Best Burger: Kuma's Corner (address and info)
The Venn Diagram of folks who like pounding metal music and red meat is damn near a perfect circle. So Kuma's clientele knows what to expect when walking in: tatted servers, bacon-loaded mac, and the city's best use of a pretzel bun in a burger.
Best Burger: Big Jones (address and info)
Even if you aren't in the mood for NOLA-style cuisine, Jones' pimiento double cheeseburger can still satisfy like a fist-full of bead necklaces. Bonus second-burger move: the sloppy burger comes with griddled onions, house-made pimiento, a steamed bun, and a side of beef fat fries.
Best Burger: Top Notch Beefburgers (address and info)
A classic neighborhood fixture dating back to 1954, the eponymous Top Notch burgers are ground daily in-house and griddled in their own juices. Match the sizable beefburgers with fries cooked in lard and thick chocolate malts because, obviously.
Best Burger: Pleasant House Bakery (address and info)
The only drawback with the Bridgeport meat pie masters' Bakery Burger is it's only available on Tuesdays. The upside with the Bridgeport meat pie masters' Bakery Burger is house-ground chuck, house-made pickles, and a side of their incomparably addictive chips (side note: you should also go here on Fridays for fish 'n chips).
Best Burger: Mindy's Hot Chocolate (address and info)
To become a standout on a menu that features Mindy Segal’s desserts is no easy task, but this fairly straightforward-yet-still-totally-perfect combo of Slagel Family Farms beef, organic bacon, aged cheddar, house pickles, and a garlic-toasted sesame bun is un-improve-able (unless you spring for the sunny-side-up egg).
Best Burger: Moody’s Pub (address and info)
Moody's has great burger ambiance, whether the weather is cold (a pair of fireplaces) or hot (back beer garden), to take in its half-pound, charcoal-grilled Moodyburger, which can be topped with blue cheese, bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and pimento olives.
Best Burger: A10 (address and info)
This new spot from the folks at Yusho and Billy Sunday houses an immaculate burger topped with crispy pork jowl bacon (seeeeee!), Taleggio cheese, and tangy mustard jam served on a potato bun. And at $12, you'll get the high-end dining with cash leftover for draft palomas.
Best Burger: Dryhop Brewers (address and info)
As if beer by the growler and a well-stocked whiskey wall weren't enough to draw you in, the ninja-geniuses at Dryhop also produce a beautiful blend of brisket and short rib in their burger. Layered on is chile-tomato jam, arugula, pickled sweet onions, smoked bacon, and raw, milky cheddar cheese (suck it, Louis Pasteur).
Best Burger: Edzo’s (address and info)
The Lincoln Park location of the '70s-style burger joint saved plenty of beef aficionados the trip up to Evanston. Get a perfectly griddled double topped however you tend to like your burgers topped. Upgrade so Slagel Farms' patties if you're feeling fancy. Get some fresh-cut fries no matter what.
Best Burger: Gather Chicago (address and info)
For the wino who also enjoys mawing tasty burgers, Gather supports your life choices with a wine bar and a juicy burger topped with white cheddar, caramelized onion, roasted red pepper aioli, and house-smoked bacon.
LITTLE ITALY/UNIVERSITY VILLAGE
Best Burger: Three Aces (address and info)
At Three Aces, the trump card comes in the form of a hulking beef patty with cheddar and bacon jam.
Best Burger: Owen & Engine (address and info)
Enjoy the trifecta of a generous helping of caramelized onions ("caramelised" on the menu, because they're British), a pillowy-yet-sturdy house-made potato bap (aka, a bun), and a flavor-rich patty made of brisket, short rib, and chuck sourced from a Slagel Farms. They also come with crisped chips (aka fries, because, the British thing) with malt vinegar aioli.
Best Burger: Poag Mahone's (address and info)
Show up on a Monday, and you'll get this Loop institutions grass-fed beef burger and fries for $5 after 3pm (dine-in only). That's just sound financial planning.
Best Burger: The Bad Apple (address and info)
Sure, grabbing The Bad Apple burger with provolone is a wise choice, but if your Bitcoin stock is on the rise, why not splurge on a $26 Wagyu Wednesday burger? So priced for its 45-day, dry-aged prime rib Wagyu, citrus butter, arugula, and comically oversized options.
Best Burger: Old Town Social (address and info)
High-quality beef from Q7 Ranch in Marengo, IL is ever-present in the burger lineup at Old Town Social, as are savory toppings like a sunny-side-up egg, house-made bacon, and Gruyere. Pro tip: add them all.
Best Burger: Dusek’s (address and info)
With a vintage rec room punch bar, a menu from Longman & Eagle’s Michelin-starred Chef Jared Wentworth, and a newly opened, two-tiered concert space, Dusek's is giving you every reason to spend the night in one location. Add one more: the stuffed Jucy Lucy covered in bacon marmalade.
