Okay, after a minor pit stop, onward again with more of Chicago’s burgers! This time around, having conquered the burger shops closer to home, I decided to go a little further out in search of the best burger in Chicago. Our journey took us out to Kuma's Corner, hailed by many Chicagoans as the best burger joint in the city. Me? I wasn't so certain after having an altogether mediocre burger just a couple of days before at a place also known for great burgers. Still, how could I say no to a place where the burgers are named after metal bands, the servers have more tattoos than piercings, and the whiskey (multiple brands, mind you) is always flowing on tap?
Make no mistake, Kuma’s Corner is a hike to get to; if you don’t have a car, you might want to rent one to drive out here. The closest El stop is the Belmont Blue Line stop, and even then you still have to walk more than half a mile out to get to the place.
Once you do make it here, prepare to spend some time on the line ride. On a busy summer day, it’s not uncommon to wait more than 90 minutes to get a table. The bar is first come, first serve, and in my opinion much more preferable to standing around staring at everyone else chow down. At least they have great music piping through the PA. Still, if you’re coming with more than 2 friends in tow, the bar might not be a practical option, and you’ll be stuck passing the time wondering if there’s a classy way to ditch your friends for that closing window of an open bar seat.
My girlfriend and I arrived a little after lunchtime on a particularly drab & rainy day, so the line was surprisingly short compared to what I’d heard. There were maybe 7 people in line in front of us, and we were able to snag a couple of seats at the bar less than 15 minutes after showing up.
Unfortunately, as the designated driver, I couldn’t partake of the many top-shelf whiskeys on draft (Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, and Jack Daniels were the flavors du jour). But never fear, DDs! Kuma’s Corner has y’all covered with Sprecher root beer on tap. I had the bartender set me up with a pint, and oh my goodness was it refreshingly delicious. First of all, if you’ve never had anything other than Barq’s or A&W, you’re missing out; Sprecher’s is as good a craft brand as any to try. But to have it on tap was the icing on the cake. Beer (or root beer, in this case) in kegs has less carbon dioxide than those in bottles or cans, so not only does it taste fresher, it’s less filling as well, leaving you more room to fit those gigantic burgers or custom mac & cheeses the two chefs serve up on a constant stream (I feel so bad for those guys, especially during the peak of dining rush hour).
Trying to choose from Kuma’s Corner’s burger list is like showing up to the rich neighborhood on Halloween with a full bag of candy. There are so many amazing choices that it’s incredibly difficult to choose just one. That said, being paralyzed by options is a great problem to have, and it just gives you an excuse to come back for more. Weirdly enough, one burger caught my eye as soon as I opened the menu, and right then and there I knew exactly what I wanted. That kind of decisiveness doesn’t come often when I’m at a great restaurant; I seized it.
About 15 minutes later, I was served up the High on Fire, a 10-ounce medium-rare beast piled high with prosciutto, roasted red peppers, grilled pineapple, and topped with Sriracha sauce & sweet chili paste. Absolutely incredible. The first bite was a juicy combination of perfectly cooked ground sirloin, tender cuts of prosciutto, and an enticing combination of sweet & heat. Even Winnie, who despises sweet & spicy flavors, enjoyed the High on Fire enough to want another bite. And the bun? You’ll be glad to know I have nothing to say about the bun which, as you know, is the best comment I can give to a bun. Seriously though, it didn’t get in the way of the star of the show, and for that I’m grateful.
At Kuma's Corner, Megadeth isn't just what'll happen to you after you finish one of their monstrous 10oz burgers with fries and a beer. It’s also the name of one of their burgers. In fact, it’s what Winnie ordered up for lunch. Piled high with tortilla strips, salsa, chorizo hash, and a spicy avocado spread, it was a very creative concoction that toed the line between Midwest and Southwest flavors. The tortilla strips were critical, offering a satisfying crunch to what otherwise would have been a very mushy burger. Word of warning, however: the avocado spread looks eerily like a neat & tidy pile of poop, so if that kind of stuff has an effect on your appetite, you’d be wise to look elsewhere.
For renewing my faith in Chicago’s burger scene and giving me an excuse to headbang to Metallica at 2 in the afternoon, Kuma’s Corner earns 5 Cherries.