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The Big Baby—A Chicago Burger Style from the SW Side

The Big Baby—A Chicago Burger Style from the SW Side
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  • The Big Baby—A Chicago Burger Style from the SW Side

    Post #1 - November 15th, 2004, 10:57 pm
    Post #1 - November 15th, 2004, 10:57 pm Post #1 - November 15th, 2004, 10:57 pm
    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.

    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.

    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. Originally it had a simple yellow and white keystone-shaped sign but the new sign (a more stylized keystone) features a distinctive turquoise and pink combination and the interior has plenty of the same colors. The menu contains many of the Chicago fast food standards such as hot dogs, gyros, ribs, and Italian beef but the Big Baby remains Nicky's signature item. I assume the Big Baby was a response to McDonald's hugely successful introduction of the Big Mac in 1968.

    Basically a Big Baby is two griddled beef patties with cheese on a toasted sesame seed bun. It comes dressed with mustard, ketchup, dill pickle, and grilled onion. Upon ordering, the grillman slaps down two one-sixth pound patties onto the griddle and prods them a bit with the corner and edge of the spatula as they cook. The bun is placed alongside on the griddle to toast and catch a few spatters of fat. When the patties are almost done, a slice of American cheese is placed on one, and the other patty is put on top to hasten melting of the cheese. The bottom of the now-toasted bun gets squirts of mustard and ketchup, then 3 or 4 dill pickle slices are laid on. The burger stack is crowned with a tongful of pre-made grilled onions, transferred to the waiting bun, and the whole assembly is wrapped in a sheet of plain waxed paper. The price at Nicky's is $2.19 or two for $3.99. Not an elegant burger but greasy and good in a reassuringly old-fashioned way.

    I certainly don't mean to suggest that Nicky's was the first to make a double cheeseburger with grilled onions but they seem to have defined the style, coined the name, and spawned a host of imitators. A manager at Nicky's who has worked there for decades says there are now 40 or 50 places, almost all on the southwest side, serving Big Babies. That seems a bit high to me but it might well be true. When your eyes are trained, the area around Midway Airport (and beyond) seems to be crawling with Big Babies.

    Popper's, about a block south of Bobak's and a little north of Midway, has a turquoise and pink sign and interior and serves a pretty faithful rendition of the Big Baby. It's not surprising that the original owner, Anthony Vassiliou (the "AV" remains on Popper's sign), used to work at Nicky's. Like many competitors, they undercut Nicky's price but use smaller one-eighth pound patties. A Big Baby at Popper's is $1.79.

    Anthony's, on 63rd at the southeast corner of the airport, is almost a carbon copy of Popper's (itself a copy of Nicky's). This is Mr Vassiliou's current business; one of the many signs inside Anthony's informs us that they are no longer affiliated with Popper's. Their Big Baby is virtually identical to Popper's but costs 10 cents more. No substitutions, no exceptions.

    Over on Pulaski, next to Las Islas Marias, is a hamburger stand called Jacky's. They serve one of the cheapest Big Babies around for $1.69. It doesn't quite have the authentic Big Baby taste but it's a heck of a deal. Reportedly Jacky's is run by a relative of the Nicky's owner.

    Nicky's of 58th and Kedzie now has two other locations, one in Cicero and another in Alsip. There are quite a few other now-unrelated hamburger stands that go by the name Nicky's and serve Big Babies. The original Nicky's discusses the problem of the "other places" on the back of their menu and has changed their name to Nicky's—The Real McCoy.

    On 47th Street a mile and a half north of the original Nicky's is another Nicky's, without any turquoise and pink but with Big Babies ($2.39). These are made much the same as the originals but in addition to the standardized toppings they are dressed with shredded lettuce and a slice of tomato which just seems wrong. This Nicky's has an old yellow and white keystone-shaped sign, like the sign at the old 58th and Kedzie location before they moved and switched to turquoise and pink.

    A mile west, on Pulaski is another Nicky's with an identical yellow and white keystone-shaped sign. In addition to the old sign there is newer pink and blue neon to make it look a little more Nicky's-like. I asked if they were related to other Nicky's and before I could finish my sentence they answered no. The Big Baby is pretty much the same as at the 47th Street Nicky's.