Best Burger: Leadbelly (address and info)
They've got rock-inspired burgers galore, but the one to go with is the Gallow’s Pole, a 7oz house-ground beef & pork belly burger with caramelized mushrooms, onions, smashed taters, Swiss, and Béarnaise sauce, all on a house-baked sesame seed bun. Oh, and save room for the diced pork belly fries, Sriracha pickles, and butter cookies.
Best Burger: David Burke’s Primehouse (address and info)
The ground chuck for the Primehouse burger is aged for 40 days, picking up hints of blue cheese and mushroom flavor, and leading to perfectly tender meat. The char-broiled burger comes equipped with garlic spinach and crispy shallots, and -- while it might be sacrilege to say this in the Midwest -- doesn't really need any cheese.
Best Burger: BopNGrill (address and info)
The kimchi burger offers an on-point blend of Korean and American food: house-made kimchi, shredded cabbage, a fried egg, bacon, and peppery gochujang aioli, but don't overlook the Father -- not that you could with it's double patty, fried egg, beer-battered onion rings, bacon, sharp cheddar/American, BBQ sauce, and mayo.
Best Burger: Meatheads (address and info)
This mini-chain’s Roscoe Village outpost is its only Chicago location, meaning it doesn’t get the same fanfare within city limits as the M Burgers and Epic Burgers of the world. But it should -- the fresh-griddled Angus patties are done to perfection, and the range of topping options is pleasingly robust, though you honestly don’t even need the cucumber wasabi sauce or sauerkraut to make the burger taste fantastic (but it doesn't hurt, either).
Best Burger: Acadia (address and info)
Acadia does fancy fare with the best of them, but they're also on their game when it comes to burgers (get 'em at the bar). Chef Ryan McCaskey's latest is a double-pattied creation with double creme Gouda, house-made applewood bacon, special sauce, and garlic dill pickles.
Best Burger: M Burger (address and info)
You have to hand it to any burger joint that's willing to go off-menu to replace buns with a pair of grilled cheeses. With topping options like avocado, secret sauce, and Jack cheese, it's the closest you'll get to In-N-Out-caliber fast food in the city.
Best Burger: Lockdown Bar & Grill (address and info)
This hard-rocking burger joint locks down Ukrainian Village with the likes of the Hawaii 5.0 (pineapple, red onion, carnitas, BBQ), The Lockdown Warden (stuffed with Merkts cheddar), and their signature Fat Elvis with peanut butter, bacon, and flambéed bananas, caramelized in Grand Marnier, butter, and brown sugar.
Best Burger: Twisted Spoke (address and info)
When an establishment's burgers are dubbed Fatboys, that’s usually a good sign, but these beefy, perfectly spiced half-pounders are appealing to all genders and waistlines. Bonus points for the garlicky brioche bun. Double-bonus points if you’re eating it on their rooftop.
Best Burger: Trencherman (address and info)
When you’re dealing with juicy, house-ground, farm-raised chuck covered in a liberal layer of Tillamook Cheddar and house-made pickles, and the star of the show is the bun, you know you’re dealing with a damn-good bun (which is also made in-house).
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Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor and he knows how to properly ration his pepper while playing BurgerTime. Follow him @SeanCooley.
Matt Lynch is a Senior Editor at Thrillist who will have to change his Twitter handle if he ever moves to another city, because it’s @MLynchChi.
1. Big Jones5347 N Clark St, Chicago
2. Pleasant House Pub2119 S Halsted St, Chicago
3. A101462 East 53rd St, Chicago
4. Dryhop Brewers3155 N Broadway St, Chicago
5. Edzo's Burger Shop1571 Sherman Ave, Evanston
6. Gather Chicago4539 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
7. Three Aces1321 W Taylor St, Chicago
8. Owen & Engine2700 N Western Ave, Chicago
9. The Bad Apple4300 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
10. Old Town Social455 W North Ave, Chicago
11. Dusek's1227 W 18th St, Chicago
12. BRGRBelly5739 W Irving Pk Rd, Chicago
13. bopNgrill6604 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago
14. Acadia1639 S Wabash, Chicago
15. That's A Burger2134 E 71st St, Chicago
16. M Burger Water Tower835 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
17. Lockdown Bar & Grill1024 N Western Ave, Chicago
18. Au Cheval800 W Randolph, Chicago
19. Twisted Spoke501 N Ogden Ave, Chicago
20. Mindy's Hot Chocolate1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago
If you’re looking for real Southern comfort in Chicago, then Big Jones in Andersonville is for you. The menu is filled with authentic Lowcountry dishes adapted from antique cookbooks, like cornbread muffins taken from an 18th-century plantation recipe and traditional Cajun gumbo. The sustainable menu changes seasonally, but no matter what, expect the signature fried chicken every night. Big Jones’ weekend brunch is also a stunner, especially if you nab a table on the back patio.
