In case you're looking to simultaneously adhere to budgetary New Year's resolutions while thwarting dietary ones, you can't do any better than bargain budget burgers. And Chicago is full of them right now. Because it knows how sore your wallets and purses are after the holiday season, and how badly you need to eat ground beef without breaking the bank. Fortunately, there are several spots in town doling out burgers on a budget, making it easy to eat well and ruin your diet on the cheap.
(Burger special at Public House)
The happiest of happy hours is actually a "reverse happy hour" at 25 Degrees. What makes it reverse? The fact that it's on the other side of the dinner rush, from 10:00 p.m. until close. During this window, guests get 50% off budget burgers, such as the Number One with caramelized onions, Vella Toma cheese, bacon, arugula, and thousand island; the Number Two with roasted tomato, Burrata, crispy prosciutto, and pesto; and the Number Three with Mezzo Secco Jack, hatch green chile, chipotle, and avocado.
On Tuesdays, Public House offers a new burger-and-beer special for the scant price of $10. It's a sensational bargain, considering the burgers feature two four-ounce patties with sharp American cheese, crisp shredded iceberg, raw onion, tomatoes, pickle, and secret sauce. Plus, it comes with fries and a PBR, all for the price of a couple lattes.
Also on Tuesdays, Owen & Engine features their crowd-pleasing burger, bourbon, and beer combo. For $15, diners get Owen & Engine's incomparable burger, one of the best in Chicago, ground in-house and heaped on a house-baked bun, along with a shot of bourbon and a glass of beer.
Evidently Tuesday is the quintessential day for burgers, because Parson's Chicken & Fish also offers bargain budget burgers on Tuesdays. The Logan Square barstaurant may be best known for fried chicken and Negroni slushies, but don't miss their once-a-week burgers. Varieties rotate each week, from the classic with bacon, caramelized onions, American cheese, pickles and aïoli, to the inventive, with fried summer squash, herbed quark, green coriander aïoli, pickled onions, and tomato. Burgers cost less than $10, available late night.
The next day, make your way to Trenchermen for their Wednesday budget burger special, also for $10 and also with beers, because burgers and beers are the new macaroni and cheese. These are not your typical burgers, though. Each week, varieties are created and conceived both by the front and back of house, with examples such as a beef burger topped with spicy pimento cheese, green tomato, and pickled okra; and another with Taleggio fondue, Madeira, and truffle onions. Every month, Trenchermen teams up with a different craft brewery to offer a designated beer pairing for the burgers as well. And just for the heck of it, the burger-and-beer combos come with popcorn. Now that's a bargain.
Parts & Labor is a beefy new watering hole in Logan Square. From the folks behind Boiler Room, the budget-friendly pizza-and-beer bar down the street, Parts & Labor follows a similar formula, but with burgers instead of pizza. The format here is very simple and very affordable, with a concise menu of classic double burgers for $5 and combos for $10, which include burgers with a side and a beer.
- Matt Kirouac