Saturday, November 5, 2011
Butcher & The Burger
There are a lot of good burger joints in Chicago and I am happy to have tried many of them. If you want to compare burgers though, you really do have to look at the venue and what they are trying to pull off. While there are some fine dining restaurants that do burgers, it isn't what they are known for so I won't talk about them . Most bar and grills have a burger and many of them are pretty good. Occupying that space between a bar and grill and fine dining are places like Kuma's Corner and the Burger Bar who make enormous burgers using good beef and combining it with a wild combination of ingredients (like blue cheese, walnuts, cranberries, and bacon). While I have been talking about the higher end burgers, even the lower end places like Paradise Pup in Des Plaines, can make some good burgers.
I think that I have made the point that there are good burgers throughout the spectrum. Just because though, that you use good ingredients, doesn't mean that you are going to get a good burger. There are several places that also offer a build-your-own burger. While this sounds nice and good, it also lays the responsibility of coming up with a good combination to the diner and while some combinations might sound like a good idea, they may just not work (blue cheese and barbecue sauce is just a bad idea). A new venue of this type, Butcher and the Burger, has just opened and I decided to try them out. As the name implies, it is both a burger joint and an old style butcher shop. The place has tables in the front and a counter along one wall. There are also many old butcher tools like hooks and scales decorating the place. The hooks are not obiously meat hangers so it is much less gruesome than it has the potential for some people. They grind their meat in-house so you can pick up cuts of what they are offering ground or unground. As far as the burgers are concerned, there are a large number of choices starting with the burger itself. They have 10 different patties including 3 types of beef plus turkey, shrimp, 2 types of veggie, pork, salmon, and shrimp. Add to that a choice of 4 buns, 10 different spice mixes. In addition to the standard toppings (ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickle, onions, tomato, mayo, and 4 types of cheese) they also have premium toppings like artisanal bacon, foie gras, and truffled aioli. For the uninitiated, this could be a recipe for disaster, and/or a very expensive burger (an elk burger with foie gras and bacon on a pretzel bun would run $27.50). There is also a selection of salads and custards. And what is a burger without fries on the side? They offer fries for an additional charge but I will get to them shortly. The burger that I built was relatively simple: a local and natural house blend beef burger on a brioche bun with blue cheese, bacon, and grilled onions (and ketchup and mustard) with a Chicago Steakhouse Spice Blend and a side of fries. I made my order (which was taken on an ipad) and found a table to sit at. The food was brought out to me by the head chef/butcher, Allen Sternweiler, whose last position was as the Executive Chef of Duchamp. I liked his food at Duchamp so I was confident that my burger and fries would not disappoint. I knew that the combination would work because it is a favorite of mine. The burger and fries were served on a small cutting board and was excellent. It was one of the best burgers I have had in a while. The meat was juicy, the bacon was thick, chewy, and a much more distinct flavor than most other bacon. The onions were sweet, and while a pretzel bun is good, you can never go wrong with a brioche bun. The fries, were made from Kennebec Heirloom potatoes and were the best french fries that weren't frites that I have ever had. They were well salted, very crispy, and still maintained a good potato flavor.
This is a good addition to the Chicago burger world. While it isn't my absolute favorite burger place (that still belongs to Kuma's Corner), it is a place that I will be returning to to try the other burgers and to enjoy those fries again.