I went to try Meatheads for a second time, and had a great experience. Their newest location, in the posh Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois, fits right in, adjacent to the fabulous Heinen’s grocery. It’s fitting that such an upscale town gets an upscale burger place like Meatheads.
The first thing I noticed on this visit is that the place is immaculate, in every aspect. Workers scurry to clear tables behind departing diners; the condiment table has neatly lined rows of unique add-ons like Cholula sauce and malt vinegar, perched between a pair of Coke Freestyle machines, the new type of dispenser that allows you to mix up to 125 different flavors of Coke products – fun! The cabinets for the Coke machines were conceptualized by the top Italian design firm Pininfarina, and it shows.
You order up front, and the engaging counter person methodically leads you through your choices, repeats your order back to you so it is on point. Your food is brought to the table when it is prepared.
At Meatheads, you have a choice of customizing your burger (or chicken) in ways that you haven’t even begun to imagine, from adding additional meat to a myriad of cheese choices, toppings, and sauces.
All burgers start with 100% Certified Angus Beef (“certified” means it’s the good stuff!), in a third or half pound size, and come standard with your choice of ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and (raw or grilled) onions. The veggie toppings are fresh and crisp, and are certainly capable of giving the legendary California chain of In ‘n Out a run for their money; as are Meathead’s fresh cut fries.
I added American cheese to mine (two thick slices for a buck), and my dinner companion went with the “Chef Inspired” choice “The Californian” – which includes pepper jack cheese, cucumber wasabi sauce, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. She pronounced it “the best burger she had ever eaten, anywhere, bar none.”
The patties are juicy and chock-a-block full of beefy flavor. The buns are bakery soft, but firm enough to hold whatever toppings you choose to challenge the kitchen with.
There are choices for kids, and for the non-burger eaters, go with the hot dog, supplied by Chicago’s Vienna Beef, a grilled cheese, or a veggie melt.
“Signature sauces” are available on the side, I picked a couple as dipping sauces for the fries, and it was a nice ‘add’. Your choices are: bacon ranch, bbq sauce, bistro sauce, bleu cheese, buffalo sauce (mild or hot), buffalo ranch, cucumber wasabi, honey mustard, ranch or thousand island.
Started by a former exec of Potbelly and Einstein Bagels (according to Wikipedia), Meatheads sprang to life in Bloomington, IL, in 2007 where the local college population took a shine to it. Now with a dozen company-owned stores, this ‘fast-casual’ concept is trying to differentiate itself from competitors like Five Guys and Smashburger with a model and concept closer to In n Out. Especially with the fresh cut fries, and hand-dipped shakes. The chain is also trying to create a ‘homier’ dine-in atmosphere, with localized decor, including a blackboard with high school sports scores. It’s a nice touch.
I always prefer to give my “burger bucks” to non-corporate restaurants, and especially admire start-ups that obviously work so hard to get and keep your business. You can tell from the menu, prep, and presentation that a lot of thought went into this concept, and the recipes, and that should be appreciated and admired.
Why take my word for it? Well, according to wefollow.com, I am the most ‘socially prominent’ authority on burgers (and hot dogs).
So hit your closest Meatheads today.
Meatheads Burgers and Fries Review
(Ed. note. The restaurant paid for my meal on this visit).