Illinois, the land of Abraham Lincoln, rich history, and cultural diversity, also happens to be a paradise for burger lovers. From classic fast food joints to gourmet burger restaurants, Illinois has it all. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the best burger joints in Illinois, explore unique burger flavors, the history of burgers in the state, hidden gem burger spots, vegetarian and vegan options, and much more.
10 must-try burger joints in illinois
Let’s kick things off with the top ten burger joints in Illinois that you simply cannot miss.
One of the most legendary burger spots in Illinois is Au Cheval in Chicago. Their signature cheeseburger with a thick-cut bacon and a fried egg is considered one of the best burgers in the country.
Next on the list is the family-owned and operated Redamak’s in New Buffalo. They’ve been serving up mouth-watering burgers since 1975, and their famous “Redamak’s burger” is a must-try.
If you’re looking for a casual spot with a great view, Nick’s Hamburger Shop in Brookfield is perfect. They’ve been in business since 1927, and their burgers are still made the exact same way using high-quality ingredients.
Other must-try burger spots in Illinois include Kuma’s Corner, Fatso’s Last Stand, Superdawg Drive-In, DMK Burger Bar, Small Cheval, Burger Bar Chicago, and Moody’s Pub.
For those who prefer a plant-based burger, Chicago Diner is the perfect spot. Their veggie burgers are made from scratch and are so delicious that even meat-eaters will love them.
If you’re in the mood for a classic diner-style burger, head over to Schoop’s Hamburgers in Hammond. Their burgers are made with fresh, never frozen beef and are cooked to perfection.
unique burger flavors to try in illinois
One of the coolest things about burgers in Illinois is the variety of unique and creative flavors you can try. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the “Ramen Burger” at Slurping Turtle in Chicago. It features a crispy ramen noodle bun, juicy beef patty, and a savory sauce.
Another mind-blowing burger flavor is the “Peanut Butter Bacon Burger” at Lucky’s Sandwich Co. in Chicago. The combination of creamy peanut butter and crispy bacon takes the classic burger to a whole new level.
For fans of spice, check out the “Ghost Burger” at Three Aces in Chicago. It’s made with a fiery ghost chili aioli, habanero jack cheese, and jalapeno peppers.
Other unique burger flavors to try in Illinois include the “Farmhouse Burger” at Farmhouse Chicago, the “El Cheddar” at DMK Burger Bar, and the “Hangover Burger” at Moody’s Pub.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, try the “Impossible Burger” at Kuma’s Corner in Chicago. This burger is made with a plant-based patty that looks and tastes like real beef. It’s topped with caramelized onions, pickles, and mustard.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, head to Burger Antics in Brookfield and try their “Donut Burger”. This burger is served on a glazed donut bun and topped with bacon and cheddar cheese.
why illinois is the burger capital of the midwest
So, what makes Illinois the burger capital of the Midwest? First of all, there’s the deep-dish pizza rivalries. When it comes to burgers, there is less debate about what makes the best burger. Secondly, Illinois is known for its abundance of high-quality beef. From grass-fed to corn-fed, Illinois farmers raise top-notch cattle.
The state is also home to some of the country’s most iconic fast food burger chains, including McDonald’s and White Castle. These chains have their roots in Illinois and have greatly influenced the way burgers are made and consumed across the country.
Additionally, Illinois has a thriving food scene with many restaurants and chefs dedicated to creating unique and delicious burgers. From gourmet toppings to creative buns, these chefs are constantly pushing the boundaries of what a burger can be. The annual Chicago Burger Fest is a testament to the state’s love for burgers, drawing in thousands of attendees each year to sample the best burgers from around the city.
how to make the perfect burger like illinois restaurants
Ready to try your hand at making the perfect Illinois-style burger at home? Here’s how:
Start with high-quality ground beef, preferably grass-fed. Form the meat into a patty and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked to your liking.
For the toppings, keep it simple. Fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion are always a safe bet. Cheese is a must, with cheddar, American, and blue cheese being the most popular options in Illinois.
