Review: Parts And Labor, The New Burger Joint In Logan Square
By Lisa White in Food on Dec 31, 2013 7:40PM
If Russ Grant knows one thing about opening a popular neighborhood establishment in Chicago, its the importance of keeping it simple. The owner behind Boiler Room, Simone’ s, Northside Bar and the sadly defunct Bonny’s has consistently helmed places that feel like a second home to their neighbors, keeping locals coming back for more with simple menus and good service. He continues this tradition with Parts and Labor, a new burger bar that, despite a few new-restaurant jitters, is taking off in Logan Square.
The premise is simple: solid griddle-thin burgers, sodas, some sides, a fried dessert, shots and beer. Much like the beloved pizza joint Boiler Room, Parts and Labor is cash only (they offer a complimentary shot if you use their ATM and show your receipt), has a retro industrial feel, and offers a grub and drink special, a $10 combo of a burger, side and shot or beer from a small selection. You have one burger option, the classic double burger, which comes with double thin griddled patties, two slices of American cheese, onion, lettuce, pickle and mayo. You can add an extra patty or bacon or opt for a black bean patty option, if you are not meat inclined.
Sides are, keeping with the theme, simple: curly fries, onion rings, fried pickles, fried giardinara and a basic salad for the health minded. They offer a cheeseburger salad as well, if you have some health guilt nagging at your brain and need some sort of salad facade to make yourself feel better. The menu ties it up with a fried twinkee and two floats, root beer and Green River. The classic burger starts at $5 and all sides are $3.
Rather than a beer, we opted to try a soda from their menu full of variety and small batch options. The Caruso’s Maraschino Cherry Cola was a perfect classic soda shop style of drink, making a mockery of the standard bottled variety. Our only gripe: you can't get any of these sodas with a combo meal.
The soda was a perfect companion to another classic, the thin griddled burger. The meat isn’t anything revolutionary, but it's better than your average fast food fare and all the ingredients were fresh and well portioned on the burger. On the first visit our burger could have used a bit more char, but on later visits someone clearly got a bit more bold on the grill, with a nice crust adding a crisp edge. The burger alone is solid but adding bacon is the key, with crispy, salty shards taking it the extra mile.
This isn’t Grant’s first foray into burgers; it runs in his blood. His father opened the Southside mainstay Wonderburger in 1954, which just announced yesterday that they will be closing their doors at the end of business today. Parts and Labor’s website speaks of how Grant’s family staffed the restaurant over the years and he was moved to “open his homage to the family business.” Wonderburger fans will have to head north to get a fix from the Grant family griddle and we’re glad the torch is being passed on with the news of Wonderburger closing.
Unfortunately, just like our first burger, the sides at Parts and Labor are a bit timid. Curly fries were limp and lacked seasoning. Thinly sliced lightly coated onion rings ended up salty and soggy after a few minutes and could probably have been saved if left in the fryer moments longer. Fried giardinaria works in theory, and would be a great side to share amongst a group of friends, but beware ordering it on your own. The thick hunks of pickled carrot, onion, celery and cauliflower were lightly beer battered (this time friend perfectly) but packed an aggressive vinegar taste that was only intensified by the frying fried. Eating a whole order made my mouth pucker and left a sour taste lingering for longer than expected.
We found our winner in the fried pickle, which sports a thick coating that sticks to the pickle slices perfectly and left a less-greasy mess than the onion rings.
I was hoping the Green River float would arrive with soft serve, fingers crossed that one of my favorite parts of Boiler Room would cross over as well. Instead it arrived with two hard hunks of cheap-tasting vanilla ice cream. Boiler Room has a soft serve machine that usually cranks out a few boozy concoctions. Here’s hoping that they bring over a similar machine to Parts and Labor, make one tap vanilla for floats and the other a boozy ice cream option. It would yield a better drink and would also make it easier to offer an option to add ice cream to other soda flavors.
The parts are all there at Parts and Labor, and once the kitchen gets a bit more brave, perfecting their frying and seasoning a bit more aggressively, Grant will easily be able to add another neighborhood favorite to his small empire.
Parts and Labor is located at 2700 N. Milwaukee Ave.