corner/Kuma's Too

Avondale, Lincoln Park
This metal bar offers 25+ burgers with unique ingredient combos you won't find elsewhere, but you have to start with the signature Kuma Burger with lettuce, tomato, bacon, egg, and beef, all on a durable pretzel bun.

Trenchermen

Trenchermen

Wicker Park
Saddle up to the bar to get your mitts on a Trench Double Burger, topped with aged Tillamook cheddar and bread & butter pickles on a fluffy, toasted sesame bun. Save a few ducats by looking out for their rotating $10 burger-and-beer specials on Wednesdays.

Sean Cooley

Owen & Engine

Logan Square
The British-style pub's Slagel Farm beef burger -- a combo of caramelized onions and a flavorful brisket/short rib/chuck patty on a potato bap -- isn't just tops in Chicago, it's among the nation's elite.

Flickr/Adam Goldberg 

Nightwood

Pilsen
Satisfaction on a ciabatta roll, Nightwood's cheeseburger makes it with two patties, eight-year cheddar, an onion ring, pickles, special sauce, and homemade Worcestershire sauce.

Bottlefork

Bottlefork

River North
Indulge in Chef Kevin Hickey's wood-grilled ground bacon burger with a 70:30 beef-to-bacon ratio (!!!), creamy Vermillion blue cheese, shoestring potatoes, and special sauce on a buttered brioche bun.

Acadia

Acadia

South Loop
If prix fixes and wine pairings aren't your thing, the bar menu affords an excellent alternative with the Acadia Burger, a juicy brisket and Wagyu patty, Gruyère, Mornay sauce, and bacon-onion jam for maximum umami-ness.

Rockit Ranch

Rockit Burger Bar

Lakeview
Max out your Andrew Jackson at Billy Dec's burger bar by ordering up a Rockit Burger: Wagyu Kobe beef, melted Brie, fried shallots, and medjool date aioli on a red onion brioche bun. Truffle fries on the side? Totally included.

The Bad Apple 

$20+ Burgers

Though it seems entirely illogical to spend more than $20 on a burger, it you are feeling particularly swaggy, you've got a couple options: the Road House BBQ Burger at Tavern at the Park ($21), the special Wagyu Wednesday Burger at The Bad Apple ($26), or the foie gras truffle goat cheese burger at Rosebud Steakhouse ($30).

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Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor and he plans to work the word "umami" into as many casual conversations as possible. Follow him @SeanCooley.

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1. Henry's Swing Club 18 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

This River North hub is home to over 22 slider options on its menu, as well as serious drink options (buy a bottle of Jack and get free Coke refills all night!), playing cards, vintage Playboys, and pool tables.

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2. Choppers 1659 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Bucktown)

Choppers fills your belly with deliciously simple burgers, topped with basics like lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and bacon. Get your authentic Chicago burger experience card punched with the Choppak, "The Happy Meal for Adults" -- a double cheeseburger with fries and homemade slaw.

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3. Red Hot Ranch 2072 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Chicagoans love their dogs hot and Red Hot Ranch's blinking red arrow sign directs them to this cash-only standby for "Depression Dogs:" Vienna beef dogs with mustard, onion, relish, sport peppers with a fist full of french fries in the bun. The natural-cased weiners pop when you bite them and the fries are crisp. Thin-pattied double cheeseburgers satisfy, but when in the dog house, get the dog.

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4. Top Notch Beefburgers 2116 W 95th St, Chicago, IL 60643 (Beverly)

Top Knotch Beefburgers has been delivering staple diner food in Beverly since 1942. The menu includes all the American classics, and the signature order is (unsurprisingly) a half-pound hamburger with a pile of crunchy, twice-fried Idaho potato fries on the side. The restaurant claims its burgers get their damn-good status from cow leg meat, an ingredient typically undesired by chefs. The restaurant is outfitted with formica diner booths and counter seating.

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5. Fatso's Last Stand 2258 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Ukrainian Village)

This no frills, Ukrainian Village eatery pretty much has the perfect name, with a menu chock-full of items like fresh-cut fries, char dogs, and burgers. One of the staples here is the Double Fatso with cheese -- two perfectly grilled beef patties flanked by slices of American cheese, onion, and secret sauce -- a burger that can give In-N-Out a run for its money.

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6. That's A Burger 2134 E 71st St, Chicago, IL 60649-2116 (South Shore)

It shouldn't come as a surprise that TAB has a menu loaded with quality meat discs (the turkey burger gets rave reviews). But they also offer up tasty chicken, hot dogs, wings, fries, and more.

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7. Edzo's Burger Shop 1571 Sherman Ave, Evanston, IL 60201 (Lincoln Park)

Edzo isn't the name of a creepy clown but of an awesome burger joint with a serious '70s vibe. The patties are made from house-ground chuck that's pressed, griddled, then topped with extras like fried egg or giardiniera relish. The menu includes elevated French fry options -- order them "Crazy" to get a topping of chili, cheese, and chopped onion or "Angry" with four kinds of spices. Edzo's is also known for its milkshakes, which are made the old-fashioned way -- on a slow-mixing spindle machine -- to yield an extra-smooth and creamy texture.

