It seems like the options for Chicagoans who love burgers and fries keep expanding nearly every month. A couple of regional chains in Oak Park and Orland Park are hoping to tackle the Chicago market.
Twenty-two years ago, five guys came up with a burger concept in Arlington, Virginia. Today, Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a hit on the East Coast, and they're hoping the same will be true in the Midwest. The Oak Park store opened toward the end of 2008.
When visitors order, they need to know a few things:
"A little burger is one patty, whereas a regular burger is gonna be two patties," said Sharon Huber of Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
The lean burgers are smashed thin on the grill, cooked medium well. The topping selection is impressive, but realize that when you say 'all the way,' that means:
"From bottom to top, ketchup, mustard, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, also on the top it's mayo, lettuce, pickle, tomato," said Huber.
More impressive than the burgers, though, are the fries. Hand-cut throughout the day, the Idaho russetts are soaked in several changes of water. Then, they are fried once to blanch them a bit; they'll rest for a few minutes, then get fried a second time to crisp them up. They arrive either plain or seasoned with some Cajun spice.
Down in Orland Park, the area's first Fatburger has recently opened. Started in Los Angeles in 1952, the feel inside Fatburger is retro, right out of the fifties, with the free jukebox, thick shakes and several sizes of the infamous burgers.
"We call out every order. We deliver the food to your table. We have handmade shakes. Our beef is fresh, never frozen," said Mary McGill of Fatburger.
The 85-percent lean burgers are also pounded thin at Fatburger, as well, but they retain more of their inherent juiciness. Topped with anything, including relish, onions, ketchup, mustard, mayo, shredded lettuce and tomato, it's the size issue that will keep you preoccupied. Should you go with a Babyfat for a really small appetite? Maybe a Fatburger, the standard-bearer. There's also a Kingburger, weighing in at a half pound, plus the Double Kingburger, and the mammoth Triple Kingburger, which contains a pound-and-a-half of meat. Finish it at the restaurant, and you'll get a certificate and your picture on the company's Web site. It's a tempting, juicy, mess.
While the onion rings are made fresh in-house - and taste like it - the fries are a bit of a disappointment: frozen from the bag, they come either skinny or "fat" sized.
McGill says big appetites rarely glance at the Babyfat or regular Fatburger, opting instead to go "King" size.
"Then you start getting into the Kingburger, which predominantly, the males get the Kingburger," said McGill.
Expansion plans are already under way for both restaurants in Chicago. The second Five Guys store is set to open Monday in Lincoln Park, near Webster and Clybourn.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
1115 Lake St., Oak Park
(opens in Lincoln Park, near Webster/Clybourn, on Jan. 5)
15100 LaGrange Rd., Orland Park
222 E. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights
405 Lake Cook Rd., Deerfield
73 Green Bay Rd., Glencoe
1962 N. Halsted
120 S. Riverside Plaza
916 S. Rt. 59, Naperville
164 E. Grand Ave.
9525 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
Previously featured on "First Friday with Fries:"
5400 N Clark St
517 S. State St.
666 W. Diversey Pkwy.