More so than most foods, burgers are a blank canvas for culinary ingenuity. They can be large or small, stacked high or smashed, and served on any number of buns with seemingly infinite toppings. When you add variations for veggie burgers, bison burgers, turkey burgers, and patty melts, the options only multiply. And while superlative "best burgers" can be found all across the country, few cities optimize that "blank canvas" approach to burger cookery like Chicago, a city well-versed in culinary ingenuity.
Home to some of the most lauded fine dining restaurants in the world, along with a smorgasbord of casual cornerstones and frills-free dives, Chicago is a city that excels at both the high-end and the low — and perhaps no dish exemplifies this like the burger. It's an iconic comfort food that takes many shapes on many menus, occasionally rising to such glory that it commands hours-long waits or even spawns a fast-casual spin-off franchise. Despite its omnipresence, though, Chicago's burger scene never feels saturated, thanks to unique variations, crafty techniques, and decadent upgrades. For proof, check out these 27 best burgers in Chicago.
Read more: 20 Best Restaurants In Chicago, Ranked
Pimiento Cheese Jucy Lucy At Big Jones
From house-baked bread and rigorously seasonal vegetable dishes to some of the best-fried chicken this side of the Mason-Dixon, Big Jones is a Southern-inspired restaurant that does a lot of things well.
Chief among them, courtesy of dexterous chef Paul Fehribach, is its pimiento cheese Jucy Lucy, a dish that marries Southern ingredients with the Midwestern technique of stuffing cheese inside burger patties. In this case, said cheese is piquant pimiento, grilled inside a house-ground beef patty and topped with a melange of harmonious texture and tastes: butter lettuce, bread & butter pickles, cayenne mayonnaise, and pickled onion rings.
Double Cheeseburger At Au Cheval
For years, Au Cheval has earned acclaim for its burger, with headlines reading "Au Cheval Named the Best Burger in America" and "Why People Wait for Hours to Eat Au Cheval's Cheeseburger." And whether or not you're willing to wait for hours at this West Loop icon, one of the best restaurants in Chicago, the impact of its burger can't be denied.
Decked out like a dark, hip diner, Au Cheval's burger succeeds in its indulgent simplicity — made with two griddled patties, it's topped with Dijonnaise, thick-cut bacon, and egg on a perfectly toasted, spongey bun. The burger is so renowned that it spawned an entire spin-off brand, fast-casual Small Cheval, with locations all over town.
The Famous Kuma Burger At Kuma's Corner
Long before Chicago was filled to the brim with burgers, Kuma's Corner was commanding hours-long waits from its humble corner in Avondale. Nowadays, burgers are everywhere, and Kuma's has spawned a few new locations, but the hype for this unabashedly over-the-top institution is timeless.
Known for its grungy, metal-blaring atmosphere, the restaurant features burgers as in-your-face as the aesthetic, all served on thick pretzel buns and piled up with toppings. The wild menu creations are always fun, but it's hard to top the O.G. — a namesake, The Famous Kuma is topped with smoky bacon, cheddar, runny fried egg, tomato, red onion, and lettuce.
Bison Burger At DMK Burger Bar
Considering their leanness compared to beef, bison burgers necessitate a little more ingenuity in order to maintain texture, juiciness, and flavor. This is why places like DMK Burger Bar deserve applause for dexterity with game meats. An early pioneer on the Chicago burger scene, this Lakeview mainstay features numerous styles of atypical burgers, including the standout bison version that seamlessly melds the sweet with the savory — thin, smoky patties are topped with blueberry barbecue sauce, goat cheese, and pickled red onions on a light, fluffy bun.
The Loyalist Original Burger At The Loyalist
Often regarded as one of the best burgers in the country, The Loyalist Original Burger is an enduring cornerstone on the French brasserie-inspired menu at The Loyalist. The ultimate burger for allium lovers (especially those looking for something a little more original than plain onions), it's made with both pickled and charred onions, along with pickles, American cheese, and onion-infused mayonnaise for a trifecta of tangy textures and tastes, all served on a soft sesame seed bun.
