Butcher and the Burger has vaulted into the darling of Chicago burger places. For good reason I guess – it has a catchy name and received national acclaim from Men’s Health magazine as the “manliest” burger. Huh? Insert “whatever” here. It was good, maybe even great, but “manliest” is one of the last words I’d use to describe this culinary treat. I guess that’s what you get from Men’s Health magazine.
Did you ever fantasize about having a place down the street where you can get a good burger and watch sports? Well, I think I’m living out that fantasy because the local bar, all of one block away, has a killer burger and lots of TVs and really nice people. I didn’t discover this until about a year ago, but now my arm hurts from pinching myself. Also, my jaw hurts from laughing so hard at my own jokes.
This was a completely different experience from just about all of my recent burger excursions, which may have made it seem better than it actually was. I was blown away, which surprises me because I have a bias for charred half pound burgers – this was a fried, thin, sub-half pound burger. Go figure. My depth and range sometimes astonishes me. #imlying #imshallow
Pictured above is the Epic Burger single with lettuce, pickle, tomato, onion, and special sauce on whole wheat. I used this picture because the meat really shares the glory in this sandwich. Everything else is so on point (as Guy Fieri would say) – including just the right amount of special sauce, the full pickle slices, and the whole wheat bun encrusted with oats – that the relatively small size of the meat patty works perfectly. I’m always at least a little conscious of overdoing it and the double would have been messy and, quite simply, too much.
I don’t want to short the meat on accolades though. Check it out. It’s full of nooks and imperfections and a crisping on the edges that adds a lot of flavor. It has a large diameter and is pressed thin so it’s almost exactly the same diameter as the bun.
And the bun, that’s something special. The whole wheat gives it a strong flavor and the oat topping adds a crunch. It’s also considerably fewer calories than the white bun. They’ve given this thing a lot of thought. This makes two burgers recently which highlight the bun and use something smaller than the half pound patty (see Paradise Pup) and I’ve really loved them. I’m beginning to rethink certain parts of the burger code and welcoming these options.
Speaking of options, my wife had the chicken sandwich and loved it, just loved it. The fries are luscious, skin-on, golden brown, and fresh. You also have options for a fried egg, bacon, and different cheeses to top your burger. I’ve never tried their malts but I will next time. There are a handful of locations in the region so there’s a good chance I’ll blow by one soon. I think they’re here to stay. We have so many great burger chains in this town. I really love going to burger places.
Here’s their napkin if you’re interested.
It’s not cheap, at $5.99 the burger is pricier than the double at comparable local chain M Burger, but I like Epic Burger a little better (trying something different soon though at M Burger). Note also the slick calorie counter Epic has on their site. Nice touch. Nice job.
Okay, this burger stage I’m going through could be akin to a mid-life crisis. Maybe I’m looking to the juicy beef to fill some sort of emptiness elsewhere in my life. Or maybe burgers are just great and I live in a great burger town and having one burger a week is perfectly normal. Crisis averted! Moving on.
We have some TV stars amongst our hamburger culture here folks. Paradise Pup is famous enough to have been in an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I can’t find an official website, which isn’t surprising, but follow that link it will give you whole back story on this place. It’s small, crowded, and off the beaten path, and great.
I’ve been here twice in the last few months and been torn both times. The quandary: My norm is to order the house condiment stack that comes free so I can compare it to other burgers, but these guys have this Merkts cheddar burger that I want to try. Since I’m in the midst of this comparison stage, I just went with the bare minimum; I had the single, 1/3 lb burger with the posted standard of ketchup, mayo, pickle, tomato, and grilled or raw onions (did raw once and grilled once, love the free grilled).
It’s near perfect. We’ll get to that.
So my buddies and I finished 18 holes at The Bridges of Poplar Creek (great golf, review forthcoming) a few Saturdays ago and made the detour to Des Plaines for this place. We hit it at about 10:45 and there were maybe seven or eight people milling around waiting for the 11:00 opening. By the time we got our food at around 11:15, the line was out the door to the back of the building, maybe 20 people. Remember, this place is only open from 11–5 Monday through Saturday. But man, they churn out a lot of burgers.
We ate it on the picnic tables outside, which is the best option. They have maybe five seats inside. It’s small, really small. I guess during the winter time it’s just a takeout place huh? It’s gotta be.
Let’s talk bun first. They describe it with words like “egg twist” and “bakery fresh,” both of which are highly accurate. It’s fluffy yet very substantial. I think this bun could hold up to a double without batting an eye, which may make you think it could overpower a single 1/3 lb patty. Looking at it, that was my impression, but I was wrong.
I actually think the bun contributes to a perfect, no-mess burger even with pickles, raw onions, and tomato. I picked this thing up and put it down multiple times and it stayed together with zero condiment leakage. It’s a tribute to the dude who prepared as much as it is to the bun. They place the condiments meticulously, perfectly centered and using natural juice barriers. I had zero lower bun saturation. Zero.
