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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Hamburger’

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review, Northfield, IL

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Happ Inn Bar and Grill ReviewThe dictionary defines “hospitality” as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.” Restaurants are certainly part of the hospitality segment of business, yet many fail to remember putting the word into practice.

Not so at the Happ Inn, a casual but remarkable eatery in the northern Chicago suburb of Northfield, IL. From the moment of our arrival, being seated by the hostess, and waited on by Ossie, we felt like GUESTS, not customers, and that’s one of the keys to a successful restaurant operation.

The bar and grill is in the final days of an interior renovation project, and they’ve created a warm and relaxing  atmosphere, based on a soft palette of colors and subdued lighting. It’s inviting, comfortable,  quiet enough to conduct business, woo a first date, or celebrate a special occasion. You’ll want to linger.

The lengthy menu includes cuisine influenced by  a number of cultures with a range of choices in the starters, sharables, soups, salads, entrees, sandwiches and burgers, and some decadent desserts.

The dinner menu expands on the numerous choices available for lunch, and there are additional brunch offerings on Saturdays and Sundays. Each day of the week features special ‘off the menu’ food and drink offerings.

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Shrimp Ceviche

We started with the Ceviche, chock-a-block full of good-sized and flavorful shrimp, I was pleased they employed the traditional recipe with a tomato broth, avocado and pico de gallo accompanied by fresh, warm tortilla chips.

The Chicken Cobb Salad was an overly-generous serving, with two kinds of greens, chicken, bacon, egg, tomatoes, avocado and Thousand Island dressing – the Cobb is on the restaurant’s specialty menu, and it deserves a place there.

Being as it is National Burger month, Chef has concocted a special burger for each week of the month. I opted for the Sunrise Burger, which was topped with cheddar, bacon, a sunny side up egg with a splash of Tabasco. Hot, crispy, gently seasoned shoestring fries come as the side.

If you’re a regular reader, you know when it comes to burgers, it’s my habit to dissemble them to eat in pieces, and more particularly, to be able to taste the beef patty separately, since it’s the essence of the sandwich.

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Chicken Cobb

I wasn’t disappointed. The 1/2 pound USDA prime patty had great flavor and texture.

The brioche bun was bakery soft but substantial enough to support any topping choices you might want to personally add.

The sunnyside egg was cooked perfectly, and the splash of Tabasco was an interesting choice by the chef. Great bacon, too, smoky and thick sliced.  Quality ingredients are evident in every dish.

I’m not usually a dessert orderer, but Ossie the server painted a very compelling picture of the choices, and I succumbed, ordering the “Happ-y Bites,” a generous sampling of three different desserts including carrot cake, New York style cheesecake, and a double chocolate brownie. Each ‘bite’ was accompanied by its own delicious sauce swirl.  They were all great, but the brownie was my favorite.

Finally, while most restaurants don’t boast about their coffee, the Happ Inn sure can. I’m a big, big coffee drinker, and my post meal coffee was the best restaurant cup I’ve had in years. Seriously.

The Happ Inn is located just off the Edens at the Willow Road exit, and opens seven days at 11A.

I’ve run a lot of companies during my career, and I believe a company can have a soul, a spirit, a tone that starts with the CEO or GM and it’s contagious. Whereever you find a great staff, you’ll find a great GM, and the Happ Inn is no exception, with TJ Bachmeyer at the helm.

The restaurant has  private party rooms, and does catering on and off site. Contact jdandrea@thehappinn.com for catering or event inquiries.

The different menus are online. Hit this place. You’ll become a regular.  I know I’ll be back!

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Sunrise Burger w/ fries

 

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Happ-y Bites Dessert

 
The Happ Inn Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

Happ Inn Bar and Grill Review

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Fatsos Last Stand Review – Chicago, IL

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Fatsos Last Stand Review Fatsos Last Stand, in Chicago west of the Loop, is retro and haute cuisine at the same time. Conceived as a neighborhood hot dog stand, the original owner committed to delivering the best of class food possible.

And he achieved it, with damned tasty burgers, Chicago style hot dogs, and fried shrimp (another Chicago staple).

I went with the “single Fatso with cheese” and my friend had a Chicago style dog; both were cooked on a grill that imparted a nice char flavor and texture, which will improve any food.