Mott Burger At Second Generation
The story of the Second Generation burger is legend. What started as a limited promo at Mott St became so popular it spawned a burger-centric spin-off, Mini Mott. And although Mini Mott has since re-branded as Second Generation, the beloved burger remains. Still one of the most inventive options in town, the Asian-infused staple is made with double patties, miso butter onions, American cheese, pickled jalapeños, sweet potato frizzles, and hoisin aïoli.
Double Double Animal Style At Edzo's Burger Shop
The influence of In-N-Out on American burger culture can't be denied. The lore of "secret menu" options, like animal-style and mustard burgers, is so renowned that it's inspired burger institutions across the country, such as Edzo's Burger Shop in Evanston. Among the most beloved fast-casual burger joints in Chicagoland, the ketchup- and mustard-colored eatery features its own animal-style riff, made with two mustard-grilled patties, American cheese, Edzo sauce, grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato.
Epic Turkey At Epic Burger
Far leaner than red meat, it can be tricky to keep texture and juiciness intact when it comes to turkey burgers. One such brand doing it right and raising the bar is Epic Burger, a Chicago-home-grown mini-chain known for its wholesome and mindful approach to top-quality ingredients in a quick-service setting.
The Epic Turkey is an apt exemplar, a succulent patty of lean ground turkey that rhapsodizes nicely with gooey cheddar, crisp lettuce, a thick slice of tomato, crunchy pickles, and creamy Epic sauce on a hearty wheat bun. Perfectly charred, it's an excellent choice for those eschewing red meat.
Double Fatso's With Cheese At Fatso's Last Stand
For quintessential Americana free of all frills, head to Fatso's Last Stand, an iconic dive-y burger and hot dog joint in Ukrainian Village. Here, the straightforward menu features the likes of char dogs and Italian beef, as well as pitch-perfect double cheeseburgers that look and taste like they were developed at a backyard cookout. With two patties, molten cheese, tomatoes, onions, and bacon, you don't need extra bells and whistles when everything is cooked so simply and perfectly.
FR Burger At Forbidden Root
A restaurant and brewery, Forbidden Root is known for its creativity with beer — an inventive sentiment it applies just as diligently in the kitchen. An eponymous acronym, the FR Burger is a smash-style burger with crisped edges, sour and brightening giardiniera mayonnaise, white American cheese, onions, and bread & butter pickles on a buttered bun. Seasonally inspired and vibrant, the other menu items at Forbidden Root also raise the bar on beer food, from burrata with ramp pesto to chilled sweet corn soup with tajin corn relish.
Wolf Burger At Little Bad Wolf
There's nothing particularly "little" about a burger with three patties, but at Andersonville's Little Bad Wolf, the M.O. is all about big and bold. Sure, sliders provide a smaller option, and the Bad Burger doubles up with two patties, but the star of the show is the mighty Wolf Burger, a triple patty feast stacked with bacon, American cheese, fried onion straws, housemade pickles, red onion mayonnaise, and the icing on the cake: a fried egg.
Pub Burger At Pleasant House Pub
There's something intrinsically cozy and comforting about pub fare — especially the kind of scratch-made, soulful pub fare perfected at Pleasant House Pub in Pilsen. While the homey pub, owned by husband-wife duo Art and Chelsea Jackson, is best known for its Royal Pies and fish & chips, don't sleep on the excellent pub burger, made with a griddled double beef patty, cheddar, bacon aïoli, and red onions on a house-baked bun.
RHR Burger At Redhot Ranch
It's unabashed old-school nostalgia at Redhot Ranch, a Chicago classic that started as a humble hot dog stand before evolving into a pair of hot dog-slinging restaurants. Inspired by In-N-Out, the owners added burgers to the repertoire, creating one of the most acclaimed fast food-style versions in town.
