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A top-notch south side beefburger (but NOT that one...)

A top-notch south side beefburger (but NOT that one...)
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  • A top-notch south side beefburger (but NOT that one...)

    Post #1 - September 2nd, 2005, 9:04 pm
    Post #1 - September 2nd, 2005, 9:04 pm Post #1 - September 2nd, 2005, 9:04 pm
    It's been a weird food week. Four hours of kaiseki at Matsumoto, the next night another long eating and wine-tasting binge at Volo (still terrific), but at other times fast food crap shoveled in hurriedly as I tried to get some things done before the weekend-- I ate at Boston Market once, for cryin' out loud. When the week was over I needed a real meal, I needed adventure, I needed the thrill of discovery. I needed a place that had a sign like this:

    Image

    I had spotted Petey's Bungalow during a reconnoiter of Oak Lawn. Oak Lawn, specifically the stretch on 95th in the Kedzie-ish area E-W, which (along with its neighbor to the east Evergreen Park) is one of the great undiscovered food gems of the area, if vintage neon signs for still-operating businesses is any guide-- I want to go back and try Wolf's Bakery, Rosangela's Pizza (Since 1957-- see Mike G's rule*), and many more.

    These are places that hardly exist on the Internet; a search for Petey's Bungalow found only one cryptic reference from a reader on all the Tribune's many sites, for instance. I got there at 5:45 and the parking lot and the bar were already packed. Almost as good as the sign, the first thing I saw as I walked in was... a cigarette machine. Talk about something that was once a ubiquitous sight in dining out, and now... if I've seen one in the last five years, it was at the Smithsonian. Not even John's in Calumet City still had cigarette machines. (Though it wasn't at all smoky.)

    Looking around the room decorated with the sort of old fashioned nature scenes and still lifes even your grandmother doesn't have any more, I was at least ten years younger than anyone in the place, and most of them 25. The waitresses were the sort of white-haired ladies you'd like to have on your side in an alley fight. Mine whipped this down in front of me:

    Image

    --and then gave me the gimlet eye as she asked me what I wanted to drink. What beer do you have on tap? I asked. None, she said, and then buttoned her lip, waiting for me to crack like so many before me in the old days before she reached mandatory retirement age at Joliet. I tried to think of a beer they would actually have that I could stand to drink, failed, and in the last quarter second of her patience with me ordered a glass of chianti. When it came, it was a chianti from the village of Manishevizzi. I suspect the thing to do is stick to cocktails-- if you have someone to drive you. This looks like the kind of place where one gets you hammered and two get you arrested if you haven't built up the immunity the regulars have.

    At least for food, I knew what I wanted. Not far away is the South Side's best known burger, the Top-Notch Beefburger. I have never actually tried it but it is hard for me to imagine that it can be any larger, at least, than this:

    Image

    Alas, the picture doesn't quite do it justice. The patty of beef, handformed fresh, must be nearly a pound, it's literally the size and thickness of a paperback book (not a Michener novel, maybe, but not a collection of B.C. strips, either.) The garlic bread is not all that garlicky, I wouldn't have minded more of that flavor, but it made an interesting variation to the usual generic bun. The meat also lacked a little saltiness that would have sharpened it up nicely, but that was remedied easily enough. Condiments are limited to the John Kerry Combo (Heinz and French's). On its side were entirely likable fresh-cut fries (also served unsalted; must be a concession to the medical ideas of its older crowd). I satisfied my red meat craving for the week on this monster. So if you're looking for a serious, enormous, excessive old school burger, visit Petey's. Tell 'em Mike G sent you, and they'll stare at you impatiently and wait for you to quit clowning around and f'in' order already.

    Petey's Bungalow Lounge
    4401 W 95th St
    Oak Lawn, IL 60453
    708.424.8210

    * Always try a pizza that's been around since the 50s, there's the chance they haven't turned it into imitation Domino's crap yet.
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  • Post #2 - September 4th, 2005, 1:46 pm
    Post #2 - September 4th, 2005, 1:46 pm Post #2 - September 4th, 2005, 1:46 pm
    Mike G wrote:Alas, the picture doesn't quite do it justice. The patty of beef, handformed fresh, must be nearly a pound, it's literally the size and thickness of a paperback book

    Mike,

    That pin-up worthy pic of Petey's burger is hard to resist. Hummm, let's see, 25-mile round trip, gas over $3 a gallon, car gets, oh, I don't know, maybe 20-miles to the gallon............

