With Memorial Day serving as the unofficial start of summer and the onset of grilling season, it's no surprise May is National Burger Month. You don't need to twist my arm any harder than that in order to get me interested in eating my way through Chicago's burger scene. Our ravenous appetite for burgers seems ceaseless, with new burger concepts and menu items popping up at an endlessly rapid rate. Beyond your standard burger joints, this quintessential comfort food can be found practically everywhere, even in unexpected places like chicken restaurants and modern British taverns. In honor of National Burger Month, here are some of the very best (and most unexpected) burgers found in the city.
Morton's The Steakhouse: It's no surprise that a steakhouse would have a way with beef. What is surprising is that a steakhouse takes ground beef just as seriously as their steaks, and the results are just as salacious and delicious. Morton's The Steakhouse makes one mean burger, especially this month with their Million Dollar Burger promo for National Burger Month. It tastes as rich as it sounds, an amplified version of its classic burger outfitted with foie gras, black truffle butter, and braised short ribs on a brioche bun. It's quite the behemoth, but this is one example where excess pays off in a big way, with each umami-packed component complimenting the other like a symphony of meat.
Owen & Engine: A contemporary British pub that resembles the set of the board game Clue may not be the most obvious destination for a burger fix, but you'd be remiss in passing it by. Owen & Engine is so much more than fish & chips. In fact, one of the very best burgers in Chicago can be found here, exhibiting the kitchen's impressive proclivity for scratch-made provisions and dutiful dexterity. This is evident in the lusciously fine grind on the beef, which melts together in each succulent bite. The meat juices serve to enrich the pillowy house-baked potato bap bun. The burger is largely unadorned, save for some jammy caramelized onions, allowing the meat to speak for itself, and it does so loudly and clearly.
Scofflaw: Go to Scofflaw for the gin cocktails. Stay because you're in a food come from that incomparable burger. Handily raising the bar on bar food, Scofflaw proves that cocktail cuisine can be so much more than mixed nuts and share plates. In fact, the experience can be downright guttural. Don't be afraid to dig in and get messy and greedy with Scofflaw's crowd-pleasing burger, a dish that has come to be just as famed and beloved as their midnight cookies. The burger here is fairly Americana, albeit improved upon via Dijonnaise in lieu of typical mustard, crispy frizzled onions instead of slivers raw onions, and smoked tomato jam in place of the norm.
Chicken Shop: Typically, chicken restaurants adhere to poultry. Especially when their concept is to concisely focused on something as simple and classic as rotisserie chicken. And yet, Chicken Shop at Soho House Chicago manages to cook one of the most surprisingly decadent burgers in town. Dubbed the Dirty Burger, this classic creation consists of a cheeseburger with housemade patties and traditional accoutrements. It's not as dirty as the name suggests, but it is irresistible in that homey American sort of way, which is funny since Chicken Shop is based in London. Crinkle cut fries on the side are icing on the cake.
MANA food bar: Vegetarian burgers often leave a lot to be desired. It's just impossible to replicate the comforting, hearty sensations of beef with vegetables and grains. But if there's one spot that can achieve burger-level obsession without meat, it's MANA food bar. This dainty Wicker Park vegetarian restaurant has developed a cult-like renown for their sliders, and rightfully so. Made with brown rice and mushrooms, along with a smear of spicy mayo, these umami-packed morsels are as addictive as a drunken White Castle binge.