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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Cheeseburger’

Kookers Review – Barrington, IL


Kookers Review BarringtonI am one of the world’s biggest fans of mom and pop businesses of any ilk, and that goes double for the restaurant biz, a segment so terribly difficult even under the best of circumstances.

Kookers has served the posh Chicago suburb of Barrington for at least thirty years, that I am aware of, perched on US Highway 14.  It was previously in a smaller facility on the north side of the road, and within the past few years, moved to a larger facility across the street.  It was for sale for awhile before the move, not sure if it changed hands or not, but based on visits years ago, I would guess it has different owners.

They serve a typical “Chicago” menu of fast food, burgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, gyros, fried sides, plus some extended offerings in different day parts.  Menu.

I so wanted to come away from my latest visit bubbling over with enthusiasm, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

I popped in mid afternoon and was the only customer, except for a man engaged in conversation with the counter person, apparently a conversation so engaging that it was more important than waiting on me.  Strike one.

I place my order, for a cheeseburger (they have many cheeses to choose from, I went with blue) and walked into the bathroom.  Wasn’t antiseptically clean and parts of it seemed to be held together with scotch tape and wire.  The entrance to the men’s room is through a hallway which was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of various restaurant supplies.  Strike 2.  I don’t want to see that.  I fear that standards of (lack of) organization or ‘cleanliness’ extends throughout an establishment.

It didn’t take long for the burger to be ready, but it really wasn’t anything special, a machine-formed patty and put together with a not very aesthetically pleasing appearance.  Strike 2.5?

I gathered up some sections of newspaper that were laying around, perused them while eating my burger, which I finished in short order.  Got up to leave (still the only customer) without any acknowledgement from the employee (“thanks!”  “come back soon”).

My recollection of the previous long-time owner was people supported him for a couple reasons;  one, he made a point to ‘know’ every customer and be hospitable, and two, he prided himself on quality ingredients.

Neither appears to be the case at the “new” Kookers, sadly.

Kookers Barrington Review
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Kookers Review


Regional Chain – Meatheads Burgers and Fries Review


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, 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).


Regional Chain – Meatheads Burgers and Fries Reviews


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



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


Lake Zurich, IL – Hackney’s Restaurant Reviews


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


Restaurant reviews



Barrington, IL – Wool Street Sports Bar and Grill


Normal Rockwell lives in Barrington. Or at least I thought he did when I picked it as the town to raise my family and keep them safe. Seems it worked. A quiet burg an hour by car or train from downtown Chicago, Barrington has been around since the 1850s. Today it’s a cute little village surrounded by expensive homes, immaculately kept lawns, and million dollar horses grazing in back “yards.”

There are ordinary families like ours, and celebrity familes. “Rumored” to live in Barrington, or owning homes here are Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, Chicago Bears Mike Singletary, and Walter Payton.  I can attest to the latter two, as their kids were in school with my daughter.  Singletary and I worked the pizza tent at the annual grade school carnival.

The Wool Street Sports Bar is a rather new addition to the town.  When we moved here 25 years ago, I’m not sure there was a bar. Well, maybe one.  Now the village is host to the requisite hoity toity cuisine outlets, fancy grocery stores, and posh shops one would expect to find in an area like this, 78% of the people are homeowners, and the median house value is north of mid six figures……and well up in to the 8 figure range, as well.  The ‘town’ is really four areas, Barrington itself, North Barrington, Barrington Hills, and South Barrington. Together they make up one of the wealthiest zip codes in America.

Wool Street has a very lengthy menu of American bar food, burgers, salads, pizza, dinner plates.

I went with the stuffed burger, Wool Street’s version of the burger that made Minneapolis famous, the Jucy Lucy. (sic).  This one was stuffed with gorgonzola and bacon, with a very nice flame finish, great char flavor.  The interior cheese was very ample.  The burger was parked on a soft bakery roll with an egg wash, and tomato and lettuce.  A wide variety of sides come with each sandwich, I went with tots, which were more than satisfactory.

This is a damned fine burger.  Worth a trip to Barrington.

Wool Street Sports Bar Barrington


Wool Street Grill Sports Bar on Urbanspoon


Algonquin, IL – Dante’s Burgers & Red Hots


(From 2014 on, no more burgers or dogs.  This is now a Mexican restaurant).

Been meaning to get out to Dante’s, but it’s a trek from the city. Rumor has it, rumor has it (Mrs. BDB’s favorite song) that Dante’s has the best fries in the NW burbs. You’ll get no argument from me on that. The small order was more than I could finish.

The “Merkt’s Cheese” Burger is popular in the Chicago burbs.  It involves slathering a gob of Merkt’s Cheddar Cheese Spread on the patty, and is usually topped by grilled onions.  Merkt’s is made in Southern Wisconsin, comes in a variety of flavors, and is the cheese spread all others aspire to live up to.  It’s 100% real cheese, and full of flavor.

I went with mine plain, wanting to enjoy the combination flavors of the meat and cheese spread.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The hand-formed burger, with smokey grilled flavor and appropriate grill marks, did not disappoint.  The tang of the sharp cheddar was a perfect compliment.

The bun had some egg in it, but didn’t lean towards “sweet” as many egg breads do.  It’s incredibly soft while being sturdy enough to hold the sandwich and fixins’.

Is Dante’s worth a drive?  We say yes.  Add the fact that they have Vienna Beef hot dogs, and it’s worth two trips.

Dante's Burgers & Red Hots

Dante's Burgers and Red Hots on Urbanspoon

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