    On Archer beyond Midway there's another Nicky's also with a yellow and white keystone sign but its shape and typography are a little different. The workers wear red T-shirts with white lettering and there is no pink or turquoise to be seen. The requisite pictures of Greece hang on the wall. This Nicky's serves a classic but smaller version of the Big Baby (without lettuce or tomato).

    There's another Nicky's on the southwest corner of 35th and Western but it has a plain rectangular sign, seemingly unrelated to the others. They serve a standard small version of the Big Baby.

    A mile west on 35th is yet another Nicky's but it doesn't serve a Big Baby. Instead they offer a Mama Burger! This truly disgusting creation is heavily dressed with a cheap tartar-sauce-like sandwich spread that makes me shudder to think about. Could the Mama Burger be the missing link between the Big Mac and Big Baby?

    Nicky's Grill on Western at 103rd in Beverly also sells what they call a Big Baby but here the patties are cooked on a gas-fired grill rather than a griddle. It is also dressed with lettuce and tomato. This is the most expensive Big Baby I sampled at $2.89 and also the least like the original, though not a bad burger at all. As an aside, their Italian beef was specifically recommended on Metromix but it's a very poor rendition.

    Farther south on Western at 115th is still another Nicky's and of course they serve a Big Baby. Although cooked on a griddle, it comes dressed with lettuce and tomato. Yes, there's a picture of The Parthenon on the wall.

    I haven't explored the suburbs much but when I heard that Kings and Queens in Berwyn changed its name to Nicky's I couldn't stay away. Sure enough Big Babies are on the menu ($1.79) and The Parthenon is on the wall. They're dressed with lettuce and tomato but are probably the best of that subgenre. The owner, Nicky (but not the original Nicky), used to own the Nicky's at 115th and Western and the one on Pulaski.

    One of the northernmost Big Babies I've noticed is at Mickey's in Oak Park. It is the cheapest Big Baby I've encountered, a special at $1.25, but is a Big Baby in name only for it lacks cheese. In its place, the grilled onions are inserted between the two small beef patties. To get what sounds like a Big Baby you need to order a Big Mickey.

    There are burgers called Big Babies in Greektown at Mr Greek but they're not very Babylike. The bun is barely toasted, cheese is on top of (as well as between) the patties, there's lettuce and tomato, but worst of all no grilled onions, only raw. Again, not a bad burger but it's no Big Baby.

    With those cheeseless and grilled-onionless exceptions, I have yet to come across a Big Baby that doesn't have a griddle-toasted sesame seed bun, condiments on the bottom, cheese between the two beef patties, and sauteed onions on the top. That seems to be the sacred formula.

    I'd love to hear about other Big Baby experiences. Does anyone remember Big Babies from the 1960s or '70s? Was there somewhere featuring them before Nicky's at 58th and Kedzie? How far north and east can Big Babies be found?

    Finally, I'd say the Big Baby from Nicky's at 58th and Kedzie, if not the best of the bunch, is probably the one to try first for an idea what a Big Baby is like. It's certainly not the city's best burger but is an interesting little piece of Chicago food history.


    Nicky's—The Real McCoy
    5801 S Kedzie Av
    Chicago
    773 436-6458
    Also at 11524 S Pulaski and 2400 S Cicero

    Popper's
    5341 S Archer Av
    Chicago
    773-585-5260

    Anthony's
    4720 W 63rd St
    Chicago
    773-585-7180

    Jacky's
    5415 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-767-7676

    Nicky's Hamburgers
    3140 W 47th St
    Chicago
    773-847-4026

    Nicky's Grill
    10255 S Western Av
    Chicago
    773-233-3072

    Nicky's Drive Through
    11500 S Western Av
    Chicago
    773-238-2855

    Nicky's Hot Dogs
    6142 S Archer Av
    Chicago
    773-585-3675

    Nicky's Carry Out
    3501 S Western Blvd
    Chicago
    773-847-6391

    Nicky's Carry Out
    1734 W 35th St
    Chicago
    773-254-7852

    Nicky's System Inc
    4601 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago
    773-523-4555

    Nicky's Drive Through
    7025 W Roosevelt
    Berwyn
    708-484-5550

    Mickey's
    525 N Harlem Av
    Oak Park
    708-848-3333

    Mr Greek Gyros
    234 S Halsted St
    Chicago
    312-906-8730
    Last edited by Rene G on September 22nd, 2005, 4:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - November 15th, 2004, 11:15 pm
    Post #2 - November 15th, 2004, 11:15 pm Post #2 - November 15th, 2004, 11:15 pm
    Wow. That is field work.

