Monday, May 30, 2011

The Lake Mills VFW Post #67

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Wisconsin

I was up in the Madison area late last summer to start the weekend off on a Friday and was finally able to check out another well known and much loved WI burger place due to the timing. With this being the end of May which is National Hamburger Month and also Memorial Day, I thought now was the perfect time to post about this All-American Hamburger stand serving one of the great 'Burgers of WI'. Since it was a Friday I was able to make a pit stop in Lake Mills while en route to Madison. Lake Mills which is pretty much in between Milwaukee and Madison on the map. The Lake Mills VFW American Legion Post #67 is yet another seasonal summertime shack selling burgers along the sidewalk in the state. If you follow this site, live in or 'Travel Wisconsin' you know what I'm talking about.

Image Image
A line starts forming around 11a and rarely goes away the rest of the day

I had never heard of this place when I was at school in Madison otherwise I would have been there. However they are only open on Friday's from May thru October. They open at 10a and close when the burgers run out, usually around 7 or 8p. You know they are open or closed when the American flags seen in the picture below are hoisted. Just like Pete's Hamburger's which were previously featured on chibbqking, the menu is limited and burgers are ordered "with" or "without" which are the onions filling Main street with a pungent aroma. The only difference from Pete's at the Post is that cheeseburgers are available. Its been this way since 1926 when they used to be sold out of a cart across the street in the park. The sidewalk stand was built in 1950. Freshly ground chuck patties are delivered every Friday morning along with a 50 lb bag of onions. Water and cans of pop along with T-Shirts are your only other options.

Lake Mills, WI

I arrived at the stand a little before 11a that Friday. It was easy to find, just follow the highway exit to Lake Mills and it takes you right into town onto Main street. Roll your windows down and you'll smell the onions and when you see a line along the sidewalk with some American flags waving in the wind, you'll know your there. The people making the burgers are Vets and volunteers who love to make the burgers for the people of the town who have eating them for generations on end. Although these burgers are pretty basic they are full of greasy flavor.

The menu and your choices (click pic to enhance)

Locals call these sliders but they are about the same size as a McDonald's cheeseburger so I wouldn't call them that, since it was early I only ordered two, both cheeseburgers "with". The patties are deep fried (yep!) and from what I was told by the guy next to me they are seasoned with only black pepper after they come out. The onions are chopped and cooked to a perfect translucent color and are as potent as you will find. If I've learned anything about seasonal Wisconsin burger stands its that they are all experts in the onions department. Along the side there are bottles of ketchup and mustard and all the napkins you need which you're going to need because these things are greasy. When I took one out of the bag in the butcher paper it was already soaked thru. They packed quite the punch and although I wasn't hungover I knew that these would be the perfect remedy for one. The burger was in my mind the rest of that day and has come back quite a few times since. I need to get back there one Friday this summer. Good stuff indeed. Check them out.

cheeseburger "with" from the Lake Mills VFW Post

American Legion Post #67 Hamburger Stand*
133 North Main Street
Lake Mills, Wisconsin 53551
(920) 731-1265

*Seasonal and open Friday's only (May-Oct.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

San Antonio Bean Burgers

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

Grilling season is here and it's also National Hamburger Month so to celebrate we're going to grill up an old regional favorite. Last week I headed over to the grocery store and since I already had some fresh ground beef and buns as well as Velveeta and Ro*Tel canned tomatoes I picked up a few things I needed to finally try a San Antonio Bean Burger. These heart stoppers are the way the locals of San Antonio Texas like their hamburgers and they are not to be confused with the bean burgers of California which replace the beef with beans and are popular with Veg-Heads.

What your going to need, plus the buns (click pic to enhance)

I'm told warm sunny weather is coming sometime soon and it was here for a day or two last week so I brought out 'The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook' (seen in pic above) written by legendary Houston foodie/writer Robb Walsh. If you don't own this, go get it before summer, it's got some great grilling recipes with everything from regional Texas burgers like these to actual barbacoa in your backyard. In fact you should own all his books if you like real deal authentic bbq or grilling recipes for big strapped and ready (Texas) men. Not only are the recipes authentic but the books are great for traveling, letting you know where you need to go in Texas and abound and the history and people behind each place. Check 'em out.

