Burger Nirvana: DMK Burger Bar in Chicago

Not all burgers are created equal.

Some are, as the saying goes, more equal than others. And DMK Burger Bar is producing those burgers, in every possible permutation.

Worried about cholesterol? Not a meat eater? Carbs a no-no? They’ve got you covered. You’ve got options. But why in the world you would voluntarily pass up this perfect potato bun, freshly baked each day by the Highland Bakery to Michael Kornick’s exacting specifications, I haven’t a clue.

Kornick and David Morton (of Pompei Bakery) had been itching to work together. Long-time friends and, more recently, Evanstonians, they settled on burgers as the medium for their partnership.

“We saw an opportunity to change the dialogue about burgers. We kept asking ourselves, how do we get smaller—price, space, portions—because it’s not cool to waste in 2010. The concept was to do great burgers and add hospitality to it,” Morton told me recently.

Mission accomplished. The restaurant emanates cool from the graphics to the modern color scheme and floor plan. Waiters are casually dressed, friendly and well informed about the massive beer list, with more than 30 artisan-crafted beers available.

About that beer list: impressive not only for it’s depth, but the descriptions are hilarious and worth a read, even if you’re not a beer drinker. But when you can grab a 3 Floyds Gumballhead Wheat Ale from Munster, Ind., or a Stone’s Arrogant Bastard American Strong Ale, why wouldn’t you? For the underage, the house-made sodas (blood orange, cherry or lime, $3) are terrific.

The main event is the burger, and they feature grass fed-beef, griddled and served hot in one of many inspired combinations. The #2, topped with chili-rubbed onion strings, Amish blue cheese and spicy tomato ketchup is a winner; the #4 sports roasted Hatch green chiles, a fried farm egg, Sonoma Jack cheese and smoked bacon. All burgers (with the exception of “The Big DMK” at $11) are priced at $8.

The grass-fed lamb burger is piled high with sheep’s milk Feta, olive tapenade, Greek salad and tzatziki sauce. Wow. Also loved the fresh salmon burger with ginger and scallion, Asian slaw and red Thai curry sauce. Veggie and turkey burgers are also available, as is a crispy portabella mushroom (served with Fontina, arugula, marinated tomatoes and horseradish sauce).

And those fries? Delicious. Hand-cut russet potato fries are available four ways (Parmesan with Truffle Cream, Wisconsin Cheddar & Scallion, Amish Blue & Smoked Bacon and Sea Salt & Black Pepper with House Ketchup), as well as amazing Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon-Tabasco Aioli ($2-4 for small, $4-6 for large).

Not feeling the burgers? No worries.  They offer two versions of delectable, creamy Mac & Cheese, along with a decadent grilled cheese and a few salad options (iceberg wedge, Greek, Caesar, and three types of coleslaw, including wasabi).

At some point we called it quits, but not before ingesting the rich chocolate milkshake and sampling the homemade ice cream sandwiches ($4) and tender carrot cupcakes ($2.50) with cream cheese frosting.

As soon as I can wedge myself back in my car, it will be heading back down to DMK Burger Bar for a repeat visit. I haven’t tried the Fried Okra & Dill Pickles yet and that’s haunting me.

DMK Burger Bar
Chicago