    Thank you.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #3 - November 16th, 2004, 12:21 am
    Post #3 - November 16th, 2004, 12:21 am Post #3 - November 16th, 2004, 12:21 am
    Hi,

    ReneG, BobS and I went to sample a Big Baby late this summer, thus I can offer a visual:

    Image

    The classic keystone signage:

    Image

    What's neat about ReneG's Big Baby research, once you are 'in-the-know' you begin to see them when you never saw them before. It's a great story, something right under our noses and almost lost in the shuffle. Great sleuthing on Rene's part, though I understand he was frustrated having to eat so many in his research.
    Last edited by Cathy2 on November 16th, 2004, 1:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #4 - November 16th, 2004, 12:45 am
    Post #4 - November 16th, 2004, 12:45 am Post #4 - November 16th, 2004, 12:45 am
    Rene,

    A magisterial contribution.

    I'm glad to hear that Kings and Queens in Berwyn does a credible Big Baby. They're nearby and, I'm a little embarrassed to say, I've never been there.

    Hammond
  • Post #5 - November 16th, 2004, 2:07 am
    Post #5 - November 16th, 2004, 2:07 am Post #5 - November 16th, 2004, 2:07 am
    David Hammond wrote:Rene,

    A magisterial contribution.

    I'm glad to hear that Kings and Queens in Berwyn does a credible Big Baby. They're nearby and, I'm a little embarrassed to say, I've never been there.

    Hammond


    Their big baby is fine, but I'll take a big mickey from mickey's over a big baby from nicky's any day.

    Stick to the gyros (greek village style, with feta+lemon, cut thick, crisped up on the grill), kabobs, buffalo wings (a big surprise, but very good), avgolemono, greek roasted potatoes (he runs out very quickly, but they're worth it if they have them) and the fruit milkshakes. Nicky is a shameless self-promoter, but he's doing all he can to improve the fare available in oak-park-area gyro joint food.

    the biggest complaint I have about the new K&Q/nicky's is that it closes much earlier than kings and queens did. This isn't really an issue for me now, since I no longer live in oak park and don't work until 1am, but back in the old days it was nice to be able to get a good burger at 3am on a friday night from somewhere other than harlo/river forest grill.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #6 - November 16th, 2004, 9:35 am
    Post #6 - November 16th, 2004, 9:35 am Post #6 - November 16th, 2004, 9:35 am
    gleam wrote:Nicky is a shameless self-promoter, but he's doing all he can to improve the fare available in oak-park-area gyro joint food.


    Ed, you mean "Micky," right?

    I like Micky's well enough, and some of my best friends are shameless self-promoters, but I've got to give K&Q a shot. Never been there, bro.

    Of course, Micky's has the advantage of Rainman at the Register, and he offers some high value menu selections.

    Hammond
  • Post #7 - November 16th, 2004, 9:38 am
    Post #7 - November 16th, 2004, 9:38 am Post #7 - November 16th, 2004, 9:38 am
    Yes, much kudos!

    Can I make the obligatory JeffB point that if this was LA, these baby's would be famous 8)

    And of course, that reminds me of Mickey's claim to have invented the chicken pita--from Hammond's reporting, a fact that I now verify all the time when going to Mickey's, because they love to make that claim. Ask.

    I too have to try King and Queens. Lately, we've been enjoying the Salerno's right over there, so we've been in that neck of the woods a lot.
  • Post #8 - November 16th, 2004, 9:43 am
    Post #8 - November 16th, 2004, 9:43 am Post #8 - November 16th, 2004, 9:43 am
    BTW, to ReneG, what inspired this?

    I mean I've heard many a people order the Big Mickey at Mickey's (I'm at Mickey's for one thing,the gyro's, so I've never tried), but I always just assumed it was just a Mickey's thing. I never would have connected it to this larger world of big baby's.

    Obviously, you are a scientist and trained to make conclusions from various data, but what got you going in the first place?

    Rob
  • Post #9 - November 16th, 2004, 10:01 am
    Post #9 - November 16th, 2004, 10:01 am Post #9 - November 16th, 2004, 10:01 am
    David Hammond wrote:
    gleam wrote:Nicky is a shameless self-promoter, but he's doing all he can to improve the fare available in oak-park-area gyro joint food.