Ingredients (from the book)

4 Tex Mex burger patties, your choice of size
4 Hamburger buns
1 Cup of Refried Beans (recipe in book or your own)
1 Bag of Fritos corn chips
1 Cup of Chile Con Queso (recipe in book)
1 small can of Pickled Jalapeno slices
1/2 cup raw diced onion

The exact ingredients for a bean burger vary on where you go in San Antonio and another popular way to cook these there is over a mesquite fire. So I used some mesquite chips that were burning strong when I threw the patties on the grill. I liked this touch as it only took on a hint of the smoke since they was being grilled for about 7-8 minutes. Chile Con Queso is a popular Texas snack and consists of melted Velveeta chunks with grated cheddar. You can also add things that you think might be good in a melted queso dish. I added some Ro*Tel brand diced tomatoes and green chilies in there too to make it even better, that's what some Texans do.

Ro*Tel Chile Con Queso

So before you start grilling (get the grill hot) you wanna make sure you got everything ready to go. Place the Fritos in a bag or bowl and crush them. Make sure your refried beans are next to the Fritos and hot for when you add them on to the buns. Cut up the Velveeta into chunks and add it into a micro safe bowl and set that aside and butter your buns.

Note: Do not melt the Velveeta until ready to eat and add in selected amount of Ro*Tel with some juice before or after melting. The cheese stays melted for only so long so you gotta melt it and then use it right away and serve burgers immediately.

Start off by grilling your Tex Mex Patty (hand patted beef with a Tex-Mex rub, chopped garlic, Serrano peppers and Worcestershire sauce) until desired doneness. When you flip the patty for the first time bring out your buns and toast them on grill for a minute or two. Bring in the buns and burgers when ready and let burgers sit while you start making the buns. Add a layer of refried beans to the bottom part of each bun and then dip them in the crushed Fritos and set them aside. Chile Con Queso followed by raw onions go on the top portion of each bun.

The bun is ready for a bean burger

Place the hamburger patty on the bottom bun and put the pickled jalapeno slices on top and make it into a burger. I also used banana peppers on mine. Some places make their bean burgers with a salsa on top as well. There are people like to use grilled onions and others use a round thinly sliced raw red onion. Just make sure you use some form of a onions and jalapeno combination would be my suggestion.

a San Antonio Bean Burger in Chicago

I really liked these, more than I even thought that I would in fact. I've been wanting to make them for a while but I never had the time or already had other dinner plans for that day when I wanted one. I'll without a doubt crave one sometime soon and have to make them again for some friends and fam. As Robb Walsh explains in the Backyard Cookbook "The Fritos sound like a terrible idea, but they make the bean burger sing. The soft beans and crunchy corn chips add a new level of textural interest to the hamburger. And Fritos were invented in San Antonio, after all...". One day in this life of mine I will eat my way thru Texas for a year and call it a career.

Now off to the store to get some Tums and Rolaids...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

M Burger

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi

I got a chance to try M Burger (for free) when they were giving their signature burgers away with the purchase of anything else on their menu. My regular readers know I don't often go downtown to the newer much hyped Yelpi like places. I had heard mixed things about the burger and was already downtown when I got a text from a friend telling me they were free that day so I hopped on over. M Burger is a lettuce entertain you enterprise and opened up a couple years back just off Michigan avenue on Huron. They also have a 2nd location on Ontario. The place as you would expect was packed when I visited with the free burgers. There's not alot of room inside and most visitors take their orders back to the office or where they work at near the location that their at.

a popular downtown Chicago burger stop (Ontario st. location)

The menu is pretty simple with the burgers being the star of the show. They use hearty Midwestern beef and fresh ingredients and are available in singles and doubles. Chicken sandwiches, a chopped chicken salad and shakes round out the menu along with sides of fries. I ordered a regular sized fry and got their signature M burger for free on my visit. The M burger is a double cheese with bacon and their secret sauce which is similar to all other burger spots "secret sauce" or thousand island and other ingredients. You get your choice of topping which include the usual suspects and if your paying the burger is $4.49 and you know what? I liked it. I thought it was a tasty palate pleasing hamburger. If I had an office near an M Burger I would be there a couple times a month. Good fast food, fairly priced in an area that for the most part has neither.

