Here's to Great Burgers and Fries, down with the rest!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicago Burger and Fries Update

Hello again. After a hiatus, Chicago Burger and Fries returns. A quick summary of meaty encounters since my last post. Kuma's remains the gold standard for burgers in Chicago. Devil Dawgs on Sheffield near Webster continues to impress, and don't miss their fries. Burger Bar on Clybourn steadily improves. Goose Island continues it's presentation of overpriced mediocrity. Stella's Diner on Broadway continues to be my sleeper spot and you can now BYOB there, bonus. Duffy's Tavern and Grill surprisingly pretty good. DMK Burger remains overcooked and dry, but a fun place to go. Flub a Dub Chub's burger is very good, but what's with the overdose of seasoned salt.

This is a quick update, more detailed post coming. Here's to Great Burgers and Fries, and down with the rest.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big Burger, Fries and a Beer - $8 and it's tasty!

 $8 Burger night • includes frittes and an ice cold beer! At Socca Restaurant on Clark Street.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Great Fries!!!

Unbelievable, in the space of just a few short weeks, I have come across not one, but two venues with great fries. Both were house made, fresh cut beauties, served hot and crisp.

The two finds are Devil Dawgs on Sheffield and Clybar and Grill on Clybourn.

I will be making more visits to these establishments to make sure it was no fluke, also I need to eat a few more burgers before I can accurately write my reviews, cause we all know this is serious business!

Until then; Here is to great Burgers and Fries. Down with the rest.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review of Jack's on Halsted - The Chef Burger Concept Continues.......

I have a history with Chef Jack Jones, not a personal one, but the kind that last; the happy food loving patron, and a Chef. I have been a patron of Chef Jack Jones, owner of Jack's on Halsted, going back many years to his first place, a simple storefront affair on North Ashland Av. His food was delicious and bold for the time, long before the advent Food TV, superstar chefs, and the term foodies.

Then he was on to bigger, but not always better things, including Jack's on Halsted. Born as a more upscale version of his original Daniel J's, he started straying into a sort of asian fusion world. This was cause for me to stray away.

So upon learning of the now common term, "reconcepting", of Jack's on Halsted, I became excited at the chance of recreating some of those great taste experience from years past and missed. As I perused his menu from the street, it appeared much to my great pleasure that this is not so much a reconcepting, but a trip back in time, to the beginning. I see some of those same dishes I enjoyed and still remember from yesteryear, and then, bonus time, Big Burgers on the menu. The thought of Chef Jones digging back into his culinary roots, and applying them to the object of our desire is very exciting.

I arrive at the restaurant, and this is definitely a restaurant. It almost has an identity crisis of fine dining meets kinda tavern. White table cloths and multiple flat screens is a little confusing, but hey, it's comfortable and I'm here for the food.

And to be more specific the Burger. On the menu along with the usual restaurant headings is a special grouping for Burgers, including some exotic entries. It appears that every venue now offering Burgers are jumping on the Burger + other ingredients, = my higher culinary creation capabilities bandwagon. Almost as to justify ones position in the gastronomic hierarchy. We at Chicago Burger and Fries are not fooled, or even concerned by this trend, because all we care about is Great tasting Burgers and Fries. Undeterred by the ever present Burger creations, because if the basic burger isn't great, the fancy accoutrements are not going to elevate it. I order my "Blog Burger" with American Cheese and raw onion, and I'm happy to say Jack's on Halsted’s offering is pretty good. A 9 ouncer, cooked almost perfectly medium rare (it was just a tad over), but still emitted the tell tale sign of tastiness, a slight trail of greasy  juice.

On the subject of onions, I have learned that since these days, most appear as a wafer thin almost nonexistent slice, I always ask for extra when ordering. Unfortunately Jack's, like most places required additional effort to get the aforementioned onion. Compounding the problem is the fact I will not eat my Burger before the correct amount of onion finally arrives. In the meantime my beautiful Burger's temperature is cooling, and my blood pressure is rising.

Despite the onion incident, I enjoyed the Jack’s on Halsteds' Burger very much. It was a classic grill job with a slight taste of char, and a nice meaty flavor. My Burger showed some signs of pink on the inside, and even a faint blur of red. If it had been pulled off the grill sooner, it would have certainly had even more depth of flavor. But unfortunately it missed the mark, however so slightly.

The Fries, not so good. They tasted as they came out of a bag, and had a slightly strange crust going on. Although they were served nice and hot, exhibiting a slight crunch, as soon as they cooled a bit, the flavor profile went downhill fast. They became rather dull and off tasting to the point that I did not care to finish them. A Chef of Jack Jones caliber should certainly be capable of putting a better fry on the plate, and I hope he will.

I accompanied my Burger with slightly pricey bottle of beer, no draft beer in the house, unfortunately and a pretty limited assortment of brews, at that.

In the final analysis, I had an OK type of Burger and Fries” experience. Not a bad place especially if you’re on a date with a non burger type of person, but why would you be on a date with someone who doesn’t love burgers. I know a Chef of Jack Jones talent could elevate his namesake spot; but I won’t be back anytime soon.

The Damage:

Cheese Burger and Fries  $ 8.95
Bottle Beer $ 6.50

The Burgers are very reasonably priced, especially in a white table cloth setting. However, ordering other menu options, aside from the Burger, will take you out of the  value world in a hurry. However, their other offering are very tasty.

