I had the occasion over the last few weeks to try not one, but two very unique, very specialty burgers, which is a nice change of pace from the standard McD's version that we consume around here in a pinch. The first came from a kiosk at my favorite local Japanese marketplace center, Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights (I've blogged about this Nippon-wonderland in an earlier posting). Called Gabutto Burger, they bill themselves as the lone "Japanese-style" hamburger stand in Chicago (and, from what I can gather, about the only one of its ilk in America). I noticed them during my first visit to the marketplace last year and made a mental note to give it a whirl on my next trip. Now you may ask yourself, what exactly constitutes a Japanese-style burger? Well, according to the good folks at Gabutto, 3 things: 1) the patty is a blend of both beef and pork, 2) the burger is often served with a sauce, like teriyaki or demi-glace (which is what I had on mine), and 3) bakery-made bun (which isn't so Japanese, if you think about it). These qualities were all evident in the sandwich I ordered, the traditional "Gabutto burger" with cheese (I had to pass over the other varieties this time, namely the teriyaki burger, shrimp burger, and tofu burger), along with an order of original spice-flavor fries. Making my way to the seating area, I had to basically eat standing up leaning against a magazine rack given the large Sunday lunch crowd, but it was worth the effort. The demi-glace really added quite a flavor punch to the burger and the rest of the ingredients were good and fresh. The fries were a little bland, but better after I added some garlic butter powder and some wasabi mayo for dipping. Although I can't see myself eating one of these every time I stop by the marketplace (too much good traditional Japanese food here to pass up), I'll definitely have another someday (and maybe need to polish up on my demi-glace skills to try this at the Commissary).
A few days later, I was having beers with my favorite brother-in-law Dan and favorite cousin-in-law Bobby in the Hackknife ancestral neighborhood of St. Vincent DePaul, mourning the passing of my granny and her sister in the same week (the ladies were 91 and 96, respectively, God bless 'em), when I suggested a dinner stop just about a mile up Sheffield Avenue from our watering hole. DMK Burger Bar was opened in late 2009 by local chef Michael Kornick, who already had a fine dining establishment (MK) in Chicago to his name and has been garnering much positive press from the food cognoscenti. Unfortunately, 6 o'clock on a Saturday is a lousy time to walk into a restaurant in Lakeview and expect to be seated anytime soon, so we waited for about 20 minutes for a table to open. With the 3 of us in attendance, I'm pretty sure the average age of the patrons went up by at least 5 years, as the place definitely had a high hipster quotient - very loud (not conversation friendly), very cramped, microbrew beers and fancy cocktails on the drink menu, etc.). Anyway, after being seated and screaming out a drink order to the waitress, we settled in and reviewed the menu. Our party opted for some sea salt and black pepper fries for the table, along with an order of fried okra and dill pickles. For the main course, I chose Burger #2, which consisted of a grass-fed beef patty with spicy onion strings, Amish blue cheese, and chipotle ketchup, all on a bakery roll. Although not quite in the same class as my favorite burger of this similar variety (that would be Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in Las Vegas), the sandwich and its accoutrements were quite tasty, if not totally filling for the money (Cousin Bob noted that, while he enjoyed his bison burger, they were a little stingy with the meat). Dan dug his house-made peanut butter shake and I was pretty pleased with my Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (as I would be with all things Dogfish Head). All in all, we agreed that we could return, but only on evenings when the local library club might be meeting there (Tuesdays?).