The Vitals:
the burger: 8oz in house ground chuck with cheddar, garlic butter, giardiniera, lettuce, tomato and pickle
the other burger: half pound griddled double cheeseburger with bacon, onion, pickle, ketchup and mustard
the bucks: $9.50, $9.25 respectively
the coordinates: Chicago, Il

We live in a complex world. Sometimes life is not always black and white. I could insert something right here about 50 Shades of Grey but that seems so last year and I don’t feel like googling right now. I do feel like making a whole new case for Bang for your Burger Buck; it’s called Boom for your Burger Buck. It comes down to asking you for 100-200 more pennies a meal. It means opening doors to new and exciting burgers shops, where carnivore centric craftsmen are tinkering and toiling while keeping their customer’s budgets in mind. Like I said the world is a complex place, a good thing that it is filled with burgers with complex tastes. And with that, I take you to the burger scene in Chicago.

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Chicago is one hell of a food town. You want Michelin stars, they got ’em. You want gut busting ethnic fair with a meat laden American stamp? Then please head over to Hub’s for a Gyro, Al’s on Taylor street for an Italian Beef or a deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s. When it comes to burgers, Chicago is downright fascinating. The man pictured above, Eddie Lakin, reveals to Bang that “Chicago’s burger scene is multi-faceted”. There are the old stalwarts like Charlie Bienlich’s and Top Notch Beefburger, the quintessential Chicago bare-bones hot-dog joints like Paradise Pup and Poochie’s, new players to the game via the modern burger chain like Smashburger, Umami and Shake Shack, and the countless neighborhood bars serving up burgers to the Old Style by the Pitcher crowd. And you know Chicago’s much touted high dining scene is going to have something to say here; like Acadia who offers a triple beef blend of chuck, brisket and Wagyu scraps, unites it with melty Gruyere cheese, gooey Mornay cheese sauce, loads up on some bacon onion jam(a clear nod to Father’s Office) and pickles(a clear nod to the Pickle industry) for $14, not bad for a joint that holds a Michelin star.

With a complex burger scene comes serious competition and Eddie Lakin is very much a Heavyweight contender when it comes to ground beef sandwiches in Chi-Town. At Bang, our ears perk quick when the words “Culinary School” are dropped, but in Eddie’s case you can add a year of cooking in Spain, stints at Chicago fine dining hubs like Spruce and what may have been the most influential move in his professional cooking career, Lakin was part of the original team that opened the Michelin starred Tru. It was at Tru where he cut his teeth in the high pressure, big stakes world of fine dining. He would cross paths with culinary superstars one would expect: Julia Child, Jean Banchet, Norman Van Aiken, Patrick O’Connel, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and more. At Tru he thrived at having top tier ingredients at his disposal and the chance to employ the very best in cooking technique, night after night. What he did grow weary of was the “pomp and circumstance that surrounds fine dining”. Lakin says that “I wanted a restaurant where we could apply the fine dining mindset to humble cooking and serve it up in a casual setting for not that much money.”

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The idea really took shape when he applied it to the hamburger. By virtue of simply grinding his own chuck in house he began to make waves. As he puts it: “just grinding the beef fresh daily and cutting potatoes fresh set me apart from nearly everyone and you didn’t have to know anything about my concept, you could just walk in blind, order a burger, and taste the difference. We have always said that if we make food that’s tastier than you get at most other places and charge about the same price, people will come back. And it’s true.”

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Feeling weighed down with a big load of traditional restaurant jabber? Well, I did so for a reason and the reason is this: I am about to make the case for a $10 burger. Edzo’s Burger shop isn’t a factory, it is a temple where bespoke burgers are made. Ingredients like Sheboygan Bratwurst and Raincrow Ranch Grass Fed beef turns heads, and the topping options are sourced wisely. Case in point: a medium cheddar was selected because it delivers a taste that is noticeably sharper yet melts well. Being in Chicago, I could not resist adding giardiniera, the city’s unofficial first condiment. And for Christ’s sake, why am I now, after 37 years of eating burgers, discovering that melted butter, let alone melted butter studded with garlic, is a topping option? That was .50 cents I surely will never miss.

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And then there is the beef. There are two patty styles at Edzo’s Burger Shop: a 4oz patty that is smashed then griddled and a hefty 8oz patty that tastes the flames of a grill, served to a requested temperature. Edzo’s offers more premium beef options as well, which carry a price hike one would expect when name dropping a farm. But for my buck, the real magic happens in what he does with creating a high quality experience with standard issue ground chuck. Any burger shop that honors the commandments of “never frozen” and “ground in house every morning” deserves a Michelin star in my book. I went with the 8oz with the aforementioned toppings. The results speak for themselves:

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A juicy patty is a given when pulled off to the temperature seen above, but the garlic butter just jacks up the event from “I’ll need extra napkins” to “I need to buy a new shirt“. Texture wise, the burger is a total knock out thanks to the inherent crunch of the giardiniera. The oil and vinegar punch of this relish isn’t just a compliment for the beef, it elevates the traditional toppings like lettuce,tomato and pickle as well. And the unsung hero? The freaking bun. Eddie told me he uses “a standard bun from Highland baking . . . no seeds, nothing superfluous. It’s a basic pan de mie type dough, so not super rich or buttery or anything. Like I said, I wanted the meat to be the star.” Eddie, mission freakin accomplished. The bottom line: $9.50 for an 8oz in house ground burger, dressed to impress with primo upgrades including a slice of medium cheddar, basted in garlic butter and topped with giardiniera. An affordable, well thought out, custom burger experience. Welcome to Boom for your Burger Buck, your world has changed forever. And since we are changing the rules I’ll conclude with an alternate because Edzo’s is that deep in the burger game when it comes to Boom for your Burger Buck, you deserve options.

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When given the option of a burger cooked to temp or a griddled stackable patty, I’ll take the warm red center all day. But being reared off of the likes of Steak N Shake, I’ll tangle with a double stack, and after all, if I’m asking you to give up $10, you need a back up burger and I wanted to see what Edzo’s can do with a little bacon . . .

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So observe the above, two 4oz chuck patties, griddled till crisp at the outer edges, graced with a classic condiment and topping combination of pickle, onion, ketchup and mustard. These toppings aren’t just classic, they are all you can get for this style burger. By reining in the toppings to the Happy meal scope, Edzo’s is making a statement on the classic griddled burger experience: keep it simple and appeal to the kid in all of us. The same Highland Bakery bun is back in play and good Lord did each bite crack like a potato chip thanks addition of bacon. Bottom line: $9.25 a half pound griddled double cheeseburger with bacon that could pull off ADR work for chicharron. I’d say you would be saving yourself a whole quarter by going with this one but I suggest you do as I did, get both, and make some friends.

Turn two strangers into new found friends? An easy feet to pull off in Chicago with burgers like these. Two outstanding burgers and the chance to make friends for under $20? Now that’s Boom for your Burger Buck.

Edzo’s Burger Shop
1571 Sherman Ave
Evanston, IL
847~864~3396

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