Found Kitchen & Social House burger

Found Kitchen & Social House (Photos courtesy of each restaurant unless otherwise noted.)

Every few years I feel motivated — nay, compelled — to compile a list of my favorite new (at least to me) burgers around Chicago. Why not every year, you ask? Because is takes a while to recover from this research, good people. But it’s a sacrifice I make for you. Of course, we don’t live by beef alone, so I’ve also included some killer turkey, lamb, tuna and veggie burgers that shouldn’t be missed. And before you get your panties all in a twist, note that I have not included the usual suspects (hello, Edzo’s, Kuma’s, DMK, Bop ‘n Grill, Au Cheval, et al.) because I have written about them exhaustively in the past. I know they’re there. I worship at their counters. But there are other worthy contenders out there that need your love too. So start eating!

Beef Burgers:

Boltwood

Boltwood Burger ($14)

Super juicy, grilled just right and topped with cheddar, lettuce, onion and house sauce, this beefy beauty comes with the garlic schmaltz crispy potatoes, and as God is my witness, there will be calories. Damn you, chef Brian Huston! Available at lunch and brunch only. 804 Davis St., Evanston, 847-859-2880

BRGRBelly

Old Time Religion

Once known as Leadbelly, a cease-and-desist from the late bluesman’s estate forced the name change in 2015. But you know what’s still crazy good? This burger which hits every one of your taste buds, topped with roasted tomato, goat cheese, truffle aioli and a little arugula to make you feel better about it all. 5739 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, 773-283-7880; 5691 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-775-6650

Busy Burger

Stuffed Burger ($7.99)

Busy Burger

This Taylor Street stalwart got an overhaul in 2015; now it looks like the successful, graphically correct chain they hope it will become. Happily, the stuffed burger — available in either beef or turkey — is replication worthy. It’s a half-pound of all-natural beef stuffed with smoked bacon, BBQ sauce and Wisconsin cheddar, grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles and spicy Busy sauce on a butter-toasted bun. Bonus points for the hand-battered onion rings and the lettuce-wrap option. 1120 W. Taylor St., Chicago, 312-226-7760

Chop Shop

Butcher’s Burger ($15)

Chop Shop burger

© DLM Photography

There’s a cool Wicker Park vibe here that you’ll dig, and the beef could not possibly be much fresher. Ground daily by the in-house butcher, grilled and served on a just-right bun with aged Cheddar, charred red onions, smoky bacon and Chop Shop sauce. Excellent skinny fries, too (and if you are so inclined, they also do a Sriracha Chicken burger that is quite good). 2033 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773-537-4440

Earls Lincoln Park

Bacon Cheddar Burger ($17)

Earl's Lincoln Park burgers

Photo by Julie Chernoff.

This Canadian import sure understands what Americans love. Their version of our national obsession comes with cured bacon, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh onion, pickles, mayo and mustard piled high on a freshly baked brioche bun. 1538 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 312-929-3952

Found Kitchen & Social House

Beef & Mushroom Burger ($15)

Is it the ground mushrooms in chef Nicole Pederson’s burger that make it so effusively juicy? Add house-made giardiniera, melty cheese, fresh tomato and put it on a pillowy brioche bun, and you have a showstopper. Lunch menu only. 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8945 

Holt’s

House Burger ($11.95)

Holt's burger

Photo by Julie Chernoff.

This umami bomb is topped with wine-marinated, garlicky sautéed mushrooms and cheddar cheese and served on a sturdy pretzel bun. Comes with choice of superb skinny hand-cut fries, house salad or soup. Who are you kidding? You know you want those fries. 43 S. Prospect Ave, Park Ridge, 847-720-4484

Presidio

Royale with Cheese ($14)

Presidio burger

© DLM Photography

Samuel L. Jackson would be happy with this prime beef burger on a Highland Bakery brioche bun, topped with American cheese, grilled onion ring and house pickles. At brunch, it’s a “Breakfast Royale” and includes smoked bacon and a sunny-side-up egg ($15). Either way, it’s a fantastic mouthful. 1749 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-697-3315

Small Cheval 

Cheeseburger ($9.95, with bacon, $11.95)

Small Cheval burger

When they say “small,” they’re talking about the menu and they aren’t fooling. Hamburger with cheese and/or bacon, or without. Golden fries. Shakes, shots and beers. End of story. But it’s still a damn good double burger, just like at Au Cheval on Randolph. No egg. 1732 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Lamb Burger:

Rockit Bar & Grill 

Lamb Burger ($17)

Rockit Bar & Grill lamb burger

Rockit is in the business of bar food, and they make a fine beef burger, but this little lamby from their new Mediterranean-themed offerings is what I’ll return for. Topped with pickled cucumber & onion, feta cheese and spicy harissa yogurt sauce on a Highland bakery bun, it made me yearn for the Aegean. 22 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-645-6000

Turkey Burgers:

Good Stuff Eatery

Michelle Melt ($6.98)

Michelle Obama has inspired a lot of healthy eating as part of her eight-year tenure in the White House; “Top Chef” fave and Good Stuff owner Spike Mendelsson honors her with this swoon-worthy burger. Free-range turkey burger topped with caramelized onions, melted Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce and “Southlawn Herb Garden” mayo on a whole-wheat bun will fill you up, but hopefully not out! 22 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-854-3027

Just Turkey

Jerk Burger ($5.50)

Gobble gobble. That’s all you’ll find here, from ribs, to links to burgers, this place is as advertised. The butter-crusted jerk patty is infused with Jamaican herbs and spices; top it with BBQ sauce, lettuce, pickles and onions, all on a whole-wheat bun. 2430 Main St., Evanston, 847-859-6331

Tuna Burger:

Firefly Kitchen

Tuna Burger ($16)

Firefly Kitchen turkey burger

A Brooklyn-style bistro in the north suburbs? Yes, and they’re making a killer tuna burger with sushi-quality ahi, grilled and topped with wakame seaweed salad, wasabi mayo, red wine-pickled ginger, all on a sesame seed bun and served with addictive sweet potato fries. Enjoy this super summery burger on their back patio under the twinkling lights. 111 Green Bay Road, Wilmette, 224-408-2464

Veggie Burger:

The Amazing Kale Burger

Ben Burger ($7)

What if I told you there was a vegan burger out there that was really, truly tasty — and kale was a major ingredient (along with mushrooms, potatoes, black beans and chick pea flour). Would you believe me? They started at the Evanston Farmers Market but have added a cute little lunch counter serving these beauties on house-made whole-wheat buns. The Ben is my fave; it’s topped with garlic mushrooms and herbed sunflower seed cheese. Yummity yum. 741 Howard St., Evanston, 847-660-4330


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