Hamburger Heaven: The Best Burgers in Chicago and the North Shore

Let’s talk about last meals. You know, the one where you no longer have to worry about calories and cholesterol. If I could eat anything with no fear of digestive repercussion, it would be a big, juicy burger—hands down.

Luckily, we live in a town that takes its meat VERY seriously. Chicago has umpteen great burgers, many of which I’ve waxed hungrily poetic about. So in the interest of what’s new, I give you some recent discoveries (aka “Ground Meat Epiphanies”). These should be immediately added  to your Burger Bucket List (you know you have one).


Au Cheval

Yes, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but there’s a bandwagon for a reason, people. I don’t mind waiting a few hours to eat this scrumptious prime beef burger, griddled to perfection and served (with cheese, of course) on a toasted bun. The double burger will set you back $12.95. Don’t forget to add the peppered bacon. 800 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-929-4580

DMK Burger Bar 

Possibly the best Patty Melt ($9.50) in town, this one is made of grass-fed beef and sandwiched with smoked bacon, burnt onions, smoked Swiss cheese and remoulade sauce between two slices of hearty griddled rye. Add the sweet-potato fries with lemon Tabasco aioli and that’s a serious party in your mouth. 2954 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, 773-360-8686

Photo courtesy of DMK Burger.


They’ve gotten a lot of fawning press, and deservedly so. Chef-Owner Eddie Lakin is so on top of his game that even his TURKEY Burger ($5.50) is crave-worthy, and that’s saying something. In other news, the beef burgers will knock your socks off. And who needs socks? 1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847-864-3396

Shake Shack

Freshly ground and griddled, 100 percent all-natural Angus beef—Shake Shack doesn’t mess around. Opt for the SmokeShack ($6.45), crowned with cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and Shack Sauce. If you can escape without ordering a Salted Carame‘L’ Concrete (vanilla custard, fresh banana and a Glazed & Infused salted caramel doughnut), I admire your inner strength. 66 E. Ohio St., Chicago, 312-667-1701


25 Degrees

Sure, the Sirloin Burgers ($9) here are juicy and yummy, but what sets this place apart is the sheer depth and breadth of the cheese options ($2 each) for your creation: 15 artisanal cheeses, ranging from Grand Cru Gruyère to Cardona goat, from Pleasant Ridge Reserve to Vella Toma. And no, Kraft Deli Deluxe is not an option. Add a few boozy calories with a spiked shake, like the Salty Caramel with Maker’s Mark, or the NOLA with Southern Comfort. 736 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-943-9700

Photo courtesy of 25 Degrees.


Lettuce Entertain You’s “healthier” restaurant actually makes a wonderful Prime Burger ($13.95), served on whole-grain toast with aged white cheddar and spicy house-made giardiniera and a side of crispy Kennebec fries. 519 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-284-1377


Chef Kevin Hickey’s wood-grilled ground Bacon Burger ($17) is a thing of beefy beauty. The exact ratio is 70 percent beef/30 percent bacon, which adds a delightful smokiness to the mouthfeel. Top that with Vermilion blue cheese, a tangle of shoestring potatoes and some “special sauce,” put it on a buttered brioche bun, and it’s a last meal you can look back fondly upon. Um, hold up a sec… 441 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-955-1900


If you follow him on Twitter, you know chef Cleetus Friedman is a riot. But the man is dead serious when it comes to his Fountainhead Burger ($14), a half-pound of tasty ground meat on a sturdy pretzel bun, accompanied by excellent fries. If you want to gild the lily (smoked gouda or Gruyère cheese, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, etc.), it’ll cost you, but yum. Drown your sorrows in the city’s most comprehensive whiskey list. 1970 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago, 773-697-8204


The glorious Guildhall Burger ($16) is the play here. The super-juicy burger is topped with Morbier cheese, bacon, caramelized onion and whole grain mustard on a stellar pretzel bun. Add in their hand-cut pommes frites and you are in like Flynn. 694 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, 847-835-8100

Peckish Pig

This new Evanston fave makes an awesome Lamb Burger ($13), served on a pretzel bun with goat cheese, mango and lime mayo and a side of addictive cumin fries. Definitely feeling that British vibe. 623 Howard St., Evanston, 847-491-6778

Photo by Julie Chernoff.

Spritz Burger 

What happens when the Hearty Boys join forces with Gale Gand? Magic. And crowds. But at the end of that long line waits a perfect Mushroom Swiss Burger ($15), the grass-fed beef patty piled high with Swiss cheese, a six-mushroom ragout, truffle aioli, mushroom ketchup, and greens on a carb-worthy bun. Go to it. 3819 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-868-9866

Umami Burger 

Umami, the fifth taste: unctuous flavor bombs that get your mouth super excited. The West Coast import’s signature blend of beef shines brightest in “The Original” ($12) topped with a Parmesan frico, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and Umami house ketchup, each element designed for maximum impact. Save room for Smushed Potatoes. 480 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-423-2005 


Happ Inn 

These little wonders come in a three-pack ($10.50), prepared simply with ketchup, mustard, pickle and crispy onion strings on a soft bun. What do you know…size really doesn’t matter! 305 Happ Road, Northfield, 847-784-9200

Henry’s Swing Club 

Sliders here aren’t limited to burgers—fried bologna, tuna melts and fried chicken are all fair game—but those tiny burgers pack a lot of punch, especially the beef with charred red onion and cheddar ($2) or the spicy lamb with tzatziki and cucumber ($3). 18 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-955-8018

Photo courtesy of Henry’s Swing Club.


David Burke’s Primehouse 

It’s called a “Burker,” for cripes’ sake, so you know he’ll stake his rep on it. You can’t miss with the 40-Day Dry-Aged Prime Steak “Burker” ($16), topped with the kitchen sink (garlicky spinach, caramelized onion, bacon, cheese and black pepper aioli). Yowza. What a mouthful. 616 N. Rush St., Chicago, 312-660-6000

House 406 

This up-and-comer brings the substance with their eight-ounce Blue Cheese Burger ($25), laden with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, shaved red onion and aioli on a pretzel bun, accompanied by zesty Cajun fries. When you’re talking a 50/50 mix of ground-in-house rib-eye and filet, it’s worth the dough. 1143 1/2 Church St., Northbrook, 847-714-0200

Rosebud Steakhouse 

If you were aiming to find a pricey burger, their Foie Gras Truffle Goat Cheese Burger ($30) would be at the top of your list. Happily, it’s as delectable as it is decadent, as the oven-grilled sirloin blend shares space on the tender brioche bun with Cypress Grove’s Truffle Tremor goat cheese and a slice of seared foie gras. 192 E. Walton St., Chicago, 312-397-1000

Vegetarians Need Love, Too


No one feels left out when they’re eating this Black Bean & Lentil Burger ($18) topped with griddle onions, organic arugula, Prairie Breeze cheese and chimichurri yogurt. It’s the fanciest veggie burger in town. Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Place, Chicago, 312-799-4900

Nick’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill 

This Veggie Burger ($10) holds up under pressure, the brown rice/black bean/grilled vegetable patty hanging together despite all odds, and topped with lettuce, tomato, avocado and chipotle aioli and served up on a brioche bun. 1168 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-251-3262

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