In true fast food style, it's simple and special, made with char-grilled patties, special sauce, and classic LTO topping. But, customers can also get it "Chicago Style" and add hot dog-style dressings like mustard, relish, onions, and sport peppers, which are long, slender, pickled green chilis.
Haus Burger At Boeufhaus
As a refined French-German brasserie, most folks regard Boeufhaus for its acclaimed steaks, escargots, and short rib beignets. But you'd be remiss not to swing by for its more underrated lunch offerings, which include a bangin' burger with steakhouse style. The Haus Burger is made with a succulent house blend laid under American cheese, onions, pickles, and mustard. The best part? Mayonnaise infused with beef just adds the right punch of meaty flavor.
Hamburger (Helper) At Split-Rail
In addition to being among the best LGBTQ+-owned restaurants in the nation, Split-Rail is a quintessential neighborhood joint in Ukrainian Village that also happens to excel at everything from biscuits and bagels to fried chicken and mac & cheese. Chef Zoe Schor knows a thing or two about elevating classic comfort fare, and her Hamburger (Helper)" is no exception.
So named for the fact that it's 75% beef and 25% mushroom, with $1 from each sale going to planting trees, this "helpful" medley features double patties, "almost too much" cheese, extra pickles, onions, Duke's mayonnaise, and ketchup spiked with vadouvan masala for extra oomph.
Buddha's Karma Burger At The Chicago Diner
Long before vegetarian restaurants were a norm, The Chicago Diner was holding it down in Lakeview. Since 1983, it has commanded a loyal following for its indulgent comfort food that looked familiar — and meaty — but just so happened to be 100% meat-free.
Clearly, the strategy worked, and meat-eaters and vegans alike flock to the timeworn diner for things like the Buddha's Karma Burger, a veggie riff that goes above and beyond the call of veggie burger duty with a globe-trotting. It starts with a curried sweet potato-tofu-patty, it's shocked by the tanginess of grilled pineapple and dressed with sprouts and chimichurri sauce.
Togarashi Smash Burger At BiXi Beer
For those still mourning the closure of Owen & Engine, a British pub known for having one of the best burgers in Chicago, fear not: its sister brewpub, BiXi Beer, remains — and it's got another burger worth raving about. The Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese-inspired brewpub serves a togarashi-seasoned smash burger on a Japanese milk bun with sweet and sour aïoli, red onions, heirloom tomatoes, and kaiware, which are young daikon radish sprouts, per Specialty Produce).
Original Shiddy Burger Big Kids
Dripping in kitschy nostalgia and playful cookery, Big Kids is an irreverent sandwich shop that emerged as an ode to the '90s, tinkering with familiar favorites and injecting them with atypical flavors. Much of the menu showcases whimsical sandwiches, but the Original Shiddy Burger is an epic smash burger made by mixing shredded cheese directly into the ground beef, resulting in a crispy crust, before getting topped with American cheese, secret sauce, shredded lettuce, and house mustard.
Scofflaw Burger At Scofflaw
Come for the gin, stay for the A+ burger. That's the routine at Scofflaw, a gin-centric cocktail bar that serves food that far out-paces the norm for bar fare. Free of excess or extravagance, the burger at Scofflaw stands on its own, rich with flavor and decadent texture but anchored in high-quality, traditional components.
Double-stacked, it's made with American cheese and griddled onions, dill pickle, house sauce, and a brioche bun. From pea curry dip to Japanese sweet potato panna cotta, the bar has become a full-blown dining destination in its own right. One key part of that evolution is its simple-yet-solid Scofflaw burger.
The Horseshoe At TriBecca's Sandwich Shop
Although TriBecca's Sandwich Shop was born from a Cuban sandwich, its namesake co-owner, Becca Grothe, has always been rooted in Midwestern sentiments. Case in point, one of the standout items at this sunny sandwich shop is The Horseshoe, an homage to a cheese-slathered open-faced sandwich from Springfield, Illinois (via Visit Springfield). In this case, it's a burger-sandwich mashup, with two locally sourced beef patties placed atop buttery Pullman bread, strewn with crinkle fries, and topped with pepper Jack cheese sauce.
