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The Best Burger In Chicago Is Really Not What You Think It Is

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 24, 2017 2:40PM

The burger at Mott Street. Photo via Facebook.

It's accepted by most people, true or not, that the best burger in Chicago is at Au Cheval. OK, some people (including the Tribune and our own former editor) have taken contrarian positions, but that's what happens when you're the best: people keep coming for you, especially in your backyard. That's why this expertly researched piece from Thrillist was such a total out-of-left-field shock.

Kevin Alexander has spent the last year eating burgers. Thrillist paid for him to travel American eating burger after burger after burger—a total of 330 of them—to find the best 100 burgers in America. What did he find in Chicago? Well, even he was shocked when Au Cheval (ranked #11) didn't make the top 10.

"Before I undertook this journey to 30 cities, if you would've asked me to guess what burger I would think would end up being the best in the country, Au Cheval would’ve definitely been in the top three contenders . . . And yet it sits slightly outside the top 10, because America has SO MANY INCREDIBLE BURGERS that it didn't even end up number one in Chicago. I know, friends. I'm stunned too."

Here's the really surprising thing, though: Chicago got another entry on the list that was higher than Au Cheval. Where? Mott Street. Yes, the Asian street food inspired spot from the team behind Ruxbin.

Imagine if your friend spent an entire year telling you that you were missing out on the greatest burger in Chicago. And then imagine going to Chicago and, in an attempt to humor him, hitting up this restaurant, which doesn't seem like a burger joint at all. And then imagine biting into that burger and having all of the alarms in your head go off simultaneously, as you realize that -- not only is this the best burger in Chicago -- but it just might be one of the best burgers in the country. And then imagine trying to downplay that entire mental and physical experience so your friend doesn't feel too self-satisfied. Well, now you know the true emotional toll Mott Street inflicted upon me.

I must admit that I've never had the Mott Street burger, but the description (topped with pickled jalepeƱos, miso butter and hoisin aioli) sounds intriguing, and you can bet I'll be there in the next couple of weeks. Stand by for a full report.

In the meantime, the other Chicago spots that made the list include Johnny's Grill and Owen & Engine. If you want some contrary opinions, here's our list of the best burgers in Chicago under $7.