The Burgers of Chi (land)
Bill's Drive In, located in Evanston, is more like a Walk In. Its a spot people have been walking into for lunch for over 50 years now. I think at one time or another it might have been an actual drive-in and the architecture of the building and its menu have all the classic 1950's drive-in characteristics. While I am not positive I think I remember hearing that Bill's which dates back to around 1949 might be Evanston's oldest restaurant. Bill and the building itself have been on a few hot dog related documentaries due to its having been around for quite a while and the history behind it. Odds are if you grew up in Evanston then you've been going to Bill's since you were a kid.
Bill and his Old School Building are a real neighborhood type spot
The menu at Bill's is pretty much what you would expect it to be. They offer hot dogs, burgers, chili, fries and maybe one or two more things and that's it. There is no seating inside and lets just say that most of the time the employees working are also very "old school". During the summer months there are picnic tables outside but most people take their orders to go or eat in there car. For hot dogs they use Leon's skinless which I'm not big on and top them with mustard, relish, pickles onions, tomatoes, sport peppers and lots of celery salt and are served on a S. Rosen's bun. The fries are ehh and I never get them. Bills is a "one item pop it in your mouth shop", meaning there's only one thing I get there-the burgers. So my only decision to be made each visit is whether I want a single, double, triple or quadruple. I think that the double is the perfect amount of meat to bun ratio at Bills and so I usually go double cheese with mustard, onions and pickles. If you ever wondered what McDonalds cheeseburgers tasted like before they went all toxic on that ass, I think Bill's would be a good example.
Burgers at Bill's have been popular with locals for over 50 years
I've pointed out before that I'm a big fan of the 30's style burger that's similar to a McDonald's cheeseburger, but in ingredients not taste. Chicago food expert Mike Gebert, who is also an expert on the 30's style origin, explains them like this "a hamburger then was a very thin patty (10 or more to the pound) with grilled onions, cheese, mustard and pickle, which when placed piping hot into a paper wrapper tended to sort of bake itself into a more unified, bierock-like wholeness as opposed to the kind of hamburger that's a 1/2-lb. slab of beef with lettuce, tomato and 15 other things piled high on a bun." A few years back Mr. Gebert also called Bills "the closest thing to this style he has seen around Chicagoland" and I always agreed that its a pretty good no frills burger joint with very favorable prices.
double cheese prepped the 30's style way
Overall Grade: B-
Strengths: Its a decent above average example of a classic old school burger, the type McDonald's became a brand on. They haven't changed a thing as far as preparation of the burgers and walking inside feels like a tiny time warp and its a fun place to stop for lunch if your in the area. If your an old building aficionado, Bill's has a cool one.
Weakness': Unless your expecting the best burger ever or if you don't like this burger style then its hard to be disappointed in Bill's a s a whole. However they do use frozen patties and in case you haven't heard by now. There is this brand new really good burger shop in Evanston that is serving up fresh ground crispy edged and gridded burgers.
Bill's Drive In
120 Asbury Ave
Evanston, IL 60202