Juicy Lisette At Cherry Circle Room
Moody, romantic, and alluring, there's a lot to savor at Cherry Circle Room, nestled inside the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. A ritzy American throwback, its menu features lobster bisque, wedge salad, filet mignon, and seafood towers. But its resident burger, the Juicy Lisette, holds more than its own. It's a half-pound dry-aged beef burger paired with sweet-and-savory accompaniments like creamy chevre, tangy blackberry jam, peppery arugula, and caramelized beef fat onions. It's all served with fries and bordelaise sauce for dipping.
Patty Melt At Little Goat
Little Goat, the not-so-little diner homage from celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, may have moved to a new Lakeview location, but its burgers aren't going anywhere. Quirky and colorful as ever, Izard's penchant for neoteric diner fare is on full display on the all-day menu. Some dishes sport surprises (e.g., French toast with BBQ maple syrup), others skew more classic. Consider the epically gooey patty melt, a luscious beef patty griddled on rye bread and smothered in caramelized onions, pickles, American cheese, and a special tangy sauce.
Venison Burger At The Gage
Much has changed at The Gage over the years. The gastropub, located right across the street from Millennium Park, has seen its fair share of menu evolution since opening more than a decade ago. One tried-and-true tradition, though, is its venison burger.
While toppings may rotate, the venison burger is a timeless menu staple that mixes a hearty game patty with a cornucopia of sauces and accompaniments. For its current iteration, that means a biting group of melted onions, fire-roasted jalapeños, arugula, and horseradish mayonnaise. Tempered by smooth white cheddar, the tower of toppings is smushed between a brioche bun.
Wagyu Smash Burger At RPM Steak
A longtime favorite among locals and celebrities (and presidents), RPM Steak has the magic touch with beef. It's revered for its top-of-the-line steaks, as well as its Australian Wagyu tataki, but don't overlook the burgers, which get the same A-list attention as the filets. One particularly unique option is the Wagyu smash burger, made by griddling Wagyu patties until crisp and then adorning them with a zesty yuzu kosho aïoli.
Parson's Burger Deluxe At Parson's Chicken & Fish
It might seem sacrilege to visit a place called Parson's Chicken & Fish and order neither chicken nor fish. But that's a testament to just how good the burgers are here, too. The Parson's Burger Deluxe, specifically, is an extravagant contender that all but steals the spotlight from Parson's famed fried duo. It's got two smashed patties adorned with bacon jam, little gem lettuce, American cheese, griddled onions, pickles, and spicy Dijonnaise on a buttery bun. Parson's Chicken & Fish & Burgers is more like it.
Miss Ricky's Burger At Miss Ricky's
Located inside the splashy Virgin Hotel downtown, Miss Ricky's is an eccentric eatery that pairs Mediterranean-influenced dishes with updated spins on American classics. The perfect example is the Miss Ricky's Burger, a dish that singularly melds the two cuisines. How so? By dressing a prime beef patty with Brie cheese, thick-cut pork belly, and Calabrian chili aïoli along with pickled dill cucumbers and a fried egg. Served with fragrant truffle fries, the 10-ounce Prime blended beef is a melty, succulent meal.
Black & Blue Burger At Eleven City Diner
Any familial diner worth its salt is going to know its way around a good burger, and Eleven City Diner is the prime example. A longtime fixture in the South Loop, this is the kind of Americana place whose huge menu hits all the right notes, from bagels and lox to challah French toast and Reuben sandwiches.
In addition to an amazing patty melt, one standout is the Black & Blue Burger, an Angus patty topped with lettuce, grilled red onions, cracked black pepper, and blue cheese butter, a bold move that really brings the right funk.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.