    Ed, you mean "Micky," right?

    I like Micky's well enough, and some of my best friends are shameless self-promoters, but I've got to give K&Q a shot. Never been there, bro.

    Of course, Micky's has the advantage of Rainman at the Register, and he offers some high value menu selections.

    Hammond


    No, i was talking about Nicky of N icky's in berwyn..

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #10 - November 16th, 2004, 10:05 am
    Post #10 - November 16th, 2004, 10:05 am Post #10 - November 16th, 2004, 10:05 am
    Vital Information wrote:I too have to try King and Queens. Lately, we've been enjoying the Salerno's right over there, so we've been in that neck of the woods a lot.


    Regarding salerno's: It's not really real italian, but they make the best chicken caesar I've ever had, topping chef luciano's and the blackened chicken caesar at Earwax in bucktown (both very good, but which pale in comparison). The heavily marinated chicken breasts are grilled to order (two breasts for one salad, it seems), and the dressing, even though I suspect it's store-bought, seems to just work.

    On the other hand, never, ever order their wings, which are dropped into a fryer frozen from a bag, and the skin comes out slimy. Yuck.

    Stick to the italian or pseudo-italian. To this day I blame the wing experience on my own desperation.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #11 - November 16th, 2004, 10:11 am
    Post #11 - November 16th, 2004, 10:11 am Post #11 - November 16th, 2004, 10:11 am
    gleam wrote:Regarding salerno's...


    Is the Salerno's you mention here related to the Salerno's on Grand near Racine?

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #12 - November 16th, 2004, 10:16 am
    Post #12 - November 16th, 2004, 10:16 am Post #12 - November 16th, 2004, 10:16 am
    Yes

    Although in an odd bit of reverse migration, the Salerno family had restaurants in Berwyn first, then opened up a restaurant in Chicago. Given the Chicago's location in the old Italian neighborhood around Grand, you'd think the opposite.

    The Salerno's in Berwyn and Chicago are some of my favorite in the school of Chicago-Italian cuisine. They do some great things with greens, and their Chicken Salerno, ups the classic vesuvio, with the addition of the very complimentary chunks of sausage. Their pizza is excellent too, not as thin as "classic" Chicago.

    Rob
  • Post #13 - November 16th, 2004, 10:23 am
    Post #13 - November 16th, 2004, 10:23 am Post #13 - November 16th, 2004, 10:23 am
    To the point about whether or not the Big Baby was invented as a result of the Big Mac:

    There's no question that imitators of the Big Mac popped up immediately in the wake of McDonald's's marketing efforts. In Wichita, the local Sandy's chain (eventually bought out by Hardee's) had the "Big Scot" (they had a tartan theme going) which was announced in a commercial set to the tune of "Big Bad John":

    Big Scot
    Big Sco-ot
    Sandy's Big Scot (It's a giant of a meal!)


    That said... the Big Mac was, of course, an imitation of something that had existed for 30 years-- the Big Boy. Indeed, it's much closer to a Big Boy in its ingredients-- tripartite bun, 1000 Island dressing, lettuce) than the Big Baby is to either (with its non-canonical mustard, ketchup, grilled onion and so on-- though I must say, the first thing I do to a Big Boy on the exceedingly rare occasions that I have one is add mustard). So, I would bet that while the Big Baby took off in reaction to the demand for burgers like the Big Mac, I wouldn't be surprised if something like it existed before the mad scientists of Oakbrook invented their doubledecker "big" burger.
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  • Post #14 - November 16th, 2004, 10:39 am
    Post #14 - November 16th, 2004, 10:39 am Post #14 - November 16th, 2004, 10:39 am
    Mike G wrote:To the point about whether or not the Big Baby was invented as a result of the Big Mac:

    There's no question that imitators of the Big Mac popped up immediately in the wake of McDonald's's marketing efforts. In Wichita, the local Sandy's chain (eventually bought out by Hardee's) had the "Big Scot" (they had a tartan theme going) which was announced in a commercial set to the tune of "Big Bad John":

    Big Scot
    Big Sco-ot
    Sandy's Big Scot (It's a giant of a meal!)


