Saturday: The Black Beetle, Chicago & Campbell
We rendezvous at the Beetle before heading to the Hideout Block Party. My pal Julie has told me for months that this is the best burger in the city and I have to try it. After I scold her for not having tried Maiz despite living around the corner from it -- it has taken me an hour to reach the Black Beetle -- we order. I ask for mine rare, don't make any big deal about it, get something that's between medium rare and medium -- still just a touch of red in the center but pretty dry. I prefer my burgers reasonably thick; this one, despite being an ostensible half-pound before cooking, is too flat and thin. Of course, thin burgers are too easy to overcook. But it's got a decent beefy taste, and the fries are those quintessential fries with a crisp shell and a puffy, creamy interior. I had a torrid but short love affair with those fries, and I'd do it again.
Conclusion -- go for the fries and treat the burger as a side dish.
Sunday: Moody's, Broadway just north of Thorndale
So I've moved to Edgewater and I no longer have an excuse -- I have to try this famous burger. Make a few calls, everyone's called it a night early, but I find a table for one on the back patio. I order it with bacon and cheddar, rare, not making any fuss about it. Get a medium but still somewhat juicy burger -- they at least understand that if you're going to overcook it, you have to keep the fat in there to give it the moisture it needs. It isn't greasy, though; it is a well-mixed ground beef. Again, beefy taste, but the fries aren't doing much for me, and while it's a juicy burger, it's still overcooked.
Conclusion -- I'm glad it's in the neighborhood, a few minutes' walk away, but I'm a little skeptical; this isn't my idea of a destination burger. I appreciate that it's better than the burger joints most neighborhoods are stuck with, but mostly I'll go because it's a quick trip.
Monday: Schuba's, Belmont & Southport
So it's Sept. 19, Arrested Development somehow got renewed for a third season, and my cable isn't hooked up yet. Schuba's comes through by offering a viewing party. I'd planned to get the fried chicken, but it's off the menu, and nothing else appealed to me -- the burger it was. When I ordered, having been burned (so to speak) by my last two experiences, I asked, "Do you make burgers a genuine rare -- real *red* inside? I'd like one but if you can't do that, I'm happy to order something else." The waitress looked at me as if I were from Mars and said simply, flatly, with a shrug, "No problem." And, by god, I got a rare burger, good exterior crust and an interior so red that it would've stopped traffic. Great roll, the best of the three, sopping up the burger's juices but staying intact. Crisp greenleaf lettuce and what were clearly thick handcut tomato slices topped it off -- nothing industrial or supplied here. Fries were a notch above Moody's but did not attain the levels of the Black Beetle's fries.
Conclusion: Wow. Winner, and the only destination-level food, by far. Everything is right about this. I'll go to Moody's because they're nearby and I sometimes get lazy; I'll go to Schuba's because I love burgers, dammit. (And if I'm around the Black Beetle, I'm near Maiz, and that's my destination spot there.)