Under the Bun

(page 5 of 5)

Bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys
Bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys

Yes, it’s a chain—strike one—and then there’s the sign near the register that ominously declares, “We cook all our meat well-done.” Strike two. But you’d have to be taste-deaf to deny the merits of Five Guys’ profoundly messy bacon cheeseburger. Mine was a loose, thin patty with a crunchy char atop the kind of soft bun that your fingers leave indentations in. It’s not the miracle your buddy from Virginia has been blathering about for the past ten years, but this burger is mighty good. And your buddy was right about the famous skin-on fries, hand cut and cooked in peanut oil: They’re magnificent. 2140 N. CLYBOURN AVE., 773-327-5953; FOUR OTHER AREA LOCATIONS $6.29

Jake Moody, the manager, figures that he has sold at least a million Moody Bleu Burgers since 1959. One bite of yours and you can taste the 999,999 that came before it: The old charcoal grill upon which it was cooked lends a rich depth of beefy grease that tastes like decades of history. A mountain of outstanding homemade blue cheese tops the unseasoned beef, but the bun is pretty flimsy. The whole package is easy to love, partially because Moody’s itself is so lovable—free peanuts! beer garden! roaring fireplace!—but the truth is, the Moody Bleu may be the most reliable $8 meal in Chicago. 5910 N. BROADWAY; 773-275-2696 $8


Burgers Made Me Dumb »
Jeff Ruby on the downside to being a food writer

On French Fries »
Our favorites to accompany our burgers

Beefless Burgers »
If you want to avoid the bum steer, look for nonstandard ingredients

Vote! »
Disagree with our list? Make yourself heard

If you name your place Epic Burger and post seven burger “rules” on the wall, your hamburgers had better bring the thunder. David Friedman’s eco-friendly fast-casual spot—brilliantly located on the street level of a Columbia College dorm— doesn’t quite live up to its brash name, but it comes close. Epic hand-packs freshly ground chuck (from grass-fed, grain-finished cows), then sears it on a flat-top grill; the result is a lean, flavor-packed patty that goes well with one-year-aged Wisconsin Cheddar and beautifully sautéed onions. For $6, that kind of quality is hard to beat. 517 S. STATE ST.; 312-913-1373 $6

A legend in the northwest suburbs, this juicy ten-ounce beast soaks so completely into its poor beleaguered sesame-seed bun that you have to eat it fast—or turn it upside down—to make it work. By the way, it works. The hand-packed grilled beef isn’t terribly distinctive on its own, but it’s fresh and toothsome, and the accompaniments are terrific: crisp bacon, a pile of sautéed onions, perfectly melted Cheddar, and a satisfying onion, mushroom, and sherry sauce. A hint: Regulars lay their fries underneath to prevent total bun annihilation. 2570 HASSELL RD., HOFFMAN ESTATES; 847-843-3993 $10.29

Photography: Anna Knott
Food Stylist: Lisa Kuehl; Food Stylist: Lisa Kuehl  Hair and Makeup: Eileen Mc Nulty  Models: Planet Earth Agency