Photograph: Courtesy of Leadbelly

When the Chicago Public Schools sixth-grade teacher Nicole Masse O’Brien went on strike this fall, she never went back to the classroom. Instead, she worked on Leadbelly Burgers (5739 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-283-7880), which opened this past Saturday.

Her husband, Steve O’Brien, brought his chef experience (Carlos’, Mike’s American Ale House next door to Leadbelly) to bear on the menu, which features this toppings bonanza:

  • The Gallows Pole: Leadbelly’s standard chuck-and-pork-belly burger patty, with caramelized onions, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and béarnaise
  • Midnight Special: the patty, jalapeño jack cheese, pico de gallo, chipotle cream sauce, and chili cheese Fritos
  • Good Night Irene: the patty, a crab cake, pico de gallo, and spicy rémoulade
  • 24-hour double-fried french fries with sea salt and pepper
  • Fries with sauerkraut, Polish sausage, and horseradish mustard
  • Fries with pork belly, onion straws, and Carolina mustard sauce
  • Homemade sriracha pickles
  • Butter cookies with crushed pecans and white and milk chocolate. “I made butter cookies for President Clinton, and the Secret Service came back and wanted more,” Steve O’Brien says.

Maybe Nicole Masse O’Brien isn’t really so far from the middle-school classroom—some of those burgers sound like masterpieces we could've concocted in the sixth grade cafeteria.