Chicago’s 10 best new burgers of 2021 are some of the meatiest, juiciest and messiest in town
APR 29, 2021AT5:00 AM
Chicago's best burgers of 2021 so far can be found at restaurants including (clockwise from top left): Big League Burgers, Bianca's Burgers, Kapitan, Shiddy Burger, Three House and JT’s Genuine Sandwich Shop.(Nick Kindelsperger)
Even though the pandemic slowed down burger openings in 2020, it could never hope to stop the public’s insatiable demand for ground beef on a bun.
But the pandemic did seem to influence the kind of burgers restaurants were serving. Instead of handsomely presented burgers with lots of froufrou toppings, the rise of takeout over the past year meant that chefs mostly tried to keep things simple.
In particular, the pandemic has seen a rush of new smash burgers, a style very close to my burger-loving heart. It’s the kind where a chef tosses a handful of ground beef on a griddle and literally smashes it down with a spatula until flat.
You’d think this would simply press out all the juices, but if done immediately before the meat gets warm, the losses are minimal. Plus, the meat gets a righteous sear from full contact with hot metal, developing complex, meaty flavors that grilled burgers couldn’t dream of replicating, along with craveable crispy edges. If you’ve ever tried Steak ’n Shake, Shake Shack or Culver’s, or even local favorites The Region or Schoop’s, then you know what I’m talking about.
The Tribune has extensively researched the best burgers in Chicago, including when I once tried 130 to find the bestin the cityandin the suburbs. These nine new burgers from restaurants that opened in the past year — plus one that technically opened in 2019 but deserves love nonetheless — prove Chicago chefs will always find inventive new ways to make this classic dish.