As for the bun, opt for a soft brioche or potato bun. Toast it lightly on the grill before assembling the burger. Now, all that’s left is to enjoy your homemade Illinois burger masterpiece.
But what if you want to take your Illinois-style burger to the next level? Consider adding some unique toppings that are popular in the state, such as giardiniera (a pickled vegetable relish), sport peppers, or even a fried egg. These toppings can add a delicious and unexpected twist to your burger.
Another important factor in making the perfect Illinois-style burger is the condiments. Ketchup and mustard are always classic choices, but you can also try adding some barbecue sauce or even a special sauce made with mayo, ketchup, and relish. Experiment with different combinations to find your perfect burger sauce.
the history of burgers in illinois and their evolution
Believe it or not, Illinois has played a significant role in the history and evolution of burgers. One of the earliest recorded instances of ground beef being served between two pieces of bread was at the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair. This was the birth of the classic American hamburger.
In the 1920s, White Castle opened its first location in Wichita, Kansas, but it was in Illinois that the chain really took off. Today, White Castle operates over 400 locations across the country, including many in Illinois.
In the 1950s and 60s, fast food burger chains like McDonald’s and Burger King began to pop up all over the state, revolutionizing the way burgers were consumed. Today, burgers in Illinois are more gourmet than ever, with a focus on high-quality ingredients and unique flavors.
One of the most popular gourmet burger chains in Illinois is Kuma’s Corner, which opened its first location in Chicago in 2005. Known for their creative and unique burger combinations, Kuma’s Corner has become a staple in the Illinois burger scene. Other popular gourmet burger spots in Illinois include Au Cheval, M Burger, and DMK Burger Bar.
hidden gem burger spots in illinois you need to try
If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, check out these hidden gem burger spots in Illinois.
D’Arcy’s Pint in Springfield has been serving up delicious burgers since 1929. Order the “Horseshoe” burger, a local specialty topped with fries and smothered in cheese sauce.
Mighty Fine Burgers in Winnetka is a family-owned spot with a loyal following. Their double cheeseburger with caramelized onions is a standout.
In Decatur, head to Krekel’s Custard for a juicy burger and their famous frozen custard.
Other hidden gem burger spots in Illinois include Spence Farm in Fairbury, The Burger Barge in East Peoria, and The Malt Shop in Decatur.
If you're in the mood for a unique burger experience, check out Kuma's Corner in Chicago. This heavy metal-themed restaurant is known for their massive burgers, each named after a different metal band. Try the Slayer burger, topped with chili, cherry peppers, andouille sausage, andouille aioli, and anger.
comparing fast food burgers to gourmet burgers in illinois
While fast food burgers and gourmet burgers may seem worlds apart, there’s something to be said for both. Fast food burgers are quick, convenient, and affordable, while gourmet burgers are all about quality ingredients, unique flavors, and elevated presentation.
In Illinois, fast food burger chains like McDonald’s and White Castle still reign supreme, with their iconic burgers and convenient drive-thru service. However, there has been a surge of gourmet burger restaurants opening up in recent years, catering to those looking for something more elevated.
Whether you prefer the simplicity of a classic fast food burger or the complex flavors of a gourmet burger, there’s no denying that Illinois has something for everyone.
One of the most popular gourmet burger restaurants in Illinois is Kuma’s Corner, known for their unique burger creations and heavy metal atmosphere. Their signature burger, the Kuma Burger, features a beef patty topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg. Another popular spot is Au Cheval, which has been named one of the best burger joints in the country by numerous publications. Their burger is a double patty with American cheese, dijonaise, and house-made pickles on a toasted bun.
vegetarian and vegan burger options in illinois
For vegetarians and vegans, finding a good burger can be a challenge. Luckily, Illinois has plenty of options to choose from.
One of the most popular veggie burger spots in Illinois is Chicago Diner. Their “Radical Reuben Burger” made with seitan and topped with vegan cheese and sauerkraut is a fan favorite.