The Signature M Burger

M Burger
161 East Huron
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 254-8500

M Burger on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Anchor Bar and Grill

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Wisconsin

Is there anybody out there that does up the Burgers of Wisconsin like myself? I don't think so. Last summer me and a friend took a cruise up into Wisconsin that brought us around the entire state. We even spent one night in Duluth, MN which was an absolute blast with some great eats including a legendary burger located over the bridge across the lake in Wisconsin. The Anchor Bar and Grill is well known for its burgers and good times throughout the state. They've been serving the locals of the Twin Port's (Duluth and Superior) since 1977 and judging from my first ever visit I don't think much* has changed. The bar sits in an unassuming building on a vacated block in a deserted part of town. The only other thing in the vicinity and open after 8p was another low key bar with the same designed building as Anchor a half block down and there was also a steak house and cocktail lounge a few blocks down around the corner. The town was eerily quiet the Saturday night we visited.

a locals/tourist favorite in Superior, WI

The old school bar is very dimly lit and somewhat narrow with the bar being on your left as you enter and the kitchen at the end in back with tables filling out the spot to your right. The walls are filled to the max with anything having to do with sailing and boating. There wasn't a line since the dinner rush was ending but the place was pretty much packed with there being a few seats at the bar right in front where we entered. So we sat down where I where I always like to sit when visiting popular locals spots and placed an order for a drink. I went with a large Grain Belt on tap.

The view from my seat at the bar

By the descriptions and accounts from people who told me I had to go here, they had me thinking it was one of those locals spots where they can be crabby and arent trying to make any friends but the bartender and burgermaker were really nice and very helpful. She actually had the same camera as me and couldn't figure out one of its functions and I showed her how to do it and she gave us the next round on her. The crowd was diverse with there being a few older locals and a younger 20's and 30's crowd out to start their night as well as some families both local and tourists and they were all there for the burgers and many for a beer or two as well.

Grain Belt Draft in the big boys glass

Burgers are pretty much all they do and they come hand patted in 1/3 patties which are listed in the "1/3 pound Burger" section which is one of three parts of the menu with the other two being "Bigger Burgers" and "Other Grub" so there are no appetizers or anything else of that nature. You can add on fresh cut fries for $1 and that's well worth it, as the fries at Anchor are as good as any bar out there. The 'Other Grub' section has grilled cheese (plain or with ham) and the bartender told me that people have now been coming in and ordering burgers with grilled cheese's as the bun's aka Fatty Melts, though she also said don't tell too many people. Sorry sweetie.

The 1/3 pound Burger Menu (click pic to enhance)

The 1/3 Pound Burger section is impressive with there being many options as you can see on the menu above. The one they claim is very popular and was first done at Anchor is the Cashew Burger which comes with cashews and Swiss cheese. I was tempted but with this being my first visit I had to go BIG. In the bigger Burgers section they have the Anchor Burger which is two patties with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese and the Galley Buster which is three patties (one pound) and three slices of cheese. I went with the Galley and the others did up the Anchor. The only thing they're going to ask you upon placing your burger order is if you want your onions fried or raw and "do you want fries with that." Yes you do.

Anchor Burger with fries

Despite being featured on roadfood and always mentioned in any best burger in Wisconsin list and always talked about when talking best burger in the Lake Superior region Anchor Bar hasn't changed much and the 1/3 pound burgers will cost you around $4 with fries while the Galley Buster will set you back $6.50 with fries. Quite a steal for a city boy like myself. The beef is always fresh and delivered that morning and the taste of it is what stands out most when eating their burgers. In case you didn't know, this is a good thing. The Galley burger might look like one of those gimmick eats seen in many tourist places and on Food Network but that it is not. This was my 2nd favorite burger of this trip and we went to nine spots so stay tuned, May is National Hamburger Month and it's all burgers all month on chibbqking.

