Americans have been in love with burgers arguably since the first fast food chain (White Castle) launched in the 1920s, but the current infatuation is thought to have come to the forefront around 2011.
There are several theories as to why the burger business amped up at that point in time, but many feel it was the result of a tough time in the economy – people wanted their beef quotient but at the time, couldn’t justify buying steak.
But 20 years earlier, Joseph DeVito imagined his own burger paradise, and at the age of 18, started Busy Burger near the University of Chicago campus. His concept was simple: produce a quality product, cooked to order, at a great value, and the business will prosper. He was right, of course.
Since DeVito launched Busy, a plethora of “gourmet” burger chains have popped up around the U.S. Many of them have no more to offer than any other chain, other than slick marketing or gimmicks (“our beef comes from cows who are only fed M&Ms by the light of the full moon!”). Some chains are amazingly silly (“we’re gonna charge twice as much for a product half the weight and you’ll love us”).
In 2015 DeVito thought Busy could use an update, so he remodeled, got a new logo, added a few new items to the menu to satisfy the changing tastes of consumers, and developed a state of the industry customer service program for the employees.
DeVito’s people invited me to stop by and try out a burger or two. Of course, I immediately beat a path to the shop, as burgers are my life. I ordered, and the food was quickly prepared and delivered. And I’m looking at it, and a thought comes to mind.
There are a lot of burger eaters in the US that feel that the West Coast chain “In N Out” sets the standard for quality burgers. I’ve personally never felt that way, and after the first bite of my Busy Burger (beef, lettuce, tomato, red onion, spicy busy sauce, American cheese on a butter toasted bun), I thought, “Holy moly, this is what In N Out would be like if their burgers were actually GOOD!”
Cause you see, for me, if a burger patty can’t stand on its own, what’s the point? And at Busy Burger it does. Fresh natural ground beef, nicely seasoned, hand formed patty, grilled and not fried, the Busy beef patty is a thing of beauty. Topped with amazingly fresh chopped vegetables, it becomes a work of art. I like to take a couple bites of the entire sandwich, then make my way through the individual ingredients. The spicy sauce is unique and flavorful, not the same old thing, and I loved the pickle chips which are reminiscent of a traditional half sour dill. (Half sours are tangy, crispy and with lower salt than traditional hamburger dills).
I loved the Busy Burger. I opted for a side of rings, which were great, nice breading, not greasy, substantial whole onion inside, and at the table we also had a fully loaded Chicago style hot dog (yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt), fresh cut fries, and a vanilla shake.
The dog matched or surpasses anybody’s in the city, and the fresh cut fries are over the top delicious, hot, crispy, slightly seasoned. One of Chicago’s television stations took a peek behind the scenes at Busy and learned some of the secrets to making their excellent patties.
Busy Burger is located at 1120 West Taylor Street in Chicago, easily accessible from downtown and major freeways (see map below). Trust me, it’s worth a stop.I’ve posted their full menu, and if you’re in the immediate area, you can order online from GrubHub.