Amitabul in Chicago offers a variety of vegan burgers made with natural, healthy ingredients.
Other vegetarian and vegan burger options in Illinois include Native Foods in Schaumburg, LYFE Kitchen in Evanston, and Burger Antics in Brookfield.
For those looking for a unique twist on a veggie burger, Kuma’s Corner in Chicago offers a “Black Sabbath” burger made with a black bean and quinoa patty, topped with guacamole and tortilla strips.
For those outside of the Chicago area, there are still plenty of options. In Champaign, Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant offers a “Hippie Burger” made with a lentil and brown rice patty, topped with avocado and sprouts.
No matter where you are in Illinois, there is a delicious vegetarian or vegan burger option waiting for you.
the best toppings for a perfect illinois burger
When it comes to toppings, the options are endless when it comes to burgers in Illinois. Some of the best toppings to try include:
Cheese (cheddar, American, blue cheese)
Of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic lettuce, tomato, and onion combo.
But there are also some unique toppings that can take your Illinois burger to the next level. For example, try adding some giardiniera, a pickled vegetable mix that is a staple in Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches. Another great option is adding some tangy and sweet pickles, which can complement the savory flavors of the burger. And for those who love a little heat, consider adding some hot sauce or even a spicy aioli to give your burger a kick.
how to pair craft beer with your favorite illinois burgers
Burgers and beer are a match made in heaven. In Illinois, there are plenty of local craft breweries to choose from, each offering a unique selection of brews that pair perfectly with burgers.
If you’re a fan of IPAs, try pairing your burger with a hoppy beer like Pipeworks Ninja vs. Unicorn or Revolution Anti-Hero. For something a bit lighter, go for a pilsner like Half Acre Pony or Metropolitan Krankshaft.
In general, beers with a high bitterness and hop content are best paired with burgers, as they cut through the rich, fatty flavors of the meat and cheese.
Another great option for pairing with burgers is a brown ale. The nutty, caramel flavors of a brown ale complement the savory flavors of a burger. Try a local favorite like Two Brothers Domaine DuPage or Goose Island Nut Brown Ale.
If you’re feeling adventurous, consider pairing your burger with a sour beer. The tartness of the beer can balance out the richness of the burger and add a unique flavor profile. Some popular sour beers from Illinois breweries include Off Color Apex Predator and Penrose Wild 3.
burgers and beyond: other delicious foods to try at illinois burger joints
While burgers are the star of the show at many Illinois restaurants, they are often accompanied by other delicious offerings. At Kuma’s Corner, for example, the “High on Fire” burger comes with hand-cut fries and a range of tasty dipping sauces.
At Fatso’s Last Stand, the hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches are just as popular as the burgers.
If you’re a fan of fried chicken, be sure to check out The Roost in Chicago, which serves up some of the best chicken sandwiches in town.
secrets of successful illinois burger restaurants
So, what makes a successful burger restaurant in Illinois? According to industry experts, it’s all about quality ingredients, a unique concept, and excellent customer service.
Successful burger joints also tend to specialize in a particular type of burger and do it exceptionally well. They often have a strong local following and are active in the community.
At the end of the day, it’s all about creating a memorable experience for customers, whether that’s through delicious food, friendly staff, or a unique atmosphere.
the future of burgers in illinois: trends and predictions
As the culinary world continues to evolve, so do burgers in Illinois. One trend that’s likely to continue is the focus on high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.
Another trend is the rising popularity of plant-based burgers. Restaurants across the state are adding veggie and vegan burgers to their menus to cater to those with dietary restrictions or preferences.
Ultimately, the future of burgers in Illinois is bright, with more and more innovative chefs putting their spin on this beloved dish.
Illinois is home to some of the best burgers in the country, from classic fast food chains to gourmet burger restaurants. Whether you’re a beef aficionado or a vegetarian, there’s a burger in Illinois for everyone. We’ve covered everything from unique flavors and hidden gem spots to the history and evolution of burgers in the state. So, grab a burger and a cold beer, and enjoy all that Illinois has to offer.