Fresh cut fries were the order of the day, only because I didn’t notice that they had cheese tots on the menu. DAMMIT.  (Scroll down for menu).

A lot of people compare this burger to In N Out, but I personally feel Fatso’s is a much better burger.  Shakes are also on offer.

Exceptional food all around, fun experience. Take the kids.

Fatso’s is in an area of town called “Ukrainian Village,” so there is a plethora of Russia restaurants, groceries and cathedrals.  It makes for an interesting urban adventure, walking around, checking out the shops until your appetite (or the charcoal grill aroma) pulls you in to Fatsos. (Easily accessible by mass transit, Damen or Division stops on the CTA Blue Line).

Fatsos Last Stand Review

Single Fatso, Chicago Dog, Fries

Fatsos Last Stand Review

Chicagoans eschew ketchup, so it’s a rarity to see

Fatsos Last Stand Review

Fatsos Menu

Fatsos Last Stand Review

Fatsos Menu

Fatso's Last Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Fatsos Last Stand Review

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Kojaks Review – Cary, IL

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One of hundreds (thousands) of independent “hot dog” (for lack of a better description) stands, Kojaks, in the Chicago NW suburb of Cary, serves satisfying Chicago staples, cooked to order, at value pricing.  Dogs, sausage, burgers, gyros with the proper side dishes, and an expanded menu that includes items beyond what most of its competitors offer.

Located right across the street from the Cary Metra station, Kojaks is apparently a big supported of local youth sports, too, which is a good thing.   Kojaks is similar to Mr. Beefy’s, just down the street, but I think Kojak’s has a leg up (or two) on them.

Open Monday through Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM, closed on Sundays.

Restaurant menu.  Catering menu.

Kojaks Review Cary

Cheeseburger and Fries

 

Click to add a blog post for Kojak's on Zomato
Kojaks Review

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Dairy Mart Review – Huntley, IL

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Dairy Mart ReviewWhile certainly not a “Midwest thing,”  independent burger shops seem to have a better record of longevity in the Midwest than other parts of the country I have traveled through.   The “Dairy Mart”  in Huntley, IL, about 50 miles west of Chicago, is one such local institution.

Serving all the Chicago favorites, hot dogs, sausage, Italian beef, burgers, fried dinner plates, and fountain treats, the Dairy Mart is busy most times of day, most days of the year, and food is cooked to order.

I went with a cheeseburger and tots, and the hand-formed patty had a nice char from a flattop and was nicely seasoned (I’m guessing a little Season Salt and a little onion powder, but I could be wrong) (and frequently am), and the deep fried tots were done to perfection.  Hop over to our menu page to see what’s cookin’ at Dairy Mart.

I love this place.

Dairy Mart Review

 

Dairy Mart Review

Cheeseburger and Tots

 
Click to add a blog post for Huntley Dairy Mart on Zomato
 

 

 

Dairy Mart Review

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Vans Frozen Custard – East Dundee, IL

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Vans Frozen Custard ReviewI can probably count on one hand the number of times in my life some place or experience has exceeded my expectations. I can now add Van’s Frozen Custard and Burgers to that list.

Housed in a remodeled Standard Oil gas station that dates back to 1927, Van’s is the creation of Tulane graduate Chad Van Acker – inspired he sez, by a visit to the Ben and Jerry’s factory when he was a toddler.

Located on Main Street in the quaint village of East Dundee, steps from the Fox River and across the street from a Dairy Queen, Chad has carved out a niche for himself as well as a popular following by serving fresh and refreshing flavors of custard and sorbet, as well as some pretty outrageous burgers and sandwiches.

My intention was just to stop in for a small cup o’ custard on a hot Chicago summer day, but when I saw some other patrons enjoying the burgers, my priority shifted.

I ordered the bacon/cheddar burger (all burgers come with fresh cut fries), and there is a healthy list of condiments you can add gratis.  I went with my usual: mustard, pickle, raw onion.

Here’s an insider’s (me) tip:  if you plan on eating the burger, don’t start munching the fries first.  They are addictive.  Hot, crisp, potato-y, lightly seasoned, amazing fries.  Even In N Out would be jealous. Even the fat cats in Oak Brook.

