What you’re getting: The Ruby Burger
The Payne Café is a “lunchtime kinda place,” caution those in the know, which is to say the block gets a little dicey after dark. That’s perfectly fine with the fans of this dive bar, many of whom work in the immediate area and hightail it back to the ‘burbs at 5pm anyhow. Everybody here orders the Ruby Burger, which Ruby, the owner/bartender/chef, cooks in plain view behind the bar. She smooshes a blob of beef flat on the griddle until it flares out to almost comically outsized proportions. It’s dusted with a secret spice blend, topped with cheese, bacon, ham, and lettuce, and served, if you can believe it, on good china.
What you’re getting: The half-pound burger
It’s pretty much a given that the best burger bars will be located on alleys, likely sporting a hanging blade sign swaying in the breeze. Johnny’s Little Bar is precisely the sort of dive one ducks into during a rainstorm and stumbles out of, hours later, a little dryer, a lot fuller, and loads more content thanks to a well-made burger and a few cold beers. With all of 10 densely packed tables, Johnny’s is indeed little, but the burgers are monumental -- charred and beefy, dripping with cheese, and shoehorned into a toasted kaiser roll. You may as well add bacon to the burger, onion rings to the plate, and a cold Great Lakes brew to the whole blessed affair.