May 7, 2012

25 Degrees

Location: 736 N. Clark (Chicago Red Line)
Cost: $20-25
25 Degrees on Urbanspoon

Continuing on with the burger theme!  And for that matter, celebrations all around.  You see, today was the absolute very last class of med school.  That's right, after this it's a couple weeks of relishing in the ability to do absolutely nothing for the last time in my life.  And then I get the MD, MPH added to the end of my name, and the whole game changes.  I would be more euphoric about the whole last class of med school thing if it weren't for the fact that I've been through a number of "lasts" these past few weeks...the last rotation, the last exam, the last paper, presentation...and the list goes on.  I've honestly become so used to it being the last [fill in the blank] that it probably won't hit me for real until that last day of med school, when we walk across the stage, get our degrees, and say howdy to the real world, many of us for the first time in our lives.

All seriousness aside, and having read this blog, I'm sure you know how serious I love to be, I decided to get some peeps together to celebrate this joyous occasion.  So I rounded up Ajwad, Dan, and Kyle, and we headed down the street to 25 Degrees for some burgers as big as our moment in the sun.

I was surprised to find out that 25 Degrees was a chain of sorts - there are three locations (for those of you keeping score, that's 75 Degrees in all), but the other two are both in SoCal.  The owners did a hell of a job with the design of the place, though, because I couldn't detect a shred of Cali in the ambiance.  Save, of course, for the awkwardly-clad waitresses that made the place feel like a cross between Gibsons and Hooters.

Since it was relatively early for dinner, we were seated quickly in a comfy semicircular booth.  I hear the place gets pretty busy during peak dining hours, so make sure to come early or get a reservation if you're bringin' the house for dinner.

I've gotta say, the personal chandeliers for each booth was a nice touch.  They have the oddest phenomenon, too, illuminating the entire restaurant well, while keeping each booth relatively dark (hence the incredibly dim photos to come...I apologize in advance) due to their design.  Great for keeping up the image of classiness in your date's mind while plowing through a face-sized burger.

Paying homage to my alcoholism PSA from yesterday's post, I decided to go pair a Bruce Cost ginger ale with my burger.  If you've never had unfiltered ginger ale, it's definitely worth a try.  Fair warning - it can get real gingery, so pour it in a glass of ice if you want a less gasp-inducing experience.

The rest of my buds followed suit, ordering up Strawberry and Chocolate-Banana shakes.  Both are incredibly delish, but make sure you've got enough room to finish your burger when you order one of these bad boys, because they nearly prevented all three of my friends from doing so.

Now here's where we get into the good stuff.  I ordered up a plate of Spicy Tuna on Crispy Eggplant appetizers, and these creative little amuse bouches arrived in front of us.

These bites literally made the meal for me.  The spicy tuna was finely chopped and well-seasoned (although I would have preferred a little more spiciness) with a nice slightly sweet glaze drizzled on top, but the eggplant stole the show.  Breaded and tossed in the deep fryer seconds before they arrived on our doorstep, it was the perfect vehicle with which to drive the tuna into our bellies.  Crispy on the outside, with a clean, meaty finish that only eggplant can achieve, the eggplant made me believe that everything would be better with a little fried eggplant on it.  It was a moment of absolute culinary Zen.  Forget potato skins, I'll take eggplant "skins" any day of the week!

See what I mean about the giant burgers?  That, my friend, is a face burger.  I took the Number Three, which included Mezzo Secco Jack cheese, Hatch Green chiles, chipotle sauce, and avocado.  As always, you can create your own concoction of meat, cheese, sauce, and extras, although do so at your wallet's peril, because everything (except LTOP - lettuce, tomatoes, onions, & pickles) costs extra.  One of these days I'll come in and order a burger with every possible cheese on it: 16 different gourmet cheeses on a half-pound beef patty, for a grand total of $41.

I wasn't too enthused about my burger.  Maybe my mouth was on a taste hiatus after being fed one of the greatest appetizers of all time, but this burger just didn't excite me all that much.  There was surprisingly little kick for what seemed to be a burger designed for spice-lovers, and the Hatch Green chile was cooked too much for my taste.  The one redeeming quality about the burger was the avocado: cool, creamy, and a great complement to the overly saliva-absorbing egg buns.

I really, really disliked those buns.  It kind of tasted like Hawaiian bread, if you've ever had that, but had a little tinge of sweetness to it.  Mostly, though, it dried my mouth faster than you can say "side effect."  And trust me, you'll be reaching for your glass of water with each bite.  Just way too high of a bun-to-burger ratio.  Those of you who read my previous post on Burger Bar know that the best thing I can say about a burger bun is absolutely nothing.  So you have an idea of how strongly I feel about these burger buns.

The upside is, these burgers are enormous, and one will fill you up even without fries, sides, or a sneakily delicious shake.  I didn't have the room to try the other burgers that were ordered, but they looked just as appetizing.  Minus the bun, of course.  Dan and Kyle both got the Number One, a more classic burger joint kinda burger, with carmelized onion, Vella Toma cheese, Aderkasse Reserve bacon, arugula, & thousand island dressing.  Ajwad opted for the Number Four, a yellowfin tuna burger with butter lettuce, crispy fried onions, & spicy aioli.  Both burgers got pretty rave reviews from their consumers, who didn't have the same vociferous objections to the bun as I did.

As if all that weren't enough, we decided to get an order of fries for the group.  These were real tasty, definitely twice-fried with a distinctively McDonald's-like quality to them (that's a compliment, seriously).  Sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and parsley flakes, I really wanted to have more, but unfortunately, they were a little oversalted.  And, of course, I was way too stuffed, as evidenced in this gigantic post, doing justice to the size of our meal.

For showing me the Tao of the eggplant before sucking all my saliva away with those burger buns (a phenomenon applicable only to me, apparently), 25 Degrees earns 3.5 Cherries.


  1. Excellent burgers and fries. Service is also great. The owner is generally there, which you don't often see in restaurants, and on more than one occasion he serviced us and took the time to interact with us and make sure we enjoyed everything.