    That said... the Big Mac was, of course, an imitation of something that had existed for 30 years-- the Big Boy. Indeed, it's much closer to a Big Boy in its ingredients-- tripartite bun, 1000 Island dressing, lettuce) than the Big Baby is to either (with its non-canonical mustard, ketchup, grilled onion and so on-- though I must say, the first thing I do to a Big Boy on the exceedingly rare occasions that I have one is add mustard). So, I would bet that while the Big Baby took off in reaction to the demand for burgers like the Big Mac, I wouldn't be surprised if something like it existed before the mad scientists of Oakbrook invented their doubledecker "big" burger.


    I have a vague recollection that the Big Mac was "invented" by a McDonald's franchisor in Pittsburg in response to some kind of company contest or challenge.

    Surely, there was a period in the 60's (or so) when all sorts of burgers were being modernized and fostered on the eating public. There's a lot of forgotten/defunct chains like Burger Chef, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Jack-in-the-Box (not totally defunct) that created some kinda burger/bread/sauce combo. In LA, the birth of the modern burger, nearly all the places have some kinda gimmick, either a sauce or chile. That pre-dates or is contemporay with the Big Mac.
    Last edited by Vital Information on November 16th, 2004, 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #15 - November 16th, 2004, 10:39 am
    Post #15 - November 16th, 2004, 10:39 am Post #15 - November 16th, 2004, 10:39 am
    i grew up at 53rd and Kedzie and Nicky's family of Greeks had a 2 flat down the block from us. Oh how i miss them...and the original Gertie's.

    The southwest side was a great place to grow up in the 70's and 80's...

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
  • Post #16 - November 16th, 2004, 10:55 am
    Post #16 - November 16th, 2004, 10:55 am Post #16 - November 16th, 2004, 10:55 am
    Yeah, note that in my Wichita report way back when, the idea of putting mayo, lettuce, tomato etc. on a burger was specifically associated with California (and thus chains like Jack in the Box, etc.), even at a new faux-retro chain:

    Interestingly, in a real instant-retro touch, where the standard burger is 30s style (as shown), if you want it with lettuce and tomato, they call that "California style," as if lettuce and tomato on a burger are a wacky innovation that just arrived from the land of fruits and nuts. Try it-- I know it sounds crazy, but you just might like it!


    And don't forget Ray Kroc's attempt at a "burger" which was even more exotically tropical-- the Hula Burger! Clearly, the 60s were a golden age of fast food experimentation.
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  • Post #17 - November 16th, 2004, 12:30 pm
    Post #17 - November 16th, 2004, 12:30 pm Post #17 - November 16th, 2004, 12:30 pm
    Fantastic!

    Thanks, Rene, for the thorough and scholarly report. Absolutely fascinating stuff!

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

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  • Post #18 - November 16th, 2004, 2:19 pm
    Post #18 - November 16th, 2004, 2:19 pm Post #18 - November 16th, 2004, 2:19 pm
    Rene G:

    thank you for your magnificent post and for this beautiful sentence in particular:

    Rene G wrote:When your eyes are trained, the area around Midway Airport (and beyond) seems to be crawling with Big Babies.


    It sounds like you had a great time doing the research for this topic! Were the people you spoke to eager to talk about the history of Big Babies?

    Amata
  • Post #19 - November 16th, 2004, 3:10 pm
    Post #19 - November 16th, 2004, 3:10 pm Post #19 - November 16th, 2004, 3:10 pm
    Stopped by Nicky's (formerly Kings and Queens) for lunch, and had the Big Baby with lettuce and tomato ("best of that subgenre," ReneG) and it was, not surprisingly, vastly better then the Big Mac, Big Boy and other corporate variations on the large meat theme. The sammy was so hot that the ingredients wedded together in steaming bliss, beef and cheese becoming one, a mother and child reunion of tomato and catsup, mustard cuddling a pickle, it was crazy tasty.

    While there, I thrilled to other taxonomic variations on Big Babydom:

    - Babyburger: Me: "So the Baby Burger is just like a regular hamburger." Nicky, "No, no, no, it has nothing to do with a regular hamburger. Baby Burger is small burger, which is specially seasoned by me, and it comes in a yellow dough bread. Same as Bellybuster, but without garlic butter sauce. Very tasty. 99 cents. And they sell like pancakes. 2 and one-half times bigger than the White Castle." Did someone say "shameless self-promoter"? Gotta love the guy though; he's proud of his work.

