The Best Burgers In Chicago
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
This wasn’t an easy list to make. There were nights we woke up screaming, having dreamed of burgers chasing us along cliffsides, asking why they hadn’t made the cut. Whole days were spent in conference rooms with no food or water and no one going in or out until we came to a consensus. And while some of that might be an exaggeration, you should know that we have eaten a lot of burgers. And we are, in fact, burger experts. So here it is: our list of the best burgers in Chicago. Trust us when we say that you’ll want to know what every single one of these tastes like.
The burger at The Loyalist in the West Loop is beloved—and for good reason: It’s outstanding. The patty is made from a mixture of chuck, short rib, and bacon, giving it a light, smoky flavor and incredible richness. The cheese is gooey and the caramelized onions are plentiful. In other words, this is a good f*cking burger.
When something is as popular as Au Cheval, it’s asking to be taken down a few notches. After all, people love an underdog, and Au Cheval certainly isn’t—at this point, it’s in Tom Brady territory. Ignore the contrarians (and the wait) and recognize greatness when it’s staring you in the face. Or, in this case, when it’s two patties with cheese, pickles, and dijonnaise between a buttery bun begging to enter your face.
This is a spot in Logan Square from the team behind Little Bad Wolf in Andersonville. The LBW burger is also on this guide, but it turns out the burger here might be even better, mainly because it comes on a squishy everything bun. And that bun is a perfect delivery system for the two juicy patties, slices of white and yellow American cheese, bacon, garlic aioli, and pickles.
The burgers at Charly’s, a counter-service spot in Hermosa, are exactly the kind of burgers we want when we’re hungover. The patties are a mixture of beef and bacon, which gives them a smoky flavor and keeps things juicy. They’re topped with the perfect amount of American cheese, grilled onions, garlic aioli, and pickles on a squishy bun that holds up to the toppings without spillage. So on second thought, it’s just the kind of burger we want to eat no matter how many drinks we had 12 hours ago.
Burgers have been backyard BBQ staples since Prometheus stole a George Foreman grill from Olympus (so the story goes). But Heffer’s burgers are the perfect example of what happens when a professional is in charge instead of some random dude from the office. Their thick, half-pound brisket burger is smoked to perfection, with a great charred exterior and juicy center. Toppings are minimal, but the American cheese, pickles, red onions, and sweet burger sauce create complexity, while a tallow toasted potato bun adds richness.
Warlord’s menu changes daily, but within the chaos lies one constant: the burger. The thick dry-aged beef patty is unbelievably juicy, well-seasoned, and has the perfect amount of char. Charred onions and caramelized onion mayo give it a pleasant tang and sweetness, and everything is sandwiched between a squishy bun that feels like memory foam. Cheese? Nope. But you won’t care.
There are two burgers on the menu at Little Bad Wolf (not including their sliders), and both are excellent. But while one is a three-patty affair with onion straws, bacon, and egg (the Wolf Burger), the best one here is the more manageable Bad Burger. It’s straightforward, with two patties, American cheese, pickles, and mayonnaise. This allows the perfectly cooked and well-seasoned meat—a.k.a. the best part of the burgers here—to shine through. You can always add bacon and an egg if you like to complicate things.
The StopAlong’s bright, retro dining space is full of old Star Wars memorabilia, arcade games, and cartoon paintings of superheroes stuffing their faces with pizza and burgers. And you should do the same because their Stop-In is one of the city’s best smashburgers. The two patties have a great char with just the right amount of saltiness, and they’re perfectly complemented by caramelized onions, pickles, and a tangy combo of special sauce and melty cheese. Everything is neatly held together by a large toothpick standing proudly in the middle of the brioche bun, but don’t bother trying to eat this cleanly—this is a messy one.
There used to be some restrictions regarding the burger at Mott Street: You could only order it while eating at the bar, or on the weekend during brunch. But now you can get it whenever you want. Well, sort off—the cut-off to order is 7pm. Still, we’re eternally grateful for that fact. Not only is the meat perfectly cooked, but the additions of a slightly sweet hoisin mayo and sweet potato “frizzles” make it something worth scheduling your life around.