The amply-sized beef patty had a nice char on it from the gas grill, with a very fresh sesame bun, lots of thick cut smokey bacon, and freshly prepared vegetable condiments.  I’m glad I stopped with a short-list of add ons, if I had added lettuce and tomato, the burger wouldn’t have fit in my mouth – it’s a massive sandwich.

If you want to know just how good it is, peel off a section of the bun and condiments and take a bite of just the beef.  Flavorful and tastes the way beef should taste.

I chased the burger with a cup of the custard flavor of the day, Mint Chocolate Chip, which was creamy and delicious.  The complete food and custard menu is here.  Wanna know the flavor of the day?

Mr. Van Acker, congrats.  Build a dozen or so more.  I trust you saw that the 20 Portillo’s just sold for a billion bucks. Yes, with  a “B.”  But it’s just the kind of success I’d expect from a Tulane grad.

Signed, a proud father of another Tulane grad.

Vans Frozen Custard Review

Bacon Cheeseburger

Click to add a blog post for Van's Frozen Custard on Zomato

Vans Frozen Custard

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Fuddruckers Review

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Fuddruckers ReviewSpoiler alert.  I really enjoyed this visit.   Can’t remember when the last time was that I stopped in a Fuddruckers, but it was certainly prior to their menu expansion, including “exotic” burgers, like elk, boar, turkey, kobe, and others (depending on location).

I went with the elk ($9.99) and it was cooked to order, got a side of rings ($2.70) and an iced tea ($1.75).

The “fixins” bar, (mustard, mayo, molten cheese,  ketchup, garlicy dill chips, onion, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato and more) was well stocked and immaculate.

This location had the Coke Freestyle fountain machines, that pack 100 + varieties of soda and other Coke products into a single vend operation.

The fries had seasoned salt on them, I can take that or leave it, but it was a pretty light dusting.  The onion rings are cut thin and have a light crispy breading.

There are a lot of other menu choices, both for mains, and sides.

One kind of “oh oh” for me is both the fries and rings came from a warming tray, so they could have been fresher, and I’d also like to see mini trays or plates at the fixings bar.

Other than that?  When I want a fast-casual burger, Fuddruckers is my new go-to place!

Fuddruckers Review

Elk Burger on Wheat Bun

Fuddruckers Review

 
Fuddruckers on Urbanspoon
Fuddruckers Review

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Chicago, IL – Superdawg Drive In Review

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For over sixty years, Superdawg has been serving up their special menu of hot dogs, burgers, fries and shakes in Northwest Chicago.  It’s still run by the family of the founder, and I always appreciate that type of business and try to patronize them more often than not.

In virtually any list of the top hot dogs in the city, Superdawg makes the cut.  They have their own pet names for the menu items, and claim proprietary ingredients and seasoning.  Each “sandwich” comes in a special box with a mound of fries, terrific pickle spear, and even more terrific, half of a pickled green tomato.

I went with the “Supercheesie,”  their freshly ground burger under melted American cheese. The burgers come fully dressed to your specifications, with a couple of different options being rye bread in lieu of a traditional bun, and “piccalilli” or at least Superdawg’s interpretation of it.  The traditional piccalilli originated in England as a take off on “Indian pickles” and is comprised of diced pickles, vegetables and seasonings.   Superdawg’s is more akin to a sweet relish, something I don’t usually order, but went with it and was delightfully surprised at the outcome.  I did like it.

“Superfries” are crinkle cut, crispy, and nicely salted.  Other menu choices include their hot dog, polish, chicken tenders, tamales, assorted fried vegetables, and fountain treats, including most likely the best chocolate malted I have ever had anywhere,   They start with an entire pint of premium and work their magic from there.

The iconic stand with its hot dog character statues remains an outpost of carhop service, and some families turn a visit into a tailgating even, bringing their own tables and chairs.  Superdawg only has one other full-size location.  I’m not sure why, as this business, with its short menu and long track record of success, would have been perfect for major expansion or franchising.  It’s most certainly a better product than many chains.