Ratings: ( 1* - 4 **** )

Burger: 2**     Fries 1*

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Now from Lettuce Entertain You........M Burger

M Burger to open Thursday. This is a Lettuce Entertain You ( TRU, Food Life, Mon Ami Gabi, L2O, Shaws,etc.) venture into our world. Let's hope for the best......

You can check out a small preview presented by UrbanDaddy's on M Burger at

Monday, March 8, 2010

Home of the Char Broiled Cheddar Burger.....Weiner Circle

A sign on north Clark street emblazoned with the iconic yellow Vienna Hot Dog logo, proclaims for all to see "Home of the Char Broiled Cheddar Burger". This sight acts as a beacon for all, drawing us to The Weiner Circle. For many it's the last stop of an alcohol fueled night out, providing both tasty sustenance and an almost magical restorative power, and the entertainment is free most of the time. At other times it is the quintessential Chicago Hot Dog Joint, a place to chow down on some good food fast. I've been coming here so long; I remember the Hot Dog joint that failed at this same location before the Weiner Circle crew set up shop.

I always have had a great affinity for this place having logged many meals here at all times of the day and night. At one point in my life, stopping at the Weiner Circle and picking up a Cheddar Burger, Hot Dog, and Fries to take home, was a Gastronomic treat of the highest rank.

As I arrive at the stand alone building that Weiner Circle has occupied for many years with its own parking lot, both a big plus and rarity in the city. It is relatively quiet when I arrive, free of the usual side shows, just a few other patrons. As I approach the large elevated order window, I am greeted by the standard "What you want?"

Cheddar Burger medium rare with everything, raw onion, no tomato, pickles and peppers on the side, an order I've repeated many times in my hungry life.

As I wait in anticipation, I am informed my burger is done and what do I want on it. I repeat my earlier order, Cheddar Burger with everything, raw onion, no tomato, pickles and peppers on the side. Dressed and placed in wrap paper then in a paper basket.

Timing is everything; the saying goes, except at Weiner Circle. Why is it so difficult to get a simple two item order at the same time? I'll tell you why, because the employees preparing this simple order, just don't give a shit. Apparently cooking your food interferer’s with their text messaging and constant stream of meaningless conversation with each other.

At last it is announced, as a major feat has just been executed, "Your fries are ready," and a copious amount of fries it is. I once again go to the service window to retrieve the goodness of Golden French Fries. I'm almost happy.

First bite, juicy, but not quite as juicy as I would like, or remember. The cheese flavor is definitely there, accented by the other condiments. This Burger is a taste package, a shining example where the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts. But... the big blast of burger flavor is a little bit less than I was expecting. A quick eye level check of the Burger reveals a pink center, medium rare- check. But I sense something is missing, I flip the lid for a closer examination, all condiments seem to be in the correct place, then it strikes me; this burger appears to be smaller than the ones of my fond and sometimes foggy memory.

I swing around on my chair to view the posted menu and notice the proud 1/3 pound declaration prevalently displayed in the past is missing. So are the great burgers of the past, but this one is still a tasty treat, just not great.

Digging into the heaping order of fries I'm reminded of a deep flavored fresh cut French Fry. Nice crisp outside and creamy potato inside. Pretty good, but something’s missing. Not a lot of depth of earthy potato flavor. I'm enjoying them, and I happily eat every last fry. But I feel a little disappointed and a tad perplexed.

A quick query to the young man working the fry station reveals the truth about a rumor I heard years ago. He confirms these fries are fresh not frozen, but come in a bag from an outside purveyor. Mystery solved! The fries like the burger are also good, if not very good at times, just not great.

The Damage:

Char Cheddar Burger $ 4.75

French Fries               $2.15

Ratings: ( out of 4****)

Burger 2**  Fries 2**

Monday, March 1, 2010

Downtown Dogs..........Downhill

I was running around the Gold Coast and hunger struck. I had only a little time so I needed to stay in the area before a meeting. Although it's been many years, an old and delicious stand bye, once a Wiener Circle - Poochies clone, was the obvious choice. A smaller version than the original Downtown Dogs is now located at 804 N. Rush street.

What a mistake. I should have turned around as soon as I saw the dreaded brown bag of frozen fries hoisted over the fryer. Things have certainly changed and much for the worse. It was no longer a bastion of great Chicago style food, but a shining example  typical of many of  today's Hot Dog joints, no soul or motivation for putting out a great tasting product. After a observing what was going on food wise behind the service counter I opted for a Dog and fries instead of a Burger.

My food unfortunately arrives within seconds, another ominous sign. I sit in one of the stools lining the counter in this tight space, and notice the tortuous sound of an untuned radio station playing mainly static on their so called sound system.

Dog and fries arrive. Although the place was not busy it was slapped together in seconds. Limp fries a pale white color and tasteless after sitting in the fry tray under lights for who knows how long. The dog was sad with all our famous condiments strewn on top and puddled in the middle. I have not seen tomato's sliced that thin ever. A big disappointment and waste of calories!

Downtown Dogs is a shining example of why I have taken on this assignment. These mundane, sad places need to be avoided at all cost.

The Damage:
Hot Dog      $ 3.15
French Fries   1.90

Ratings: ( out of 4****)