Pilsen’s Pleasant House Pub serves up pints and pies in an English pub setting. The menu is divided into pub snacks, pub plates, sides, salads, and flaky, savory “Royal” pies, which you can “crown” with mashed potatoes and gravy. Choose to eat this decidedly British fare in either the indoor or outdoor area, and if you have any room left, jump on the sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Stocked with a full bar of cocktails and craft beers, Pleasant House Pub will have you gabbing in your foolish English accent after one too many.
A10 is one of the best places to indulge in creme brulee, on-tap cocktails, and awesome brews. Not particularly in that order.
Dryhop Brewers is more than just a brewery; it's complete pub with great food like bacon-wrapped scallops, skillet mac & cheese, and buttermilk fried chicken. Brewmaster Brant Dubovick has brewed more than 150 in-house beers since the Lakeview spot opened in 2013, and the styles range from seasonal IPAs to traditional Belgian farmhouse ales.
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.
A seamless infusion of European cuisine with American touches, Gather boasts a strong wine list and cultivates a warm, open vibe with their Sunday Dinner events. They've got a can't-miss brunch, serving up some of Chi's best Bloody Marys.
A rock-inspired gastropub filled with secluded black leather "gangster booths" and black glass chandeliers, TA's bringing the flavor with bar snacks from pork-fried nuts to farm-raised jerky, and Italian-influenced eats like wild boar sausage.
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.
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.
Old Town Social is setting out to seamlessly infuse turn-of-the-century elegance into its classic neighborhood bar confines. The upscale, spacious, high-ceiling'ed gastropub is as good a place to watch the game as it is to enjoy a nice dinner out on the town. Nestle up to the marble bar top for front row seats to the flat screens, cozy into the front room's fireplace and sip on signature cocktails, gather a group and dine on a slew of contemporary American share plates (don't skip the mac 'n cheese), and stop by the vintage shoe shine station on your way out, of course.
Helmed by Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth, this Michelin-starred restaurant in Pilsen serves upscale American pub food. Dusek's takes everything you love and makes it better, whether that's cooking French fries in beef fat or topping a juicy hamburger with bacon marmalade and serving it on a house-baked pretzel bun. There are more than two dozen beers on tap -- some are from Chicago, others are from abroad -- and daily beer specials. The late-night menu serves the aforementioned burger and fries until 1am every night.
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.
BopNgrill is, in short, a Korean-American fast-food joint. The menu is split between plates (chicken katsu and marinated beef bulkogi) and burgers, like the umami-loaded Duxelle burger with sundried tomato confit, mayo, bacon, and smoked gouda. Trust us: BopNgrill's fusion creations will convert you to the kimchi-and-barbecue-based ways of Korean cuisine.
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.
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.
M Burger is a fast-casual burger mainstay from restaurant group behemoth Lettuce Entertain You. In any of its numerous locations across the state of Illinois, you can (and should) indulge in the Old Fashioned Cheeseburger -- lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato, secret sauce -- or the M Burger -- same, but plus bacon, minus tomato. Make it a double, you’re in the Midwest, after all. Get the crispy chicken sandwich or turkey burger if red meat isn’t your thing, but no matter what you order, get a side of fries and a signature shake (for sipping and for dipping your fries). Thank us later.
Lockdown's a compact, steel caged, prison-themed temple to hard rock, outfitted with metal bars, smoke machines, skulls, and wall-to-wall flat-screens billing itself as a "virtual venue".
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.
In case the exterior motorcycle art and bike handlebars on the front door didn't tip you off, Twisted Spoke is a biker bar. The West Town hangout is beloved by Chicagoans of all stripes thanks to a massive selection of whiskey and beer, legendary Bloody Mary menu, rooftop garden, and sinister bites like barbecue nachos and fried jalapeño poppers. Of all the things that make Twisted Spoke stand out though, it's the weekly Saturday night "Smut and Eggs," when you can order breakfast food and watch porn. Um.
Pastry chef Mindy Segal's Bucktown restaurant is synonymous with comfort food from both the sweet and savory sides of the spectrum. Open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Mindy's Hot Chocolate serves soul-warming dishes, like the Slagel Farm beef burger topped with a fried egg, creamy mac & cheese, and daily soups with crusty sourdough bread. Of course, a meal here isn't complete without dessert, which should include an order of the amazingly rich hot chocolate and a slice of the daily cake (or anything off the dessert menu -- it's all addictive).