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #3 - September 4th, 2005, 5:48 pm
    Post #3 - September 4th, 2005, 5:48 pm Post #3 - September 4th, 2005, 5:48 pm
    Mike G wrote:On its side were entirely likable fresh-cut fries (also served unsalted; must be a concession to the medical ideas of its older crowd).

    Don't start that up again. :twisted: :wink:

    Sounds like a great find, Mike -- especially if their idea of medium-rare hasn't changed since the '50s either.
  • Post #4 - September 4th, 2005, 6:23 pm
    Post #4 - September 4th, 2005, 6:23 pm Post #4 - September 4th, 2005, 6:23 pm
    MikeG,

    I'm strangely attracted to the vegetables you depict. I'm a sucker for a relish platter, which I would suck down in its entirety I assure you, and that limply languishing sprig of parsley – not intended to be eaten, of course -- is a concession to the classic aesthetic of the American burger platter.

    On your next visit, if you, like many of us, could use a good ass whipping, you might ask:
    • Can I see the wine list?
    • May I have a tofurky sandwich, please, with no gravy?
    • Could you please tell those men at the other table to quit smoking, puh-leeze!?

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #5 - September 5th, 2005, 8:47 am
    Post #5 - September 5th, 2005, 8:47 am Post #5 - September 5th, 2005, 8:47 am
    I had to laugh when I saw your post of Petey's. My best friend at work is the most unadventurous eater I have ever dined with. No ethnic anything -- doesn't even trust pizza. Give her meat and potatoes, which is what she grew up with, and she is happy. Oh, and if you don't have Miller Lite at the bar, fuggedaboudit. :twisted: Makes it difficult to go for lunch since she is usually making faces at whatever I order. If I suggest she try it, she hastily shakes her head.

    Given that background, she lives in Oak Lawn and is constantly singing the praises of Petey's, her family's favorite restaurant. I guess I'll finally have to go out there with her and check it out.

    There is also a Petey's II in Orland on LaGrange Road, but my friend says it's not as good, as Petey spends most of his time in the original restaurant.

    Suzy
    " There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
    - Frank Zappa
  • Post #6 - September 5th, 2005, 8:54 am
    Post #6 - September 5th, 2005, 8:54 am Post #6 - September 5th, 2005, 8:54 am
    Tell her you can't really appreciate Petey's unless you started your week with a cup of raw squid guts like I did.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #7 - September 5th, 2005, 9:00 am
    Post #7 - September 5th, 2005, 9:00 am Post #7 - September 5th, 2005, 9:00 am
    Petey's has been an institution in our family for years.

    And the burger is indeed one of the best things on the menu.

    Also, conveinently located across the street from Christ Hospital, in case you have an infarction while eating it.

    There is also a Petey's II on like 159th and LaGrange, but I have not been there.
    Bill-Aurora
  • Post #8 - September 7th, 2005, 10:06 am
    Post #8 - September 7th, 2005, 10:06 am Post #8 - September 7th, 2005, 10:06 am
    Petey burger is great, but you were missing the best item on the menu, Greek style pork chops. Two big tender porterhouse chops with somewhat roasted garlic a little vineger maybe and some herbs. Last time I was there it was about ten bucks and I couldn't finish them. Way right about the highball croud. I do not think i have seen anyone drinking wine except white Z.

    The steaks are also great for the money. The side dishes and extras leave ne cold but who cares; weak soft garlic bread, beets cole slaw, iceberg with thousand, and bland soup.

    Petey's is part of the South Side holy trinity of steak houses, Krapils on 111th and Gibbens Gardens. At all these places the steaks are very close to prime and done consistently for a price north siders will not believe. None of the places has a ghost bar above it, but you can find an ice cream store in the vacinity if you did not finish your steak.
  • Post #9 - October 5th, 2005, 8:44 am
    Post #9 - October 5th, 2005, 8:44 am Post #9 - October 5th, 2005, 8:44 am
    Hit up Petey's for dinner last night following the epic trek down Southwest Highway to get there. And I thought North Lincoln Ave. had a lot of neon.

    I've got to echo the sentiment of extremely weak sides...I mean, I was amazed. The "Greek lemon and rice" soup had zero flavor, and the side salad was worse than cafeteria foodservice. (In fairness, though, how much flavor can you afford when you're giving out soup, salad, relishes, potato, coffee, and dessert with every dinner; and we're talking in the $10-$15 range here).

    My chicken Vesuvio was very nicely done-rich and not too oily, and the potato wedges in particular were some of the best I've had (just a tiny bit undersalted, but we knew to expect that). Dining companions really liked the burger, and the pork chops were fine, if a bit underwhelming compared to the burger and the chicken.