Burgers and beer have been best friends since the dawn of humankind. Burgers and wine is perhaps a less popular match-up, but it’s a pairing that’s worth exploring at Webster’s in Logan Square. Hiding in a menu full of wine-adjacent dishes like tinned fish and charcuterie is a single burger, which just so happens to be the best thing here. The foundation is simple: a perfectly salty patty gently rests on a buttery brioche bun, tucked underneath a warm blanket of sharp cheddar. But what takes this to the next level is the trifecta of fragrant charred scallion aioli, crispy shoestring potatoes, and sweet pickles.
Hiding among the dumplings, scallion pancakes, and dan dan noodles at Community Tavern in Portage Park is an incredible burger. And while it doesn’t sound complicated - just two patties, American cheese, caramelized onions, and a spicy sauce - we promise it’s a must-order. What makes the burger at this upscale bar so special (besides the delicious seared meat) is that it’s a marvel of careful engineering. From the top down it goes: bun, sauce, pickles, cheese, patty, cheese, patty, onion, sauce, bun. And apparently, that’s the binary code you use to manifest a perfectly constructed burger.
This small counter-service restaurant in Uptown has a Jordanian menu full of great falafel, labneh egg salad, and baklava—but they also have some great burgers. The best one—the Oklahoma onion burger, was supposed to be temporary. But it remains on the menu, proof that the world hasn’t completely gone to sh*t. The quarter-pound patty is generously seasoned, and topped with sweet caramelized onions, gooey American cheese, and a housemade za’atar mayo that should be a staple in everyone’s fridge. Many people are often just stopping by for takeout, but you should grab a seat there and eat this immediately.
You might not consider a “loose meat sandwich” to be eligible for this list, and we respect that. But it's our guide, and the Maidwrong at Tribecca’s is a wonderfully sloppy, delicious cheeseburger. It's a play on the Maidrite—an iconic steamed loose-meat sandwich created about 100 years ago in Iowa. And the combo of melted muenster, charred bits of savory ground beef, sweet onions, steak sauce aioli, and mustard on a griddled buttery bun makes us want to sign a petition to replace future smash patties with loose meat, instead.
In a world filled with wagyu burgers, nothing is quite as satisfying as a straightforward burger you can eat with one hand that costs less than $10 and comes with fries. That’s what you’ll find at Red Hot Ranch, which has locations in Lakeview, Bucktown, and on 35th street. This cash-only spot has a short menu of mostly burgers, and what you want to get is the Red Hot Double. It’s two patties, pickles, LTO, and American cheese on a squishy bun that practically melts in your mouth. And those salty fries will beg you to order a vanilla shake to dip them in, and you should listen.
This isn’t a beauty contest, it’s a best burger guide. Good thing, because the burgers at The Region are kind of ugly. This is due to their rather unsightly flattened patties that extend past the edges of the bun. But it’s those edges that make the burgers here so special. They’re pressed really thin on a flat top grill (this style of burger is popular in northwest Indiana, a.k.a. The Region), so the meat has maximum possible caramelization, but also somehow stays juicy. Get the Diggity Do, with two 7oz patties and two slices of cheese. Consider taking this thing home and eating it in the dark.
BopNgrill has two locations (Lincoln Park and Rogers Park) and it’s the kind of casual, delicious place that you need to have in your burger rotation. And while the duxelle burger with truffle mushroom mix is the flashy move, it’s not the best one. Instead, direct your attention toward either the kimchi burger (loaded with a ton of caramelized kimchi), or the bNg, with fried egg, jalapeño, cheese, and bacon. Be warned, these burgers are sloppy - so plan on getting a lot of napkins involved.
We’re not going to recommend a fancy $32 steakhouse burger lightly. That f*cker needs to be really, really good. And the wagyu smashburger from RPM Steak is. So don’t get it confused with the dry-aged burger that’s on the regular menu. This is the one you want. It comes with a toasted bun, two patties that have a great sear, and an incredible yuzu aioli that has just enough acid to cut through the rich meat. We suggest walking in after work and eating at the bar.
Much like how Margie’s Candies holds a perennial place on our Ice Cream guide, Top Notch Beef Burgers is primarily here for nostalgia. This diner has been in Beverly since 1942, and any burger joint that remembers Comiskey Park and has outlasted both Daley administrations deserves our respect and admiration. The burgers aren’t particularly life-changing, but they are tasty, and there’s scientific evidence that eating a burger and fries with a shake that comes in one of those giant metal mixing cups can automatically increase serotonin levels by 56%. Our go-to order is the basic beef burger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and either grilled or raw onions.