Elite chefs have been playfully adding their own touches to fast food for years. The folks of Tru
and Lettuce Entertain You, however, aren't adding truffles and a syringe of ketchup reduction to make a dish with a wink - they've opened up a bona fide burger shack in the kitchen, barely more than eight seats to its name and a friend-inducing amount of elbow room.
But this is fast food, and there's no need for utensils with the pure basics offered on the menu. A chopped chicken salad costs five dollars, and that’s the most expensive item on the menu. Vegetarians can turn to the Nurse Betty for $3 worth of veggie sandwich, but let's focus on the name of the place, okay? A patty of substantial -- but not hedonistic -- size, made to order and topped with freshly prepared vegetables, means a burger than tastes a bit better than any Midwestern chain. If you're planning to sin and sin boldly, the signature M Burger adds thick bacon, cheese, and special sauce for an extra kick – a double will cost you $4.50. The fries are cooked in an olive oil blend and have a nutty firmness to them (but must be ordered separately – two dollars for a bag).
Fresh-squeezed lemonade and homemade peach tea stand out from the otherwise standard soda options for $2 apiece. If you want to really seal the meal (and earn yourself another couple hours at the gym), go for one of the three-dollar chocolate, vanilla or strawberry shakes – they're made with local cream and are just thick enough to still be sipped comfortably through a straw.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge