Deep in the heart of Chicago, surrounded by monstrous towers of terracotta and steel, lies a small, unregarded establishment, just one story high; a modest building indeed, yet a cave of wonders once one sets foot in what I would like to call Burger Paradise. And with reason.
|Complete understatement, nothing fancy outside of pink Neon. Photo by Justin Henry.|
Remember Scarface, that film starring Al Pacino as a drug magnate in the early eighties? The decor would be one that Tony Montana would be seen in, with touches reminiscing the 1930's and 1940's Golden Age of Chicago Gangsters –Al Capone included-, with a touch of kitsch from Coppola's set designers mixed with the environment of any Chicago-based John Hughes film. The original furniture dates from the post-disco age, and it is mixed with murals evoking a flavor of Dick Tracy noir and the Coco-Bongo in The Mask. Straight of a comic book with an acid twist!
|Two eras into one at Boston Blackie's. Photo by Justin Henry.|
I sat down in one of their leather-upholstered booths, and was attended promptly. The staff was friendly and down-to-earth, they knew their menu and could verify that, in the course of my three visits, that each waiter/waitress had their own opinionated choice for their recommendations, a much better choice than recommending the "star dish" or a generic option for those undecided.
Now, let's get down to business: their burgers. There are many factors that make a good burger, including, but not limited to: meat quality, consistency, bread, supplement quality, seasoning, juiciness, sauces, weight, after-flavor, smokiness and bun texture/softness. Boston Blackies pretty much aces all of these categories, and I will describe why...
For starters, the bun is buttered and grilled slightly, enough to be firm and slightly crunchy, far from anything resembling grease-dipped bread. The cook did anticipate that the juicy burger in between would slowly soak the bun, the matter was when, and the challenge was for it to be as late as possible, yet eventually. Once you sink your teeth into the meat, chopping through very crisp tomato, tasteful blue cheese and –in my case– the slight acidity of Heinz Ketchup, you will be transported to a whole dimension once these ingredients all fuse under your palate. The consistency of the beef used in their burgers makes for the most astoundingly perfect patty I have ever had. It is somewhat granular in nature, allowing for the slow crumbling of the patty as you bite, still keeping isolated caspules of flavor as you chew. Even in rare/medium-rare form, the meat was cooked to a healthy standard without renouncing to extreme juiciness, far from traditional above-alive bloody meat. A large bite will not disappoint: the proportion of bread to beef to other ingredients is calculated to be a full, wholesome, juicy gnaw... no air, no fluff. Just melty tender goodness.
Their fries are massive and in generous amounts, fried to a degree of rightness that almost feels boring, too standard. Be warned, the hamburger is the reason to come to this establishment; ordering anything else would be sacrilege, and, if it so happens to be your only time in town, you may have deep regrets after you find out where the treasure chest lies in this apparently average restaurant.
Price should be in the $12-$15 range with your choice of drink, well worth every penny. Usually you will end up in that pleasant fulfillment that does not feel stuffy but cancels the possibility of dessert.
|Pay close attention to the meat consistency. Photo by Justin Henry.|
Boston Blackie's has two locations: one in Chicago itself and one in Deerfield. I had the chance to visit both more than once, and the Chicago branch would beat its counterpart any day of the week. However, as I have read rumours of the downtown establishment closing, the Deerfield restaurant will not disappoint to those who are active in the quest for a burger that is more Nirvana than it is meat.
120 South Riverside Plaza
(312) 382 0700
405 Lake Cook Rd.
(847) 418 3400