I finally made the trek down to Beverly to try what many claim is the best burger in Chicago. Top Notch Beefburgers is located at 2116 W. 95th, just a bit east of Western Ave., and yes, it's all it's cracked up to be.
What can I say, other than to add my name to the pile of admirers who have crowned Top Notch as the standard-bearer? It's the best of the form. Hands down.
The beef is incredibly fresh. Top Notch uses round for their burgers, and they grind the beef fresh, in-house, every morning, from great 90-lb primal cuts of beef. They patty their fresh beef into thin, 5 oz. burgers, and griddle cook them, gently, until they're just cooked through, but still juicy, with tons of wonderful fresh beef flavor.
The bun is the classic, flabby, nondescript, white bread burger bun. It wouldn't stand up to a larger, medium-rare burger, but it's perfect for the style that Top Notch is serving, mainly because it stays in the background and doesn't interfere with the beefy flavor of the meat, which is really the focus here. I had mine with grilled onions and cheese (sharp American comes standard), which I believe to be the purist's preference.
I've gone into some detail already about what I'm looking for from a burger, so I won't repeat myself, but I want to state for the record, right here, that Top Notch delivered exactly what I have been seeking from a burger. The raves are on the mark. It's just too bad this place is roughly 167 blocks south of where I spend most of my time.
Oh, and the fries! I didn't mention the fries yet, but they are fabulous. They may not be the best fries in the city, but they're damn close. A place with a burger this good doesn't need to turn out a perfectly-done version of the fresh-cut, double-cooked fry. Their burger is the draw, right? So they definitely don't need to cook their fries in beef tallow, do they?
But they do, and they're perfectly seasoned, crisp, and nicely browned without even approaching dark. While I was sitting at the counter, during a fairly busy lunch, I saw the fry cook make batch after small batch of fries which went straight onto plates with their burgers almost every time. The guy could've made two or three really large batches, considering the rate at which they were serving them up, and just worked from the heat-lamped dump pan, but he didn't. Instead, almost every customer got fries that had just emerged from their sizzling hot bath of beef fat.
Details like that are what makes this place so awesome. They get it.
I could go on and on about the retro-without-trying-to-be wood paneling and formica counters, or the milkshakes made on the old spindle machine with milk straight from the "cow". But, honestly, I wouldn't care if they served these burgers and fries to me out of the back of a rented moving truck or from a kiosk inside of a Wal-Mart--they're just that good.