    - Double Burger Big Baby: Standard BB, no cheese

    - Bacon Big Baby: Standard BB with bacon

    - Western Big Baby: Standard BB with bacon and BBQ sauce.

    - Gyros Big Baby: Standard BB but with two cheeses, available on bun or pita, AND gyros meat

    - Sweet Big Baby: according to Nicky, "I make my own sweet sauce, it's sort of like Thousand Island dressing. Sort of like that."

    - Triple Big Baby: Three patties and two slices of American cheese

    I like this place, however, in parentheses, a warning: (A Nicky's Drive Thru System restaurant)

    Nicky's Drive Thru
    7025 W Roosevelt
    Berwyn
    708-484-5550
  • Post #20 - November 16th, 2004, 3:39 pm
    Post #20 - November 16th, 2004, 3:39 pm Post #20 - November 16th, 2004, 3:39 pm
    And of course, the Condiment Queen and I went off to Mickey's for 2 Big Babies with cheese, a/k/a Big Mickey's.

    And we liked it. As Hat notes, the key thing seems to be the heat of the burger and the way it melts to the extreme, making it almost like cheese whiz, the cheese between the buns. In fact, the intensity of the melted cheese makes up for the lack of slices on both slabs of meat. I found the grilled onions a bit much for my taste, taking about 1/2 of the off. It was not the best slab of meat in Chicago, but a a whole lot better than its price demanded. The CQ actually called it close to Top Notch Beefburger, but I would not go that far.

    Tomorrow, maybe Nicky's (although we also have our eyes on the combo Jerk Chicken/Loan shop on 1st Avenue in Maywood near where we can fill up the car with cheap gas.

    Rob
  • Post #21 - November 16th, 2004, 3:43 pm
    Post #21 - November 16th, 2004, 3:43 pm Post #21 - November 16th, 2004, 3:43 pm
    Hi,

    I found on the one Big Baby I've sampled, the cheese between the patties practically disapeers melting between the little cuts made into the patties while on the griddle.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #22 - November 16th, 2004, 4:19 pm
    Post #22 - November 16th, 2004, 4:19 pm Post #22 - November 16th, 2004, 4:19 pm
    Vital Information wrote:And of course, the Condiment Queen and I went off to Mickey's for 2 Big Babies with cheese, a/k/a Big Mickey's.


    VI,

    You might want to let Mickey's Rainman know that Nicky's has pirated yet another of his inventions: the gyros burger.

    David "The Future Belongs to Dreamers" Hammond

    PS. Nicky's also has a rather mysterious menu item: "Greek Chicken Like Gyro"
  • Post #23 - November 16th, 2004, 4:40 pm
    Post #23 - November 16th, 2004, 4:40 pm Post #23 - November 16th, 2004, 4:40 pm
    David Hammond wrote:PS. Nicky's also has a rather mysterious menu item: "Greek Chicken Like Gyro"


    I'm pretty sure, but can't prove it, that the 'greek chicken like gyro' is a grilled chicken breast sliced and served in a pita like a gyro. Don't quote me on that.

    And when I say someone is a shameless self promoter, I really mean it. He doesn't stop, especially once he gets to know you. On the plus side, once he gets to know you sometimes he'll try menu items on you. He once served me a bit of chicken breast coated in fish-style breading and then immediately fried. With a little wing sauce it was spectacular. I'm not sure if he ever put it on the menu..

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #24 - November 16th, 2004, 9:08 pm
    Post #24 - November 16th, 2004, 9:08 pm Post #24 - November 16th, 2004, 9:08 pm
    Like so may others, I too had a Big Baby today at Nicky's. I went to the one called "The Real McCoy" on 58th and Kedzie. The burger was as described. An excellent example of a unique burger genre. I am very interested in trying the Nicky's/Kings and Queens varient with the lettuce & tomato. My Big Baby was very good, but was ultra meaty and in need of a little vegitation IMO. I didn't miss the second piece of cheese at all.

    Nicky's - "The Real McCoy" Big Baby
    Image
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #25 - November 16th, 2004, 10:30 pm
    Post #25 - November 16th, 2004, 10:30 pm Post #25 - November 16th, 2004, 10:30 pm
    David Hammond wrote:I like this place, however, in parentheses, a warning: (A Nicky's Drive Thru System restaurant)

    Nicky's Drive Thru
    7025 W Roosevelt
    Berwyn
    708-484-5550


    I do like that brand name, especially since the drive through there is ultra-primitive (they push a rod to open the window, take your order, take your money, give you your food, all while at the same window, all manual). I've never had much luck ordering through the drive through.. orders often get garbled.

