photo: Grant Kessler
DMK Burger Bar's sides are nearly as important as the main event.
If cupcakes were the story of 2008, burgers have taken their place as the hottest concept of 2009. With Five Guys, The Bad Apple and DMK Burger Bar all opening their doors this year, it may be hard to choose which place to check out first. Whether you crave truffle fries, a pretzel bun or a good brew to wash down your burger, we've got you covered with this list of the best burger places in various categories. But don't take our word for it — the only (and most satisfying) way to find your favorite burger joint is to go there yourself.
Best Sides: DMK Burger Bar
Don't get us wrong, the grass-fed beef, creative flavor combinations and one-of-a-kind custom buns at this new Lakeview hotspot are great all by themselves. But what really sets DMK apart are the a la carte side options. Choose from five varieties of hand-cut fries, including sweet potato with lemon Tabasco aioli, parmesan with truffle cream, Amish blue cheese and smoked bacon, Wisconsin cheddar and scallion, or sea salt and black pepper with house-made ketchup. Aside from fries, diners can also devour some mac and cheese, chili-rubbed onion strings, fried okra and dill pickles, and even deviled eggs.
Best Selection: Kuma's Corner
With almost two-dozen signature burgers to choose from, Kuma's takes the prize for the biggest selection. Vegetarians will also be pleased that each one can be made with a garden burger rather than the standard 10-ounce beef patty. Consistent with the restaurant's heavy metal atmosphere, burgers are named after bands like Motorhead (with goat cheese, kalamata olives, oregano and tzatziki sauce), Melvins (with basil, prosciutto and mozzarella) and Judas Priest (with bacon, bleu cheese dressing, apples, walnuts and dried cranberries). Each is served on a pretzel bun with waffle fries or chips; you may want to skip lunch if you plan to clean your plate.
Best Beer List: The Bad Apple
photo: courtesy of The Bad Apple
Stop drooling for a second and note the beautiful brew in the background.
It does have seven kinds of fries including truffle, curry and Creole, and the burgers are piled high with ingredients like fried eggs, pineapple and pulled pork, but The Bad Apple truly impresses with its massive beer menu. Choose from 15 drafts and more than 70 bottles, arranged alphabetically by country (from Austria to the United Kingdom) and by U.S. state, from California to New York and 11 states in between. Better yet, many brews are $5 or less, including Allagash White, Founders Centennial IPA and a pear cider from California. Can't decide? A couple drafts are also available in one-ounce tasting portions.
Best for Lunch: Marc Burger
For a quick bite on your lunch break, skip the dollar menu and head to Marc Burger, located on the seventh floor of Macy's on State Street. Backed by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, each of the nine tasty options — including grass-fed Black Angus burgers, a turkey burger with chipotle mayo and citrus-glazed mahi mahi — is served on a potato bun with house-made pickles, spicy slaw and crispy seasoned fries. Bigger eaters can try the Marc Burger, topped with steak sauce and a fried egg. (If you get some on your shirt, you can always buy a new one on your way out.)
Best for Control Freaks: The Counter
So you want a bacon cheeseburger, hold the bacon, Swiss instead of cheddar, and replace the burger with a veggie patty? Such requests are no problem at The Counter, where you choose every ingredient to form one of the more than 312,000 possible combinations. Everyone gets a clipboard and a pencil to pick a burger (beef, chicken, turkey or veggie), one of 10 cheeses, toppings (up to four toppings like jalapeños and black olives are included in the price), sauce (18 choices ranging from roasted garlic aioli to ginger soy glaze) and one of three buns. Indecisive types have been warned.
Need more choices? Check out all the burger spots in Chicago.