It’s quality beef, never frozen, and perfectly uniform.
It may be hand-packed, but I missed a little of that hand-packed randomness. You can’t have it both ways though. I’m guessing that the burger maker is just as conscientious as the condiment placer. Everything is sized perfectly, including even the tomato slice and the raw onion. It’s a joy to eat and could easily be consumed in the presence of a really attractive member of the opposite sex.
The crinkle-cut fries are great and the shakes are decent. It’s hard to get my head around where this ranks. I’m going to get all of these in a list and rank them, but I need some time to reflect.
This is a must-visit if you’re a burger hound. Just do it.
Alright folks, we got us some burger stuff to cover. There’s a good chance that the burger pictured above could be one of the top ten food items ever to touch my lips. Certainly a top two burger, but I’m also ready to group this with all-time great things like Lou Malnati’s sausage pizza, G’s mussels, Don Pan’s pandebono, mom’s Mrs. Field’s knockoff cookies, and my sister’s frosting… You get my drift? This is the real thing folks. I’m not messing round.
It’s from Edzo’s in Evanston and it was a joyous experience. The only other burger in town I would even include in the same tier is the one from Tavish, but it’s been a few years since I’ve tasted it so it’s a difficult comparison to make. We aren’t going there.
About a month ago my buddy saw Edzo’s on Check Please! and he immediately started planning a visit. Yeah, we go on burger dates every so often, is that weird? So one Saturday morning after playing golf at Winnetka we made a quick detour to downtown Evanston for a burger. It was a huge sensory experience packed in to about five hours: great golf and a great burger, all behind me by 11:30am. Wow. Just wow.
I had the eight ounce Char Burger, medium, “with everything” and a shake. I was positively giddy waiting for it and it didn’t disappoint. “Everything” is mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion (I don’t customize anyone’s condiment stack, I usually just say “everything”). I don’t think there are any exotic meats like brisket or short rib in the burger, it just seemed like a secret combo of ground beef and spices. I love simple.
You can certainly tell it was hand-packed, plenty of nooks, crannies, and randomness. And there was virtually no lower bun saturation yet it was juicy. I think they achieved this by using the condiment stack as a juice barrier. The bun is soft and compresses perfectly without losing any of it’s bunness, allowing even small-mouthed people to shovel in the thick burger and a full condiment stack with very little mess. They may have went slightly past medium on mine but not much. It tasted great, near perfect.
The menu is simply awesome. Behold the solid food portion of the menu. Just behold it.
It’s a burger-lover’s dream because they clearly define the two types available. You can get it fried on a flat piece of steel, griddled; or you can get it heated on a grate over a flame, charred. It’s a rarity to be given this many options in a burger shop, and it’s certainly never so succinctly explained.
What a great place for a date also. My wife can’t eat a whole eight ounce burger but she could certainly find something on the menu. I’m betting the four ounce griddled version would remind her of a classic burger joint she visited as a kid which served a quarter pounder fried in it’s own juices (probably better at Edzo’s, actually). Or she could get the grilled chicken if she was in a healthy mood. The shake was killer also and the fries looked great (thin-cut with skin-on). Maybe I’ll take her to Edzo’s for our anniversary.
They’re opening one in Lincoln Park soon that will be a little different because they may not be able to offer the Char Burger. Good, that means I’ll be forced to try something new.
If you go into Billy Goat uninformed, you could be setting yourself up for some serious disappointment. If you were to take a page out of the classic SNL skit and just say cheezborger, well, you’re going to get mostly bread. The cheese and burger part of the equation will be hardly noticeable, which isn’t good.
There’s a simple solution though. Order the triple, pictured above.
Yeah, it seems excessive, I know. But it’s still less than a half pound of beef, and it’s darn good. It’s three 1/8 pound patties with two pieces of American cheese on a hearty bun. It’s a very hearty bun, light and puffy yet pretty chewy, so it doesn’t break down under the juices from the three patties. I was pleasantly surprised.
Like many locals, I often discourage out-of-town visitors from visiting this place. There’s a certain amount of local snobbery that I’ve partaken in for awhile because I have my favorite burger places, none of which have been made into a Saturday Night Live skit. In some warped fantasy, I feel I’m a better host if I take someone to “a place nobody knows about that has an awesome burger… blah blah blah.”
Enough with that, man. I took my brother-in-law and two nephews here and they loved it. The guy behind the counter was yelling “dobolo cheeburger” and the grease was sizzling. Even though it was Navy Pier, it still felt kind of classic. And now my brother-in-law can tell his friends in Denver he went to the Billy Goat, which John Belushi and Mike Royko made famous (kind of, I guess, even though it’s not the original). He can show them the video and yuck it up about the Curse, because it’s Chicago baby. For real.
I liked it too. The triple was just the antidote for a warped bun-to-burger ratio.