WBEZ | hamburgers http://www.wbez.org/tags/hamburgers Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ranking the epic wait times at three popular casual eateries http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-03-29/ranking-epic-wait-times-three-popular-casual-eateries-97733 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-29/Wait at Kuma&#039;s_Flickr_Robyn Lee.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2491/3876992017_a2869173b4_b.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 420px; " title="(Flickr/Robyn Lee)"></p><p><strong><span id="internal-source-marker_0.474457146145865">WORTH IT (EXCEPT I DIDN’T REALLY WAIT): </span>KUMA'S CORNER</strong><br><br>Monday night I went to <a href="http://www.kumascorner.com/">Kuma’s Corner</a> for the first time, where I’ve heard the heavy metal is incredibly loud, the wait time unbelievably long (friends and well-wishers promised me anything from two to four hours for dinner) and the burgers incredibly delicious. I had also heard that their service is a little rude, but maybe I was just confusing Kuma’s with Debevic’s. I met my friend Samantha at 5:30 and we actually beat the system, getting seated in about ten or fifteen minutes. Perhaps due to the alacrity with which we were seated, I’m not entirely able to judge whether the food was worth the wait, but I think it might help to establish that I already ate a bacon cheeseburger the day before, so my stomach was in a challenging mood, like, “OK Kuma’s. Let’s see if you can make me crave another burger.”</p><p>First we started with the pulled pork french fries, which are covered in tangy-sweet barbecue pulled pork, melted cheese and scallions. I am typically a purist when it comes to fries: I don’t like cheese fries and I don’t even like ketchup that much. These fries, though, were a whole new world. “These shouldn’t make sense, but they do,” I told Sam, once we had dug in. &nbsp;Make no mistake: the fries were ridiculous, definitely a meal in and of themselves. I feel like they took three years off my life.<br><br>I had a hard time picking a burger but I went with the <a href="http://www.kumascorner.com/food">YOB</a>, since it has a roasted red pepper on top which I felt made it ‘healthy.’ I bit into the burger and interrupted Samantha’s titillating story so that I could pay homage to it, and her for taking me to Kuma’s. The garlic aioli was my favorite part, but wow, that was a good burger: huge and juicy and way too much for one person but I still ate the whole thing anyway. I ordered the burger with the homemade chips, which I would count amongst my favorite chips of all time. I like super-crispy chips, preferably ones that have folded over on themselves, and these delivered on both counts.<br><br>Our server was friendly but the music was incredibly loud and got louder as we sat there. Poor Sam was nursing a cold and basically lost her voice by the end of the night. But still, I came ready to be irritated by Kuma’s, but I wasn’t. Knowing that it’s possible to get a burger and not wait for forever, I’d go back, but I’d resist going at a non-early-bird time.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3556/3559882671_f45f608bbf_b.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px; " title="(Flickr/Adam Norwood)"></p><p><br><strong>WORTH IT BUT DISQUALIFIED FOR PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT:</strong> <strong>HOT DOUG'S</strong><br><br>I’d heard about the hourlong waits for <a href="http://www.hotdougs.com/">Hot Doug’s </a>hot dogs before but couldn’t imagine that a simple hot dog, which takes like three bites to eat, could possibly be worth that wait time, but our friends insisted we try it sometime. We saw Doug himself on <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3fEzmNVshc">Mark Bazer’s Interview Show</a> and thought he seemed like a nice guy (niceness can convince me to try almost anything), so for our anniversary a few years ago, my husband and I took the day off of work for a day of fun, which included lunch at Doug’s.<br><br>Our mistake was getting in line right about noon on a weekday. I did the opposite of what I recommend regarding Kuma’s: hitting the rush. However, it was a nice day, we both had reading material and nowhere else to be. After waiting about an hour, we finally got up to the man himself (Doug). I asked whether one order of fries would be enough for the both of us, and Doug said it would be more than enough. “What the hell--it’s our anniversary!” I said, and then Doug comped our meal. We left a $14 tip.