Thrillist's national burger critic, Kevin Alexander, ate 330 burgers in 30 cities over the course of a year. His list of the top 100 hamburgers spans the country, including four from Chicago. One of them even makes it in the Top 10.
"The best burger in any one city might be in the dankest of dive bars, or in the fanciest of restaurants," Alexander wrote. "Finding the ones that matter takes you all through a city (and outside it) and helps you understand a city's geography, its class structure, its views on race."
All of the restaurants that made his list, he said, produce "a damn good burger," and any in the Top 10 are "genuinely transcendent."
In Chicago, the double cheeseburger at Johnny's Grill in Logan Square shows up first, at No. 88. Alexander said the old-school diner's "new-old take on the typical diner-style burger" has "enough butter to satisfy even the most dairy-centric of Wisconsin expats."
Next up is the Slagel Farms beer burger at Owen & Engine at No. 63. Alexander called it "a very good Chicago burger" at a spot whose name reminds him of a "British kid's show in which a six-year-old befriends a fire truck."
Almost cracking the top 10 is a burger that food-savvy Chicagoans are familiar with, especially if they've waited in line for a taste. The single cheeseburger at Au Cheval in the West Loop made No. 11.
"The experience of eating an Au Cheval burger for the first time is hard to put into words," he wrote, "but it's essentially a burger baptism -- biting into that perfectly charred meat, simply adorned with chopped red onion, mayo, cracked pepper, pickle, and cheese changes you, possibly even in God's eyes. It is one of the purest burger ideals in the country."
So why didn't it make it to his favorite 10? "Because America has SO MANY INCREDIBLE BURGERS," he wrote. He admits he was stunned too.
Chicago wasn't locked out of the top echelon, though.
The Mott Burger at Mott Street not only made it to No. 7, but Alexander declared it the best burger in Chicago and one of the best in the country.
The first bite, he says, is like "having all of the alarms in your head go off simultaneously."