    I'll say once more, though, the food at nicky's in berwyn is better when nicky is there. This is obviously going to be true at most restaurants, but it's especially true there. Don't skip it even if he's away, but realize that it might not be peak performance.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #26 - November 16th, 2004, 11:48 pm
    Post #26 - November 16th, 2004, 11:48 pm Post #26 - November 16th, 2004, 11:48 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:once you are 'in-the-know' you begin to see them when you never saw them before.

    Absolutely. Please remember to post (or email me) your Big Baby sightings. I have checked a number of fast food and gyros places on the north side and haven't seen any yet. There must be some though. I should have thanked Cathy for the tip on Mr Greek (and Bob for pointing out that the new sign is a stylized keystone).

    gleam wrote:Stick to the gyros (greek village style, with feta+lemon, cut thick, crisped up on the grill), kabobs, buffalo wings (a big surprise, but very good), avgolemono, greek roasted potatoes (he runs out very quickly, but they're worth it if they have them) and the fruit milkshakes.

    I look forward to returning to Nicky's/K&Q to try some of your recommended items. Had to stay focused, you know.

    Vital Information wrote:BTW, to ReneG, what inspired this?

    I'm pretty sure I had a Big Baby from Nicky's (58th & Kedzie) years ago and, other than feeling it was a decent burger, never gave it much thought. A year or two ago I noticed the Nicky's on 47th with its window sign advertising Big Babies. Then there was a post by alisonmackenzie that briefly mentioned the Nicky's on Archer (I had meant to refer to this but it got deleted in a revision). Earlier this year I stopped at Anthony's and saw they served Big Babies. Clearly they were all over the place but whenever I mentioned Big Babies to other Chicagoans, it drew a blank. I became a bit obsessed with tracking them down. Eating Big Babies was my summer hobby.

    Mike G wrote:To the point about whether or not the Big Baby was invented as a result of the Big Mac:

    That sounds completely reasonable. Nicky's burger, or something similar, probably preceded the Big Mac (I'm quite sure there were Nicky's in Chicago before 1968). I assumed the name Big Baby was a response to the Big Mac but it could have been in use earlier.

    Amata wrote:It sounds like you had a great time doing the research for this topic! Were the people you spoke to eager to talk about the history of Big Babies?

    When I started tracking the Big Baby, I eagerly devoured each new specimen but soon became less enthusiastic. The problem is, if you want to talk about Big Babies with the counter people, you really have to order and eat them. I began eating only a half, then a quarter. The Mama Burger put an end to my research a few weeks ago. One bite of that nasty thing was more than enough.

    I found that many owners were more than happy to talk about the Big Baby but getting consistent stories was not always possible. A few people were very suspicious and not willing to part with any information. I especially enjoyed talking with the manager at the 58th & Kedzie shop and Nicky at the old Kings and Queens. I had hoped to speak with Mickey about the Big Baby (no doubt he invented it) but didn't get around to it.

    David Hammond wrote:While there, I thrilled to other taxonomic variations on Big Babydom:

    Glad you enjoyed your Baby. They really do hit the spot every now and then but, believe me, it's very possible to overdo it! The Berwyn Nicky's is unique in their array of Big Baby variants. I almost had to order a Gyros Big Baby but just couldn't bring myself to do it.

    Vital Information wrote:And of course, the Condiment Queen and I went off to Mickey's for 2 Big Babies with cheese, a/k/a Big Mickey's.

    I also thought Mickey's version was very respectable, especially considering the price. I never did get back there to try the Big Mickey though. Does it have only the 'classic' dressings (i.e., no lettuce and tomato)? I do think Mickey's is an exemplary fast food place.

    Steve Z wrote:My Big Baby was very good, but was ultra meaty and in need of a little vegitation IMO.

