“Best Burger in the USA!”
The southwest side of Chicago is sprinkled with many small divey bars that you can stop in at any time and enjoy some good food and drinks. But I think Illinois Bar & Grill has done quite a job in setting itself apart from everyone else, if for no reason other than their “Best Burger in the USA” But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Where to Park It
As soon as you walk into this bar, the first thing you notice is that it’s pretty narrow, at least in the front half of the building. You’ve got the standard bar right there in front with one of the better beer selections I’ve seen in the area. Immediately next to it is their kitchen, so the heart of the entire bar is in one condensed area in front. If you’re lucky enough to stop in when it’s not too busy, you can snag one of their nice wooden booths.
Otherwise, you’ll be sitting at the bar or heading towards the back seating area where it opens up nicely. Back there you have the pool table, more TVs and a bit more seating in case you came in with a large group. Since this is a small neighborhood bar, you’re always going to see plenty of people here. Between the regulars and people who come to the area just for that burger, it’s rarely dead. Between the food and various sporting events, if you want a good chance at having a seat, I’d advised arriving as early as you can, especially on the weekends.
Whether or not their burger is actually “the best in the USA” is open to interpretation and individual taste. However, having enjoyed it myself no less than a dozen times, I will have to say it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried, especially with bacon. As you’ll see in the video below, the secret is the 13-ounce, hand-made patty, seasoning and toppings applied while the burger’s still on the grill.
My only suggestion though would be to hold off on ordering the fries because many times I’ve gotten ¾ of the way through my burger and couldn’t even fathom eating fries. That being said, the fries are a perfect complement to their infamous burger. They are always perfectly salted/seasoned and if you can handle it all, the burger and fries will keep you full for the rest of the day… and that’s no exaggeration. This location was even featured on an episode of Windy City Live as having the best burger in Chicago, as you can watch for yourself here:
The rest of their menu is standard bar food and they even have a small kids menu if you need to take the little ones somewhere for lunch. As far as drinks go, they have a fairly wide selection of domestics and imports and pretty much any liquor you want. Illinois Bar & Grill stakes their identity in the quality of their burger so there’s no signature drinks here that I’ve ever been made aware of.
Humble Beginnings to Today
Illinois Bar & Grill was once a biker bar and then bought by its current and original owner Frank Vrchota, an incredibly nice guy and victim of “occupational hazards” (see the video), in 1989 and has stood the test of time in an ever-changing and evolving area of Chicago. The bartenders are always great, the wait staff always friendly and “real,” thus adding to the authenticity of a genuine Chicago bar and there’s never anything happening there but good times.
When to Go
If you happen to stop by one night where it’s just too crowded for your taste, there is also Madd Anthony’s Bar & Grill less than ten minutes away at 3350 W. 47th St. If you’d like to stay close by, then two blocks away you will find Chicago Sports Bar & Grill at 4335 W. 47th St. But if you’re just visiting Chicago or taking someone around who is visiting, then brave the wait time (if any) and experience that burger in Illinois Bar & Grill. You’ll be glad you did. Additional Illinois Bar & Grill locations are found at Midway Airport and in Lemont.