The Galley Buster Burger from Anchor Bar and Grill

The burger isn't all that hard to eat you just had to have two bites to finish off top and bottom but the beef was very fresh so some bites it tasted like the burger that it was while other bites where I got no bun it was like eating a meatloaf. I wasn't even fully stuffed but I wasn't able to convince myself to order a fatty melt if for anything just to have a few bites and snap a few shots, so it did get me full. The burgers tasted like I'm sure many would say "they used too". About the only thing that's changed over the years has been the jukebox. *When our bartender in her upper 30's, lower 40's went over to the jukebox after some old time regulars told her to play something, I was expecting maybe some Led Zeppelin or Lynyrd Skynyrd maybe even some Kid Rock but instead she rocked a trio of Lil' Wayne songs and I found that pretty funny. Great atmosphere and ambiance with a luxurious tavern burger aside some great fresh cut fries make Anchor Bar well worth the visit if in the area. Without a doubt one of my favorite burgers anywhere. It took about 10 minutes to get there from downtown Duluth. Please check back throughout the summer as we have many more 'Burgers of WI' to be featured. See ya next time.

three patties, three slices of of Wisco's biggest and best

Anchor Bar
413 Tower Avenue
Superior, WI 54880-1048
(715) 394-9747

Anchor Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rail Grill

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi

Just this past winter we were doing some work in Blue Island when we rolled by a place I had never been nor heard of. The Rail Grill is a breakfast and lunch stop popular with residents of the community and commuters on the Metra who's Blue Island stop is just a short walk away, hence the name. It's pretty much what you would expect from a popular spot in the Blue Island area. Hot coffee and good hearty cheap eats. What drew me into the place was a sign in the front proclaiming the Rail Grill to be the home of the 'Derailer' hamburger.

a locals favorite in Blue Island

Intriguing, I think I need to try...

As we entered inside we were greeted by a very nice older lady working the front so we took a seat at one of the tables but they also have a U shaped counter that goes around the waitresses word area with stools to sit on for all the regulars. The walls are covered in old time railroad pictures from when Blue Island was a railroad hub for many manufacturing companies who shipped their product all over.

The inside

I have always long thought that the biggest (and best tasting) burger in Chicago is from Illinois Bar & Grill so I had to try a derailer. When I was there they had a group of six regulars all on a lunch break age ranging from college to adult and they were happy to be there eating the burgers. When one of theirs came out they showed it to me as he held it in hand and said "look at that, amazing aint it" and he was very happy to be getting full while on lunch break. I got mine with bacon and it was still under $7. Were talking a massive one pound patty, fresh patted with all the fixin's. The burger came out cooked medium well but who am I to complain? I was happy with my hamburger and barely able to finish it. It's easy to see why the hard workers from the neighborhood like to eat at the Rail. They make fresh home style cooked recipes at a very fair price. I see no reason this wouldn't be my regular lunch stop if I worked near there. Check them out. Happy Hamburger Month. Stay tuned, more to come.

a Derailer with bacon from The Rail Grill

Rail Grill
2239 Vermont Street
Blue Island, IL 60406
(708) 597-4343

Rail Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jim's Hamburger Heaven

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi

Happy National Hamburger Month. All burgers, all month long. Last Fall I was driving on North ave when I cruised by on old seasonal shack I had long wanted to try and that day would finally be my time to do so. Jim's Hamburger Heaven is a seasonal walk up hamburger stand with some damn good root beer located at the corner of North ave and York street in Elmhurst. It's been a summertime tradition in the area dating back to the 1940's. Let's take a look, shall we?

a locals favorite in Elmhurst, IL since 1948

We all know how the seasonal summertime shacks always entice me and Jim's Hamburger Heaven had done so for a while before I finally got to stop. I was always either full from eating a combo at Johnnie's minutes before, not too far away down North ave, or I was passing by in the winter when they are closed. As seen in the photo above they also have a Richardson Root Beer keg which is an old popular brand not often seen anymore. I cant verify as to whether they just make their own these days or this is the old brand that used to be popular back in the 50's but a search seems to show it's not around anymore. However I can verify that's it's a legit brew and far from commercial. Now whenever I pass by which isn't often I always stop in for at the very least a root beer float to get my fix of fresh brewed root beer. They still serve the root beer out of an old wooden RICHardson Root Beer barrel and just like the old company used to say, "it's rich in flavor".

Root Beer from the barrel at Hamburger Heaven

The go to food choice at Jim's Hamburger Heaven are, well duh, the hamburgers. The most popular burger ordered by generations of family's from the Chicago suburb is the double decker. They claim theirs came before the Big Mac. Everything on a double decker cheeseburger from Jim's include the same things as a Big Mac including a secret sauce. The other popular choice is their olive burger which is a double decker (minus the special sauce) with sliced green olives. The history of the olive burger seems to trace back to the Lansing, Michigan area. Oddly enough with as much as you find on the internet these days there isn't that much on these out there. But enough searching leads you to some forum talk and reviews of the olive burgers from Lansing and other places in the Western Michigan area.

Part of the menu outside the ordering window

An olive burger is a burger served with sliced green olives and a mayo like sauce on top. I'm sure many places have their own way of making them and some places are said to put lemon juice and black pepper in the mayo/olive mixture as well as juice from the canned olives while others just use mayo and sliced green olives combined. Over at Jim's they serve them with a mayo blend and sliced green olives on the bottom in double decker form. I enjoyed my olive burger more than I thought I would when I tried one for the first time. It just worked for whatever reason and I now look forward to having another from Jim's Hamburger Heaven this summer. I hope to also find a famous place for them in Michigan or somewhere else, so if you got a spot let me know. Stay tuned, many more to come.

Olive Burger from Jim's Hamburger Heaven in Elmhurst

Jim's Hamburger Heaven
281 North York Street
Elmhurst, IL 60126
(630) 832-3535

Jim's Hamburger Heaven on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nick's Hamburger Shop

-Got beef?
The Burgers of South Dakota

Today we head to South Dakota to check out the final place I ate at while in state on en epic roadtrip I took last fall. Stay tuned as June is travel month and there will be travel reports all month long including my entire trip to SD. Brookings was a was a hopping little town on the early Friday afternoon we visited. Our destination was located along along Main street which was as good of a Main Street as any I've seen over the past year while taking these country journeys. The street had it had it all and most every shop was still occupied with what looked to be generation old occupants. Nick's Hamburger Shop is right along Main street and they've been serving sliders from that same spot since 1929. My type of place, as I love sliders.

Nick's Hamburger Shop in Brookings, SD "buy 'em by the bag"

From the looks of the place on the outside it seems Nick's may have been on the White Castle bandwagon (there were many) with its design, it has however survived and had people coming in and out for their Nicks fix while I stopped in that fine Fall day. Nicks has plenty of seats swirling around the inside making a U around the holy grail centerpiece which sits in the middle of the shop. As you can see from the picture below their grill has been around for a while. They have kept the charm and ambiance of the old days too and its a regular stop for current and former SDSU students and anyone who's from around that way.

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The tiny grill where burgers are made and a bag of burgers

Surprise, surprise, well not really but I really like me some hamburgers. I am not sick of them at despite eating them almost weekly and Nick's is yet another example of why. The word 'burger' such a loose term and they come in so many forms and styles that in most cases a hamburger from one place is entirely different than one from another. They're also very American and I've been hitting the roads all my life and you wont find better tasty regional variations of anything else out there. Nick's sliders were a little different than and not exactly sliders. They were fresh balls grilled on the griddle seen in the pic above. They smashed them and then they are placed on local baked buns and dressed with your choice of toppings. They don't grill the onions and burgers come with mustard, ketchup, relish, onions and pickles. If you order cheese they just plop it on and don't wrap it in wax and thus doesn't really melt. I liked the hamburger with mustard, pickles, onions and their signature relish the best.

Nick's cheeseburger

Nick's Hamburger

So after Nick's it was out and about for a quick exploration of the town and then back on the road where we would knock some hours off while heading back to sweet home Chicago. Stopping in Brookings which was a couple hours out of the way also allowed us to go through Minnesota as opposed to Iowa (report coming) where from there I decided we would go to the Mississippi near Winona, MN and take The Great River Road down thru Iowa and into the Quad Cities and back over to Chicago. So as always, stay tuned and or check the tags (labels) at the end of story for more stories on a particular place or regional eat. I leave you with some snaps from the streets of Brookings, South Dakota.

Main Street

An old neighborhood creamery

a now abandoned bar/supper club

Nick's Hamburger Shop
427 Main Avenue
Brookings, SD 57006
(605) 692-4324

Nick's Hamburger Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 13, 2011


-Got beef?
The Burgers of Minnesota

Hello again my friends. As those who have been here before know it is National Hamburger Month and we are celebrating with all burgers, all month long. Today we head north to Rochester, MN which is a place I visited last Fall while on a road trip that took me thru six different states. I had never been to Rochester but it was alot more than I thought it would be. With the Mayo clinic, IBM building and a university along with a population of 100,000+ I was quite pleased with it and happy to be staying there that Friday night. We stayed downtown which is near the clinic and really well taken care of and vibrant and alive on the Weekends, especially the night we were there, people were out. We took a stroll around town and stopped in for drinks at some bars and are options were a few spots with no appeal and Newt's.

A popular spot for burgers in Rochester, MN

One of the nice people we met while walking around mentioned that Newt's was the only place in Rochester mentioned in Minnesota Magazines best burgers in the state and has been the locals favorite burger basically since it opened in 1980. Its a bar/restaurant housed on the 2nd level of a building complex, you walk thru the outdoor dining area of another restaurant and into the back and then up some stairs and into Newt's. I really liked the place upon my entry, it was dimly lit and had groups of people throughout at the tables that were out enjoying the start of the weekend and it had a really nice vibe inside. They had tables with stools and a nice bar section which is where we sat to take a look at the menu.

My view from the bar

The burger in itself was enough to get me there but then when my friend with me read off her iPhone that they make everything fresh including freshly ground on site beef, an everchanging selection of homemade soups, fresh baked breads and everything fried is hand dipped including the mozzarella stix, chicken sandwich and fish and chips and I was really sold. Along with all that they have a nice tap beer list and a really chill and funny bartender, my type of place. We started off with a small order of the mozzarella sticks, something I usually never get since they're all the same. These were the best I have had and although that's not saying much since they're almost always frozen, I would eat mozz stix more often if they were all fresh cut and hand battered like these. Good stuff indeed.

Hand dipped mozzarella sticks from Newt's

Next up was the burger. They had a nice selection of different options and I had my eye on the 'Todd' Burger which came with bacon and two fried eggs. So then after asking what was the most popular burger and the bartender telling me it was the Todd, that's what I got. Remember the beef is ground fresh, the burger is hand patted and cooked to your request, meaning it's a nice size and it goes on a fresh homemade bun which is buttered and then grilled. I was very excited when the burger came out and brought a wonderful aroma along with it.

Todd Burger (double bacon, double egg and choice of cheese) from Newt's

In the end this was a fantastic bar burger with the beef and bun being top notch and then the bacon was cooked to a perfect crispness. I saw quite a few reviews about how the service was bad and burgers overrated but not on my visit. So if your ever in the area and want a burger and beer this is most definitely your spot if they give you what I got. Rochester was just a stopover on our way back but I really enjoyed the place. Please do stay tuned as June is travel month here at S'C'&C and the entire trip that took us thru six states and a whole bunch of roadfood regional eats and a few other ideas for some fun this summer can be seen then.

The insides

Newt's Bar
216 1/2 1st Ave SW
Rochester, MN 55902
(507) 289-0577

Newts on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chicago's Big Baby

-Got beef?
The Burgers of Chi

As we continue with our celebration of National Hamburger Month were headed to the Southwest side of Chi to check out a style of burger loved by the locals. I was first put onto the 'Big Baby' by LTH resident food expert Peter Engler aka Rene G. Having grown up on the Northside I had never had nor heard of a Big Baby until Peter shared with the rest of the city what they are. This is what he had to say "About 35 years ago a double cheeseburger known as the Big Baby was introduced at Nicky's, a small Greek-owned diner on Chicago's southwest side. Its popularity spread and there are now dozens of places serving almost exactly the same burger under the same name. I think it's safe to say that a good many Chicagoans are unaware of this indigenous Chicago hamburger style." It was very safe to say since most people not from out that way had never had one until Peter put the rest of the city onto the 'Big Baby'. Nowadays after hearing about them every time I ride around that way I see all sorts of Nicky's serving Big Baby's.

