Food & Drink

Where to Get Chicago’s 11 Best Patty Melts

Published On 02/26/2015 Published On 02/26/2015
patty melts
rockit ranch productions

History tells us the patty melt was invented in California in the late 1940s. We say history is super dumb. Sure, maybe the name was coined then, but you don't think some guy with a handlebar mustache was housing a patty on hearty German rye bread with cheese, grilled onions, and a tall lager a century ago? 'Cause he totally was.

Annnnnnyway, whoever and wherever the inventor was, the sandwiches they invented are delicious, and you deserve to be eating the best of 'em, so here they are: Chicago's 11 finest-est old-school melts.
 

Rockit Burger Bar

Wrigleyville
Taking the traditional patty melt into bold new frontiers of stuffing your face, two patties of Black Angus beef with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions are squeezed between a pair of bacon grilled cheese sandwiches (wuuuuuuuuuuut), and served with tots and tomato bisque.

Duck Inn/Rockit Ranch

The Duck Inn

Bridgeport
On the menu, it’s just called a “hamburger sandwich” -- which is what Chef Kevin Hickey’s grandmother called it at the original Duck Inn (which she had back in the 1930s). But in all but name, it’s a classic patty melt featuring everything from fresh-ground beef to Brun-uusto cheese, all cooked on the grill and assembled piping hot.
 

Edzo's Burger Shop

Evanston
Edzo’s built an audience by taking burgers back to the basics, and the patty melt is simple but textbook-perfect with crispy marble rye encasing beef, gooey American cheese on both sides, and plenty of caramelized onion oozing out.

michael gebert/thrillist

Frances' Restaurant & Deli

Lincoln Park
You might expect this vintage deli-diner (which started as a steam table deli in 1938) to serve a classic old-style patty melt. But you would expect wrong. Somewhere along the way somebody went crazy with the idea, and the massive, nap-inducing Fatty Melt holds the patty, onion, and cheese between two full grilled cheese sandwiches -- one with tomato, one with bacon.
 

Spritz Burger

Lakeview
This burger shop, featuring owners the Hearty Boys and Chef Gale Gand, puts a bit of a chef-y spin on burger classics, topping its patty melt with sweet balsamic-caramelized onions and garlic aioli. But hey, it works.

Michael Gebert/Thrillist

Jeri's Grill

Lincoln Square
This 24hr grill (with a regular cast of interesting characters) makes what looks at first glance like a pretty standard, no-frills patty melt. But with its gooey American cheese and onions fresh off the well-seasoned grill, this standout p-melt creation is the definition of more than just the sum of its parts.
 

Eleven City Diner

South Loop
Diners are as good a place as any to look for killer patty melts, and Eleven City Diner wins a prize for being one of the gooiest, with its Angus patty topped with both cheese and Thousand Island dressing, Reuben-style.

michael gebert/thrillist

Outdoor Grill

Avondale
The name suggests something grander than the strip mall hot dog stand this place turns out to be, but it’s a solid Greek fast-food joint that does an above-average job with all the Chicago classics, including a lightly grilled, perfectly professional version of the patty melt.
 

Ceres Cafe

Loop
Where else besides a Jewish deli would you look for a manly, old-school sandwich like the patty melt? How about a bar and grill in the Board of Trade? No commodity meat is being bought and sold here, however, as the staff grinds their own grass-fed beef in-house for a hand-packed patty at one of the few places where we were asked what temperature we wanted ours cooked to.

michael gebert/thrillist

Top Notch Beefburgers

Beverly
A South Side fixture since the 1940s, this burger joint is like ground control for all burger experiments. And its vintage patty melt is certainly no exception. The ground-in-house beef is always excellent, and we really, REALLY like the caraway seed kick of its formidable rye bread.
 

Little Goat

West Loop
Given the morning-after-a-big-night-helping menu of pork belly pancakes and breakfast spaghetti, the patty melt at Little Goat is about as traditional as Stephanie Izard gets. Pretzel rye gets spread with special sauce and piled with a burger, American cheese, and caramelized onions. The only unusual touch? Pickle slices.

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Mike Gebert is a James Beard Award-winning food video producer and writer and founder of SkyFullofBacon.com. Follow him on Twitter @skyfullofbacon.

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1. 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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2. Duck Inn 2701 S Eleanor, Chicago, IL 60608 (Bridgeport Sox)

The name of this spot might conjure up images of a cute bed and breakfast, but in reality, The Duck Inn is a stylish restaurant decked in bare brick and orange accents that specializes in -- you guessed it -- duck. They aren't playing around here: The seasoned rotisserie duck, four-course chef's tasting menu, and creative dishes like potted foie gras and scallop and clam stew earned it a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2016.

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3. 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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4. Frances' Deli 2552 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

You might expect this vintage deli-diner (which started as a steam table deli in 1938) to serve all classic, old-style eats. But you would expect wrong. Somewhere along the way somebody went crazy with the patty melt idea, and the massive, nap-inducing Fatty Melt holds the patty, onion, and cheese between two full grilled cheese sandwiches -- one with tomato, one with bacon.

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5. Spritz Burger 3819 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60613 (Lakeview)

A burger joint with a burger named The Pub Crawl(cheddar, chutney and roasted tomato) is going to understandably peak your interest, and rightfully so. A menu made up of deep-fried comfort food(of which 13 items are burgers) awaits you amongst seltzer spritz cocktails like the spritzed Malort and pastries.

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6. Jeri's Grill 4357 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (Lincoln Square)

Some diners bustle at night. This one, opposite Welles Park, has more of (in the words of Mr. Sinatra) a “wee small hours” feel, a chill place for clubbers to wind the night down. The sign stresses Ham on the Bone, and it’s good advice for your omelet or as the side to your flapjacks. 24 hours. Respect.

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7. Eleven City Diner 1112 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605 (South Loop)

A matrimony of the Jewish delicatessen and the old-school diner, Eleven City Diner's a greasy spoon sans the grease, with awesome double-decker sandwiches and generally huge portions of pretty much everything.

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8. Outdoor Grill 3265 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (Avondale)

The name suggests something grander than the strip mall hot dog stand this place turns out to be, but it’s a solid Greek fast-food joint that does an above-average job with all the Chicago classics.

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9. Ceres Cafe 141 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604 (Loop)

Where else besides a Jewish deli would you look for a manly, old-school sandwich? How about a bar and grill in the Board of Trade? No commodity meat is being bought and sold here, however, as the staff grinds their own grass-fed beef in-house for a hand-packed patty in your burger or melt.

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10. 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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11. Little Goat 820 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

Right across the street from its upscale sister Girl & The Goat, Stephanie Izard's Little Goat is an all-day upscale diner that serves insanely creative takes on classic American comfort food. Split between a sit-down restaurant and a bakery, Little Goat is the place to go for over-the-top breakfast (breakfast spaghetti, banana peanut butter waffles), exceptional burgers (you can choose between a beef, goat, and veggie patty), and crazy desserts (smoked pork & toffee crunch milkshakes, Cheez-It sundaes). If you can't sit and stay -- or handle the long weekend waits -- then hit the "Grab and Goat" take-away area.

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