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8. BRGRBelly 5739 W Irving Pk Rd, Chicago, IL 60634 (Portage Park)

Formerly known as Leadbelly, BRGRBelly serves up comfort food options with gourmet flair. The burgers, all of which are meant to give you your own lead belly, include patties topped with crab cakes and slathered in béarnaise sauce, and the menu is rounded out with fries topped with pork belly and 40+ craft beers.

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9. DMK Burger Bar 2954 N Sheffield, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

A collab between industry vets David Morton and Michael Kornick, DMK (get it?) is a 75-seat storefront neighborhood bar outfitted with reclaimed Wisconsin barn boards and exposed original brick that's turning out gourmet grass-fed beef burgers.

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10. Au Cheval 800 W Randolph, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

This upscale West Loop restaurant is known for its European flair and sophisticated American diner-style eats. Au Cheval usually has a wait out the door at peak dinner hours because it's home to iconic signature items like the fried house-made bologna sandwich and the so-called single burger, which actually comes with two thin patties and is topped with American cheese, house Dijonnaise, pickles, and if you know what's good for you, the optional bacon and fried egg add-ons. The brasserie-like space includes an open kitchen and a bar where local, domestic, and international beers are all on tap.

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11. David Burke's Primehouse 616 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611 (Near North Side)

Located within the James Hotel, this upscale River North steakhouse serves reputable dry-aged ribeyes, porterhouses, and strip steaks. Aside from the classics, the menu features creative carnivore dishes like Wagyu beef sashimi and kobe corn dogs, as well as pasta and a host of vegetable sides for those who aren't meat inclined.

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12. Kuma's Too 666 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

From the flames of hell that spawned Kuma’s Corner, Kuma’s Too has arisen at (of course) 666 W Diversey, nearly doubling the original's size while duplicating its metal-inspired, pretzel-bunned burger options like the Metallica (Buffalo sauce, bacon, bleu cheese dressing) and the Black Sabbath, made with blackening spice, chili, pepper jack.

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13. Trenchermen 2039 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Wicker Park)

Trenchermen is modeled after the hospitality offered by a Turkish bathhouse that previously occupied its location -- "a place where vodka was at hand and a bowl of borscht and a cold beer was a staple." Today you'll find a classier menu with dishes like braised lamb shank served over goat cheese gnudi, that still captures the comfort of the food formerly served here. Oh, and 30+ beers on tap.

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14. Owen & Engine 2700 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

The term "gastropub" is thrown around loosely in the business of restaurant writing, but Owen & Engine truly fits the bill. The upscale British pub in Logan Square has a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin guide, so it might be better than many that are actually in England. The menu includes snacks and small plates like Scotch eggs and beef carpaccio, plus a selection of entrées that includes one of the best burgers in town. The extensive draft list is constantly changing but features IPAs, Belgian ale, stout, and more.

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15. Nightwood Restaurant 2119 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608 (Pilsen)

This farm-to-table eatery is home to all things artisanal and local, and only serves up eats that're in season. Stop in for bites like their house corned beef on rye crouton bread, served with chopped liver and egg.

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16. Bottlefork 441 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654 (Near North Side)

It's hard out there for a small plates restaurant that straddles the line between bar and full-service dinner restaurant, yet Bottlefork in River North manages to stand above the pack. The food menu spans a variety of cuisines and dietary restrictions, featuring dishes like tuna crudo, crispy Brussels sprouts with chorizo, buttermilk fried chicken, and a critically-acclaimed ground bacon burger. The cocktail menu, complete with illustrations, is divided into categories based on flavor and style: fruity, smoky, dark, and "Gentlemen's Cut."

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17. Acadia 1639 S Wabash, Chicago, IL 60616 (South Loop)

Tucked away in a nondescript South Loop building, this Michelin-starred restaurant showcases chef Ryan McCaskey's contemporary take on classic American fare. Inspired by Maine, Acadia is unique for pulling off a sophisticated multi-course tasting menu (available in five or ten courses) and an à la carte bar menu that sports an aggressively indulgent burger. Whether you're there for the complete prix-fixe experience or for a cocktail and oysters at the bar, Acadia is definitely a special occasion spot.

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18. Rockit Burger Bar 3700 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613 (Wrigleyville)

This is the only time you'll hear "Come see what's between our buns," and not be freaked out. Rockit Burger Bar offers some badass burgers, including gems like the huevos rancheros burger and a chicken breast patty aptly named "The Motherclucker." If you're craycray and burgers aren't your thing, flatbreads and small bites are also served.

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19. Tavern at the Park 130 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601 (Loop)

Check out their rooftop bar "Treehouse at the Tavern", or just stop in for lunch and enjoy some mac and cheese, a hearty steak sandwich, and something sudsy from their tastefully put together draft list.

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20. The Bad Apple 4300 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (Lincoln Square)

The Bad Apple is a comfortable neighborhood tavern with a full menu of stacked burgers, sandwiches, and bar-appropriate snacks like fried cheese curds and poutine. The beer menu features a helluva -- almost 200 -- options of domestic and international craft beers.

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21. Rosebud Steakhouse 192 E Walton St, Chicago, IL 60611 (Near North Side)

This old-school steakhouse, located steps from Lake Michigan, serves up great cuts alongside an extensive wine list. Known for its excellent service, Rosebud is a well kept secret within the fine dining scene. Don't miss the spinach salad with warm bacon dressing, baby back "sticky" ribs, and single malt Scotch.

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