    Steve, that's an exceptionally nice portrait of a Big Baby. It actually made me hungry for one, and I didn't think that would be possible for a long time! I'm of two minds on the lettuce & tomato issue. You're right that lightening up the burger could be a good thing. Other times I'm convinced that crunchy iceberg lettuce has no place in the steamy/greasy/meaty world of the Big Baby.
  • Post #27 - November 16th, 2004, 11:49 pm
    Post #27 - November 16th, 2004, 11:49 pm Post #27 - November 16th, 2004, 11:49 pm
    gleam wrote:I'll say once more, though, the food at nicky's in berwyn is better when nicky is there. This is obviously going to be true at most restaurants, but it's especially true there. Don't skip it even if he's away, but realize that it might not be peak performance.


    Ed,

    I noticed that Nicky was (gently) cracking the whip when I was there ("Hey, is that baby ready yet?!). It doesn't surprise me that the ship runs more surely on course when the skipper is there.

    One point that I don't believe has been mentioned yet is the range of menu items available. There must be over 125 or so. Also, the specials looked interesting (today, he was offering what seemed to be 4 lamb chops for 8 bucks -- I cannot confirm this, because the magic marker was smeared on the daily specials sign, but the very fact that he serves lamb chops is interesting to me -- not standard drive thru fare).

    Hammond
  • Post #28 - November 16th, 2004, 11:56 pm
    Post #28 - November 16th, 2004, 11:56 pm Post #28 - November 16th, 2004, 11:56 pm
    Rene G wrote:
    Steve Z wrote:My Big Baby was very good, but was ultra meaty and in need of a little vegitation IMO.

    Steve, that's an exceptionally nice portrait of a Big Baby. It actually made me hungry for one, and I didn't think that would be possible for a long time! I'm of two minds on the lettuce & tomato issue. You're right that lightening up the burger could be a good thing. Other times I'm convinced that crunchy iceberg lettuce has no place in the steamy/greasy/meaty world of the Big Baby.


    Thanks for alerting me to the existance of the Big Baby. Going back to the Big Mac/Big Baby discussion. It is entirely possible that rather than the Big Baby being named for the Big Mac, the exact opposite could be true. Remember that McDonald's is a Chicago based operation and that Ray Kroc and his boys were nothing if not well informed about their market and eager to add new menu items. Maybe Ray himself tried a Big Baby one day and the light bulb went on over his head.

    In terms of North Side Big Babies, I can't recall ever running into one, but I'm going to check Sally's drive-in, as they have a very extensive menu of burgers that I have not really studied closly. If there's a North Side varient, I'll bet Sally's will have it.

    P.S. I imagine the letttuce on a Big Baby to be quite wilted and not crunchy at all...in keeping with the texture of the cheese.

    P.P.S. The shape of the sign reminds me not so much of a keystone but more of a cone of gyros. :lol:
    Last edited by stevez on November 17th, 2004, 12:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #29 - November 17th, 2004, 12:07 am
    Post #29 - November 17th, 2004, 12:07 am Post #29 - November 17th, 2004, 12:07 am
    stevez wrote:Thanks for alerting me to the existance of the Big Baby. Going back to the Big Mac/Big Baby discussion. It is entirely possible that rather than the Big Baby being named for the Big Mac, the exact opposite could be true. Remember that McDonald's is a Chicago based operation and that Ray Kroc and his boys were nothing if not well informed about their market and eager to add new menu items. Maybe Ray himself tried a Big Baby one day and the light bulb went on over his head.

    P.S. I imagine the letttuce on a Big Baby to be quite wilted and not crunchy at all...in keeping with the texture of the cheese.


    Jim Delligatti, an owner/operator in Pittsburgh, I believe, developed the Big Mac for his two-fisted steel working clientele. (Did I ever tell you about the time I shared a Filet-o-Fish with Lou Groen, the inventor of the Filet-o-Fish? No lie.)

    Yes, the lettuce on my baby was wilted like green crepe paper on a rainy St. Patrick's day. It added color, but was otherwise pointless.

    Hammond
  • Post #30 - November 17th, 2004, 12:10 am
    Post #30 - November 17th, 2004, 12:10 am Post #30 - November 17th, 2004, 12:10 am
    David Hammond wrote:Jim Delligatti, an owner/operator in Pittsburgh, I believe, developed the Big Mac for his two-fisted steel working clientele. (Did I ever tell you about the time I shared a Filet-o-Fish with Lou Groen, the inventor of the Filet-o-Fish? No lie.)

    Hammond


    Leave it to Hammond to come up with some cold hard facts to throw water on the raging speculation.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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