Telling me to pick my favorite food is like telling a mother to pick her favorite child. But if I was forced to choose, I would probably have to go with burgers, just like how my mom would probably have to pick me.
While I’m not necessarily picky about toppings, I do appreciate fresh, perfectly seasoned and cooked ingredients, whether they’re traditional like lettuce and ketchup or something new like black truffle aioli or an Amish duck egg. I’ve tried a vast array of burgers all across the city, but most recently I popped into Butcher & The Burger (1021 W. Armitage Ave.), just two blocks west of the Armitage Brown Line stop.
The small corner restaurant doesn’t offer much seating inside or out on its patio. Luckily, even on a Friday at 6:30 p.m. my friend and I didn’t have trouble finding a nice table outside. But before sitting down, we had to face the daunting menu.
Butcher & The Burger has six rotating “special” burgers on a chalkboard along the wall, which already have the meat blend and toppings picked out for you. But if you want the true experience, you have to look at the board above the cash register and internally struggle through the build-your-own menu.
I’m one of those people who has to pick out what to eat from a restaurant before even leaving my apartment, but I didn’t that day. Because of this, the two of us had to let four other customers go in front of us before I had finally decided on my masterpiece.
The menu is organized into five categories: patty, spices, bun, toppings and extras. Each type of patty is priced differently, and options include beef, pork, turkey, salmon, bison, shrimp and lentil brown rice. While the various types of buns, traditional toppings and your first cheese choice are free, the “extras” — such as bacon, fried egg, avocado or caramelized onions — range in price from $1 to $13.95. Although I didn’t choose the $14 sauteed foie gras (duck liver), I still ended up with a towering burger.
I ordered the Natural & Local House Blend Beef patty ($9.35) with the Chicago Steakhouse spices, cheddar cheese, mayo, pickles, onion, lettuce, avocado (+$1) and a fried egg (+$1) all on a split-top bun. I decided on the potato salad ($2.95) as my side, but only because I knew I could eat some of my friend’s fries. If you’re not in the mood for potatoes, you can also get salads, coleslaw and soups to accompany your burger.
For a grand total of $16.35, I received about a cup of potato salad and a burger so huge I couldn’t even pick it up. While the meal was a bit on the pricey side (it is in Lincoln Park, after all), the fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors more than made up for the dent in my bank account.
I asked for my burger cooked medium rare and the temperature was exactly how I wanted. The fried egg was also cooked perfectly so that the yolk burst and covered the rest of the sandwich when I assembled it (I imagine they keep the two halves separate to give you the satisfaction of breaking the yolk yourself).
The Chicago Steakhouse seasoning added a smoky, peppery flavor to the meat that allowed it to stand up to the mountain of other ingredients I stacked onto it. Everything came together so perfectly that they might as well have just been playing the “Hallelujah” chorus in the background.
To make the meal even better, the sides stood up the decadent burgers. The potato salad had huge chunks of tender potatoes with a creamy dressing that was seasoned enough so that I didn’t feel like I was just eating spoonfuls of mayonnaise. The fries were even better, with a crispy texture and perhaps a little too much salt for the average person (but being a lover of sodium, I thought they were spot-on).
Verdict: Despite the price tag, Butcher & The Burger offers the best burger I have tasted in Chicago thus far. The build-your-own menu is extensive and could please even the pickiest palates (my friend who is gluten free was able to get her burger in a lettuce wrap).
If you’ve never visited the area off the Armitage stop before, plan a day to go there sometime before we all have to turn into eskimos in the winter. You might want to save the burger for the end of your trip, though, because you’ll definitely need a nap after eating it.