<br><br>One of the nice thing about Doug’s is that once you’re at the counter, you don’t have to wait for a seat. Doug makes friendly small talk until a table opens up, so once you’re in, you’re in. Of course, our views on Hot Doug’s were colored thanks to the free meal, but Steve and I agreed that the hot dogs were worth the wait. I had ordered a dog made of bacon, covered in red pepper and creamy garlic sauce. It was a big hot dog in a nice, substantial but not too-bready bun, so it didn’t feel like some cheap three-bite stand wiener. It was delicious. The fries were good too but I wouldn’t wait in line for those alone. Next time I think I’d order three hot dogs to share and get a small fry. I’m glad we went. Everyone was right.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-29/great lake pizza_flickr_sandor weisz.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 418px;" title="(Flickr/Sandor Weisz)"><br>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>INFURIATING:</strong> <strong>GREAT LAKE PIZZA</strong><br><br>Steve and I live near <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3fEzmNVshc">Great Lake pizza</a>, which got megahyped a few years ago when <em>GQ</em> magazine deemed its pizza the best in the solar galaxy. We’d heard that the wait time there was insane and that there are no shortcuts--you can’t call in an order for takeout or anything like that.<br><br>We figured that since it was within walking distance of us, it’d be silly not to try it, and so we deemed a way to work with the system: We’d go, put in our names and go have a drink or two at the restaurant next door.<br><br>This part of the system worked pretty well, but our cocktail hour did last about an hour and a half. Eventually we got into Great Lake with our BYOB bottle of wine, already semi-lubricated. At our communal table, we ordered a salad and some sort of pepperoni-esque pizza. The salad arrived and was absolutely gorgeous, so we were pleased with the experience so far. But an hour after we sat down, our waiter brought out a mushroom pizza.<br><br>“We ordered the salami pizza,” I said.<br><br>“Oh. Well. Sorry. This is all I have for right now,” he said. “So, uh. What do you want to do?”<br><br>“This is fine!” Steve said, because he’s way too nice in situations like this. He hates making trouble. “I’ll eat it.”<br><br>“You hate mushrooms,” I pointed out. “Like, more than anything.” I told the waiter we’d wait another 45 minutes for the pizza we ordered. He sighed and went back to the kitchen.<br><br>By the time our proper pizza finally arrived, we were hungry, annoyed and not entirely sober. The crust of the pizza itself was beautifully made, soft and bubbly and fresh, but the pizza itself was incredibly salty. And I’m a salt person. I’ll salt food to death.<br><br>“Do you think this was...worth the wait?” I asked the other couple sitting at the table with us. They concurred that their pizza or experience weren’t exactly The Universe’s Best. I advised them to try <a href="http://www.apartpizzacompany.com/">Apart </a>instead, where we typically order, which is cheaper, faster, friendlier and ultimately much more delicious for what you pay for. (Our bill at Great Lake for one salad and one pizza was over $40.)<br><br>I think the moral of the story in these situations is that the wait has to be worth it at least in terms of service or quality but ideally both, but the onus is on the customer to be aware of the pitfalls of all eateries that potentially make you wait a long time for your relatively quick bite. Even if I was ready for the wait, if I wasn’t in the right mood, the noise of Kuma’s would have been a turnoff. I wouldn’t probably wait for Hot Doug’s on a snowy day. With Great Lake, we played the waiting game but still got dinged both in terms of service and quality, so I wouldn’t go back unless I felt like I needed a bit of an ego check.</p></p> Thu, 29 Mar 2012 14:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-03-29/ranking-epic-wait-times-three-popular-casual-eateries-97733 High-end burger joints raise the stakes http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-20/high-end-burger-joints-raise-stakes-85580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-22/burgerline.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you're not aware of Five Guys Burgers and Fries yet, just wait — you probably will be. It's the fastest growing restaurant chain in the country, and it's leading a burger revolution that's making the bigger chains take notice.</p><p>CEO Jerry Murrell doesn't shy away from the fact that his restaurant isn't a typical burger joint.</p><p>"We put a sign up in our stores when we first opened up, and the sign said, 'If you're in a hurry, there are a lot of other really good burger places real close to here,' " he says. "It was real in-your-face."