The 12 Top Burger Joints You Shouldn't Overlook

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 5, 2015 4:40PM

While the hunt for Chicago's best burger may be slightly less contentious than the search for the perfect pizza (we don't recall any threats of bodily harm over a burger list), it's still an endeavor with strong feelings on all sides. For this year's Best Burgers List, in addition some of the obvious can't-miss selections (Au Cheval, duh), we've gone out of our way to find some burgers you might not have tried before. And before you yell at us for ignoring your favorite, check out last year's list. And the list before that. (And don't worry, vegetarians, we've got you covered too) Then get out your map and your GPS and get ready for a burger expedition.

Here are 12 amazing spots for burgers in Chicagoland and beyond.

2012_8_13Kumas.png
Photo by Tall&Good.

Kevin's Hamburger Heaven

If it’s all-American you’re looking for, find it at this Bridgeport greasy spoon known for the “1 and Only,” a return visit-worthy burger consisting of flattened, griddled chuck patty topped with deeply caramelized onions. The big, diner-style menu — served 24 hours a day — hosts all manner of other temptations, from shakes to steak dinners, fluffy silver dollar pancakes and sausage and eggs.

Kevin's Hamburger Heaven is at 554 W. Pershing Rd., Chicago

That’s-A-Burger

Everything is prepared at their pace at this Avalon Park Park hole-in-the-wall; however, you can count on attention to detail and griddle-smashed, juicy, lacy-edged numbers drowned with mustard, ketchup, pickles, grilled or raw onion and chopped iceberg lettuce (tomatoes are extra). Problem is, there’s no place to eat them—except your vehicle.

That's-A-Burger is at 2134 E. 71st St.

DMK Burger.jpg
Burger at DMK Burger Bar. Photo via Facebook.

DMK Burger Bar

Everyone has their favorite "fancy" burger place. For some, it's Kuma's (though I tend to think that stacking burgers with that much junk doesn't always improve them), but for me, it's DMK. These flat, griddled burgers, made with grass fed beef, always make me happy, and despite the wide variety, I always go for the #1, a combination of cheddar, bacon, bbq sauce and charred balsamic onions.

DMK is located at 2954 N. Sheffield Ave.

Paradise Pup

Those in the know queue up for the killer hand-helds at this brothers-run, cash-only stand with a cult following. Let the smoky scent guide you there, and do not waiver from the following: You want a Merkt’s char cheddar burger with everything; three-layer, many-napkins-required fries heaped with sour cream, more Merkt’s and nubs of bacon; and a real fruit shake—raspberry, to be precise. Then, enjoy it at one of the handful of outdoor tables or—as so many do—in your car.

Paradise Pup is at 1724 S. River Rd., Des Plaines.

AuCheval BUrger.jpg
The double burger at Au Cheval. Photo via Facebook.

Au Cheval

What's left to say about Au Cheval? It's made every best burger list in the country for a reason, and while some scoff at the wait or the surroundings, I dare them to scoff while they're actually eating it. While most of the ingredients aren't all that special, if you get it without the extra-thick cut bacon, you're missing out.

Au Cheval is at 800 W. Randolph St.

Green Gables Bar and Grill

Thank us now: You only learn about this off-the-beaten path dive-bar-meets-tackle-shop and grocery store along Lake Bloomington through word of mouth or from someone at neighboring Illinois State. That’s because locals want to keep the destination-worthy, emerald-hued hut a secret. Tackle a seasoned-griddle-grilled double cheeseburger and gooey, breaded cheese cubes and you’ll quickly get the gist. Be sure to hit the ATM first because it’s cash-only.

Green Gables Bar and Grill is at 17485 E. 2500 Rd N, Hudson.

2012_12_17_Gather7.jpg
The burger at Gather.

Gather

Overpriced, upscale restaurant burgers don't often do it for me. Every spot has them, and they're often not as good as something you'd get at a nice greasy diner. But Gather is an exception, with a perfectly cooked and presented burger served on brioche with red pepper aioli, bacon and caramelized onions. It's available at brunch and dinner, so if you want to start your Sunday off right, this is the way.

Gather is at 4539 N. Lincoln Avenue.

Ridott Corners Tavern

This wood-paneled biker bar is set amid corn and soybean fields out toward Rockford, but it’s well worth the gas mileage. Of course, what’s lacking in service and menu selection is made up for by a thick, beefy half-pounder that’s cooked—admittedly, at a snail’s pace—on a well-seasoned grill by the bartender, behind the bar while you watch. And wait. And wait some more. Pass the time over a bag of old-fashioned Mrs. Mike’s potato chips from nearby Freeport, Ill., or, better yet, Mrs. Mike’s finger-staining cheese corn, which gives Garrett and Nuts on Clark a run for their money.

Ridott Corners Tavern is located at 1862 S Rock City Rd, Ridott.

Top Notch Beefburgers

When you’ve been doing your thing since 1942, odds are you know what’s what. Such is the case at this unassuming, old-school diner. Its namesake comes in the form of daily-ground, ground round patties on plush buns with crisp outside, creamy-inside beef tallow fries. Dive in amid paneled walls dotted with landscape paintings and linger over a traditionalist’s dream: a frothy chocolate shake.

Top Notch Beefburgers is located at 2116 W. 95th St., Chicago.

2015_bad_apple.jpg
via The Bad Apple

The Bad Apple

I'm a huge fan of everything at Bad Apple: The awesome beer list, the kooky burger names, the beef flown in from Pat LaFrieda in New Jersey. But my favorite thing is, naturally, the burgers (why is there even anything else on the menu?). They do themed burgers right, with just enough variety to make the burger interesting without making it inedible without a knife, fork and shovel. If it's on the menu, get the Wrath of Julia Child, which is inspired by her classic steak tartare recipe with capers, egg, shallots, anchovy and mustard.

The Bad Apple is located at 4300 N. Lincoln Ave.

Country House

Fans of the paranormal gather at this purportedly haunted original (with additional outposts in Geneva and Lisle). Since waits are commonplace at the barely-lit hang, belly up at the adjacent, wood-hewn bar, where throwing your peanut shells on the floor isn’t only okay — it’s encouraged. Then, when you can, order the Top Drawer burger. Beloved for its simplicity, its meat is ground in house from brisket, short ribs and chuck, resulting in a thick, juicy patty that gets topped with standard accoutrements. The creative specials menu is a worthwhile diversion; when the glossy, breakfast-like Maple Harvest pork burger is on offer, you’re definitely in luck.

Country House is located at 241 W. 55th St., Clarendon Hills.

2013_10_2_Duseks.jpg
Photo via Facebook.

Dusek's Beer and Board

This is one that I tell pretty much everyone I meet. "Hello, stranger who I just met—have you had the Juicy Lucy at Dusek's?" If their answer is no, I give them directions and wait for them to come back. This amazing, gooey mess is a variation on the classic burger of the upper Midwest, with the cheese baked right into the patty. It's a calorie bomb and it's difficult to split (because if you cut it open, it starts to ooze), so just throw caution to the wind and eat it all yourself.

Dusek's is at 1227 W. 18th St.

By Anthony Todd and Jennifer Olvera.