    We overheard some regulars hollering about ordering the "toilet seat"--I couldn't really tell if this was just an in-joke with these guys, but it would seem that they challenged Petey, at one point, to serve them a steak the size of a toilet seat, and he obliged, and it's now what they order.
  • Post #10 - October 31st, 2005, 12:38 am
    Post #10 - October 31st, 2005, 12:38 am Post #10 - October 31st, 2005, 12:38 am
    Mike G wrote:So if you're looking for a serious, enormous, excessive old school burger, visit Petey's. Tell 'em Mike G sent you

    Mike,

    Stopped at Petey's on the way to Midway tonight, told em Mike G sent me and had a heck of a good burger. I liked the place right from the get-go, big parking lot, pretty hostess, friendly bartender, who knows pretty much every rib joint on the far South Side, and a waitress who was any thing but white-haired or gimlet-eyed. :)

    Soon as I ordered my blue cheese topped burger my waitress, Moreen, plopped down a relish tray which was, as your picture suggests, fresh and plentiful, mine also contained 4-5 crisp radishes, which I love. The burger was terrific, coarse ground meat, plate of grilled onion on the side and crisp cottage fries.

    Everyone was friendly, lots of intermural talk between patrons which spanned everything from shot and a beer guys watching football to cute little old ladies sipping a leisurely postprandial cocktail. Though I will say the highlight was when Petey himself came out of the kitchen to work the room. Talk about old school, this man is a bundle of energetic sincere charm.

    Chops looked good, Mike the bartender said the steaks were good as well and the pan fried chicken sounds right up my alley. I only ordered a sandwich so I did not get the side dishes that come in addition to the relish tray with full dinners. 4 small dishes of cold salads like beets or cucumber and, Sunday only, meatballs.

    I very much liked Petey's and would make it a regular stop if it weren't so darn far. Thanks Mike G for posting the recommendation.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #11 - March 21st, 2007, 11:36 am
    Post #11 - March 21st, 2007, 11:36 am Post #11 - March 21st, 2007, 11:36 am
    My mother and I were in the area last night and stopped at Petey's for dinner. As I review the posts above me in this thread, I am impressed at how accurately they captured the ambience of this place. Nice work.

    Last night, I ordered a bleu cheese burger, cooked to medium, and a martini, dry and up. Sure enough, I was served a burger, medium, and a glass of cold gin. Awww yeah. The burger tasted like it looks in the photo in this thread. The gin tasted like, uh, Seagram's.

    The plentiful relish tray was a pleasant touch, especially because they were busy and the food took a while to emerge from the kitchen. The fried zucchini appetizer was fine. Our cups of coffee were generously refilled after the meal (my mom and I lingered a bit).

    There are not enough places like this around anymore. I would happily return to Petey's.
    - Peter
  • Post #12 - September 13th, 2012, 9:57 am
    Post #12 - September 13th, 2012, 9:57 am Post #12 - September 13th, 2012, 9:57 am
    A wake for a friend's father brought us to Evergreen Park. Growling stomachs brought us to Petey's. We called ahead for a reservation for our group of 7; on a Wednesday night it wasn't needed. Loved the intimacy, although the folks at table next to us WERE VERY LOUD. Manhattan for me (had to specify bourbon), two friends had gin martinis. Another had the chianti, which is probably the same Mike G mentions above. Relish trays were brought promptly, with plentiful olives, peppers, carrots, celery and radishes. Soon, we had macaroni salad (very good), coleslaw (okay), sliced beets (needed a stronger vinegar kick), cottage cheese and garlic bread.

    Mr. X ordered shrimp dejonghe, I got the pan-fried walleye. Three ordered burgers, another got broiled walleye and the last got salmon. I passed on the lemon and rice soup, but had a bite of Mr. X's. Unlike ndgbucktown's experience, this had flavor -- it's just not a favorite soup of mine. The iceberg lettuce salad was really just a vehicle for the house-made dressings. The bleu cheese dressing was fantastic and vampires were held at bay with the creamy garlic. The winners in the entrees were the burgers and the shrimp. My walleye was well-prepared, as was the broiled version, but flavorless. Apparently the same held true with the salmon. Cottage fries and regular fries were shared amongst the table and got universal praise. The baked potatoes were also good as baked potatoes go. The meal wrapped up with rice pudding for me and chocolates sundaes for everyone else.

    I would order differently next time and I hope there is a next time. Petey's had such a great feel to it and is the kind of place I like to support.
    -Mary

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