</p><p>You can grab a McDouble for a buck over at the Golden Arches almost as fast as you can order it. On average, customers at Five Guys wait 5 to 10 minutes for their double burger, which costs around $4.50.</p><p>"We're just trying to cook a burger like a mom-and-pop burger," Murrell says.</p><p>But unlike Mom and Pop, Five Guys operates on a much larger scale. In 2003, Murrell, his wife and three sons decided that Five Guys, best known for its hand-cut fries and fresh beef, was ready to go national. The franchise took off.</p><p>To date, it has more than 700 locations, including stores in Oak Park and Rogers Park. And according to Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm, the chain shows no signs of slowing.</p><p>"We expect it to continue for at least the next three to five years," says Darren Tristano, an executive vice president with Technomic. He says the chain will "continue to compete aggressively both with casual dining chains like Applebee's and Chili's, as well as McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King."</p><p>Tristano says the rapid growth of Five Guys and other high-end burger joints might in part be explained by the recession.</p><p>"The gourmet market has really come out of this rebirth of the burger," he says. "The reason is that it's a comfort food to many people, [but] it's still not an expensive product. So if you would've purchased a steak but you still want beef, a good quality burger is a nice alternative." Chicago's James Beard Award-winning Tru restaurant is a case in point. Last year, the restaurant's owners, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. used a small space in the back of the Tru kitchen to open up a high-end hamburger stand dubbed M Burger. While the Tru kitchen made its reputation serving up prix fixe menus featuring such showcase items as a caviar staircase, M Burger focuses on a simple menu of burgers, fries and shakes. It's been a hit ever since. </p><p><strong>'Raising The Standard'</strong></p><p>There has also been a shift in consumer preferences.</p><p>Hans Hess got into the burger business with lofty ideals and gave his restaurant a lofty name — Elevation Burger, which strictly uses free-range, grass-fed, organic beef.</p><p>"We're doing it better," he says. "We're bringing it up, we're raising the standard."</p><p>Since 2005, he has been able to open 18 franchises from New York to Dallas, with another 100 in development in the U.S. and a few in the Middle East. Hess says despite all of his hard work building a supply chain for organic meat, he wins over most customers through their taste buds.</p><p>"One of the great things about grass-fed, organic [beef] is that it actually tastes better," he says. "It has its own complex flavor profile."</p><p><strong>'You Wouldn't Add Grape Juice To Your Dom Perignon'</strong></p><p>Overall, more variety is a good thing, says food critic Dan Pashman, who co-hosts a foodie podcast called <a href="http://www.thesporkful.com/" target="_blank">The Sporkful</a>. But sometimes, he says, these new burger joints go too far.</p><p>"I have a problem in general when people take foods that were invented to take low-grade ingredients and make them more palatable, and then they try to take that food and somehow make it high-end," he says. "You know, you wouldn't add grape juice to your Dom Perignon."</p><p>Don't tell that to Michael Landrum over at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. There, you can purchase a steakhouse-quality burger for less than $10, and an $18 burger. "But that includes a nice, thick slice of seared foie gras on top," he says.</p><p>Rather than being an expensive burger, Landrum says, his product is more of an inexpensive steak. He integrates scraps of filet mignon and New York strip into his patties.</p><p>Tristano says the big players are taking notice of the premium trend. "McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King have had to shift to higher quality burgers — whether it's a steakhouse burger, the angus burger, or if it's sirloin, it has to move to remain competitive."</p><p>The strategy of switching to higher quality seems to be paying off. Wendy's says french fry sales were up 16 percent in December, when the chain began a publicity campaign for its new natural-cut sea-salt fries. Wendy's plans to roll out a line of deluxe burgers in the fall. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Wed, 20 Apr 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-04-20/high-end-burger-joints-raise-stakes-85580