In the middle of Lakeviewís tangle of hip bistros and bars, Muskie's Hamburgers stands out as a symbol of restaurants past. The retro counter-service spot dates back to 1981, but feels transported from a time decades earlier, when drive-in movies and "American Graffiti" cars ruled. Cheerful, Coca-Cola-inflected, red-and-white decor sets the stage perfectly for enjoying juicy, fresh burgers and hot dogs.
On a typical afternoon, stroller-wielding parents and police officers rub elbows while picking up a quick lunch. Muskie's boasts a selection of candy dispensers at tot level, but adults know that the goodies behind the counter promise much more satisfaction. A basic char burger costs a mere $3.30 and comes loaded with lettuce, tomato and onions; add gooey cheese for a quirky 34-cent fee.
Muskie's also serves the heartiest and tastiest Chicago-style hot dogs this side of the Wiener's Circle. Try a regular dog, piled high with pickle, neon green relish, yellow mustard, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers and celery salt, all for $1.85 (and donít you dare put ketchup on that bad boy). More adventurous palates might enjoy "The Shark," a battered cod filet on a bun, or the intriguing mac and cheese wedges. Slake your thirst with Coke products, naturally, or savor a thick malt or shake in chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.
A few round tables and a long white counter provide plenty of room for dining in, but on pretty days, check out the shaded patio area. And donít worry about breaking the bank while chowing down. Hearty meals for next to nothing are just part of Muskieís retro charm.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Elisabeth Kilpatrick