Thursday, October 28, 2010
Top Notch Beefburgers
A few weekends ago, Mrs. Hackknife and our lead babysitter (i.e., Mrs. Hackknife's mom) headed out West to Las Vegas for a much-needed ladies' weekend of r-and-r, leaving yours truly some overtime with the progeny. Often times, when faced with these situations, my preference is to hunker down at home and ride out the storm (usually by clearing out leftovers in the fridge - since my kids won't eat most everything, I can be a scavenger and it doesn't really make much difference to our meal routines), but my foodie urges led me to drag them out one evening to a place I'd been wanting to visit: Top Notch Beefburgers (2116 W. 95th St.), a dining institution in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood since 1954. I had never eaten at this location, which is the original - a few years back, Mrs. Hackknife and I went to another TNB in Oak Forest with her parents and had a fantastic burger (the OF location has since closed and morphed into a pancake house). Recently, one local food reporter (Steve Dolinsky, who goes by the moniker "Hungry Hound") proclaimed TNB as having his top burger in the Chicagoland area, so I was eager to see if his hype matched my experience.
Loading up the family truckster, the three of us made the half-hour trip up to Beverly. Tricky thing about TNB - they have no parking lot and all of the metered spots on the street were full, so we had to finagle a 1-hour spot on a nearby side street. Entering the building, it was pretty much exactly how I'd imagined: old-school diner setting, layer of grease that's been accumulating for years covering all surfaces, old newspaper clippings - all good signs for good food. I simply ordered the standard 1/3-lb beef burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and optional grilled onions, with a side of fries (I'd read somewhere that TNB cooks their fries in beef tallow, like McDonald's used to do). Hackknife Jr. wanted a hot dog with cheese on top (which he mostly devoured in its entirety, much to my surprise), while Hackknifette nibbled sparingly on her own plain burger, mostly eating the fries.
The verdict? It was a good burger, actually a very good burger; however, I'd be hesitant to vote it my best of Chicago (maybe top 10). I've had better recently (Triple XXX in W. Lafayette, IN immediately comes to mind) and my recollection was that the TNB burger I sampled at the Oak Forest location was superior. The beef tallow fries gave me about the same vibe - very good, but not as mindblowing as I'd hoped, especially given the health impact trade-off. If Mrs. Hackknife were to twist my arm, I'd gladly make a return visit to do some more research, but for now, I believe that the TNB itch has been well-scratched....