Along Western just off 47th

Located along Western

Spotted along Cicero

Peter would go onto share "I have to admit I'm not sure precisely where and when the Big Baby originated. I spoke with quite a few people and got quite a few different stories, not all of them consistent. It seems that during the 1960s a Greek gentleman named Nicky opened a number of hot dog and hamburger stands on the southwest side. Eventually he sold them and returned to Greece. The stands that still bear his name (and their many offshoots) continue the Big Baby tradition." Anyone who spends time in or has been around the area will know that there are what seem to be 100's of 'Nicky's' around town. While most have no relation to the other they all share the same name and have Big Baby's on the menu.

Nicky's "The Real McCoy" at 58th and Kedzie in Gage Park

Last summer I stopped in at a few of the Nicky's around town when I was hungry and had myself my own search for Chicago's best Big Baby. I had always been intrigued by the Nicky's on Kedzie seen up above and finally stopped in after I learned about the Baby. Peter tells the story so much better so I quote him again "If Nicky's Drive In in the Gage Park neighborhood wasn't the first to serve Big Babies it was certainly among the earliest. It opened in 1969 as a little diner on the northeast corner of 58th and Kedzie, a block north of the Colony Theater and the original Gertie's Ice Cream Parlor (actually it started a little before that but was bought by its current owner in 1969). In 1981 it moved across the street to its current larger quarters on the southeast corner of 58th and Kedzie."

The Big Baby is what the locals go with

So what exactly makes a Big Baby? You start off with two griddled beef patties with a slice of cheese in between which goes into a toasted sesame seed bun and comes dressed with ketchup, mustard, pickles and grilled onions. Peter believes that they were born as an answer to the Big Mac which McDonald's introduced in 1968. It's easy to see why the burger became so popular as they are usually quite good and the price is always right. You shouldn't pay more than $3 for a Big Baby no matter where you are. In fact it's popularity has grown to the point where you can find a Big Baby way north in the 'burbs and other places away from the Southwest side. The 'Real McCoy' Nicky's serves up a very appealing Big Baby. I liked it very much for what it was. The grilled onions were great and this example was what I remember to be my favorite.

a Big Baby Burger from Nicky's at 58th and Western

Our next stop isn't far from the original, located at 47th and Kedzie is Nicky's Hamburgers. Nowadays 47th street is a hot bed for Mexican food and shops but a few of the old time places still remain and Nicky's Hamburgers is one of them. This Nicky's had always caught my eye when driving by due to it's old school looks. Straight out of another era it sits there in it's tiny hut and is a popular place for the local high school kids and blue collar workers of the neighborhood.

a locals favorite on 47th at Kedzie

So I finally stopped in last summer and got around to trying a hamburger from here. Obviously with the name and location of the place I knew my burger was going to be a Big Baby and as I walked up to the register to place my order I saw this sign below. Huh, I guess for whatever reason they discontinued serving Big Babies for a little while but customer demand brought them back. Right on as this was a very nice bang for your buck burger. It was under $3, tasted beefy and filled me up right, you cant ask for much more at that price. Easy to see why it's a popular place around that way.

What makes a Big Baby...

I'll have a Number One please, no ketchup

a 'Big Baby' from Nicky's Hamburgers

It's not only the places with 'Nicky's' in their name that serve up Big Baby's. You see so many of these stands are popular and well known that eventually followers started popping up. Places that were started with the original Nicky's in mind. Some go by Mickey's, others like the next one were going to stop in at switched it up somewhat and call themselves 'Jacky's'. This one is located on Pulaski near 54th and I stopped in one winter night.

a locals favorite on Pulaski at 54th street

Guess what I got?

The Big Baby from Jacky's tasted like, you got it! a Big Baby. I imagine some folks reading this may be asking themselves "what's so special about a double cheeseburger" and the truth is, not much. The toasted sesame seed bun is about the most unique thing about these burgers and that's not all that unique to begin with. But what makes them special is how the name caught on and they became their own style. The original has spawned a heck of alot of imitators and Big Baby's now a part of the food culture in this area of the city. It's said that around Midway there are more than 50 places that serve Big Baby's today, way up from the original one which started at 58th and Kedzie in 1969. Go try yourself one this summer and get a taste of Chicago.

a Big Baby from Jacky's on Pulaski

Nicky's "The Real McCoy"
5801 South Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 436-6458

Nicky's on Urbanspoon

Nicky's Hamburgers
3140 West 47th Street
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 847-4026

Jacky's Hot Dogs
5415 South Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 767-7676


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