The full Superdawg menu is here:

I used to include maps on every post, quit for awhile, but you’ve asked me to stick ’em in again.  So here’s how to get to Superdawg, accessible by Metra, off I-90 or I-94 (on the way to an from O’Hare, btw)

Superdawg Chicago Review

Family Tailgaters

 

Superdawg Chicago Review

Icon Rooftop Figures

 

 

Superdawg Chicago Review

Cheeseburger on Rye

Superdawg!

Superdawg!

Superdawg Drive-in on Urbanspoon
Superdawg Drive In Review

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Regional Chain – Meatheads Burgers and Fries Review

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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.

Menu and locator are online.

 

Meatheads Burgers

The Californian

Meatheads Burgers

Hamburger with American Cheese

 

Meatheads Burgers

Crispy Natural Cut Fries

 

Meatheads Burger and Fries on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meatheads Burgers and Fries Review

(Ed. note.  The restaurant paid for my meal on this visit).

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Regional Chain – Meatheads Burgers and Fries Reviews

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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.

Boasting certified angus patties, the simple hamburger is a double patty (1/3 pound), on a ‘locally baked bun’, with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, mayo, pickle, and onion.  An assortment of toppings and cheese are available at an additional cost. The basic burger clocks in at around $6.

There were three things that were memorable to me when I visited their newest location tonight:

  • The blond server with the rocket bod
  • The cashier who advised me the large fries was too much for two people (she was correct, and I appreciate that)
  • The ramekin of buffalo sauce I purchased for .75

Everything else?  Eh.  or Meh.

The burger patties were dry and flavorless, unusual for Certified Angus, which usually has a pretty beefy flavor.  The bun was a little dry as well.  While the website offered the option of “blue cheese crumbles”, my blue cheese add on was about 1/4 ounce of salad dressing, a neat dollop in the center of the patty.

Fries were ok, and were fresh-cut as advertised.  A little limp, and overseasoned, I don’t think they were double-fried, the key to crispness with a fresh cut potato.

My most appalling experience in the visit wasn’t due to the shop, but the customer in front of me who ordered a hot dog with ketchup only. In Chicago?  Wot wot?  Must have been a tourist.

$17.73 for two burgers, 1 small fries, 1 bottle water. A little spendy.

Would I return?  Maybe to try other items.  Or maybe chock it up to an off-nite.  As with all my reviews, the opinions express my personal taste.  You may well love this place, and I encourage you to try it and form your own opinion.  Menu. Locator.

Meatheads Burgers

Exterior

 

Meatheads Burger

1/3 lb burger with blue cheese

 

Meatheads Burger

Small fries – enough to share

Meatheads Burger

Cozy, localized interiors

 

meatheads burgers and fries reviews

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Lake Zurich, IL – Hackney’s Restaurant Reviews

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Rolled into here today, last visit was, er….maybe thirty years ago. On the shores of suburban Lake Zurich (Chicago) and adjacent to the hoity-toity burb I used to live in, Hackney’s is a local “mini-chain” of casual dining. Bar and banquet facility, too.

Their story is they have been selling beers and burgers since prohibition.

They are supposed to be so ‘famous’ for their burgers, they’ll even ship them to you to enjoy at home.

The menu contains a half dozen burgers, maybe as many sandwiches, a few salads and entrees.  It’s a little spendy, with the top burger tipping fifteen bucks.

Started with their onion rings (straws) which come in three difference sizes, full order, half, or quarter. The quarter size serving (pictured below) was about four bucks.  These are some tasty rings straws.

I went with the Inside Out Burger, Hackney’s version of the Minneapolis invention of the Jucy Lucy (sic).  The Hackney version has cheddar AND bacon inside.  Comes with fries and salad, but there are other sides you can substitute for no additional charge.

The burger was good enough, prepared medium rare, the bacon flavor was very evident, the cheese content not as prevalent as other versions.  The meat had a great flavor and a nice little char going.  I really liked the slaw, which was diced in tiny bits.  Fries were A-OK as well.  One burger, 1/4 order rings, coffee, bloody mary, $25 not including tip.

Hackney's Lake Zurich

1/4 Order Onion Rings

Hackney's Lake Zurich

Inside Out Burger

 

Hackney's in Lake Zurich on Urbanspoon

 

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