05/10/2011 12:34 pm ET | Updated Jul 10, 2011

Hunting for Chicago's Best Burger

We are two Chicago burger fanatics on a quest to seek and eat the best burgers this city has to offer. We began recording the results of our burger "meatings" over a year ago and hope will lead Chicagoans to the burger promised land.

As we sought the city's best burgers, we quickly realized everybody had their own opinions of the city's best burger but nobody had really tried them all. There are a handful of top burger lists and reviews out there, but they tend to lack sufficient breadth and research. I think our burger rankings are a huge asset for burger seekers since they offer our truthful assessment -- good or bad -- whereas other reviews don't always help readers weed out lesser quality burgers.

Thus far, Small Bar, Kuma's Corner, Rosebud Prime, Twisted Spoke, Custom House, and Mindy's Hot Chocolate have earned our prestigious "Elite Tier 1" status, an accolade only 6/70 burger joints reviewed have achieved. Behind "Tier 1 - Elite" is "Tier 2 - Damn Good," "Tier 3 - Satisfying," and "Tier 4 - Not Worth It." A common misconception is that a Tier 3 burger is not worth its weight in beef, but Tier 3 burgers are indeed "satisfying," as the name suggests. There are just a lot of great burgers in this city!

Below are a couple reviews to whet your BurgerBible appetite...

Small Bar (Ranked #1)

Small Bar offers six dangerously good burgers (they vary slightly by location). We've tried five so far, and all have been absolutely lights out. Every burger has an incredible mousetrap (i.e. everything enclosing the meat) and is truly unique. The "G.C.B." is a two-patty garlic burger pampered by a toasted garlic roll bun and homemade lagunitas pilsner beer cheese sauce. The "Hellfire" includes beer-battered onion strings, pickled jalapenos, sriracha aioli and some seriously flavorful cheese. Our waiter at the Lincoln Park location told us that God created the "Bacon Jam Burger" on the eighth day, and we believe him. Importantly, the patty is one fine piece of meat, nicely packed, slightly charred and seasoned subtly -- we'd eat it plain with no bun (Atkins wouldn't be so bad after all). There are a few good fry selections, all of which do the job but don't quite reach Super Spud status. Small Bar features a very impressive beer selection. We tend to favor the Division Street location (the best place to catch a futbol game in the city, if you're into that sort of thing).
Ukrainian Village / Lincoln Park

Hop Haus (Ranked #10)

Don't have a cow, man! Have an ostrich or a boar, a lamb or a bison. Lots of Chicago burger joints claim to offer a variety of burgers -- and they do, but not like this. Hop Haus (a strange mix of burger joint, sports bar, 4:00 a.m. hang-out and techno club) specializes in three oz. sliders and they offer too many to name. We tried six sliders (just a fraction of what is available) and the traditional beef burger (interspersed with handfuls of Lipitor).

The sliders were hearty, each with carefully selected toppings to complement the myriad patty possibilities. Options include everything from the traditional (beef and cheese) to the classy (steak) to the adventurous (kangaroo). We were huge fans of the wild boar, and just about everything else we tried. All of the meats were seasoned in different ways to further differentiate one from the next (one complaint is that in some instances they were over-seasoned).

The traditional burger made a nice showing, too, and it'd stand alone as a Damn Good burger even without its exotic entourage. Eight ounces of nicely-seasoned, juicy ground beef left us eager for the next bite, even after gorging on the sliders. The pretzel bun has just a faint pretzel taste and is not salty. Its shell is perfectly crisp while the inside is very soft and airy, handling its very-juicy cargo with ease. Definitely one of the best buns we've had. The burger comes with cheese and one topping, with additional toppings ringing in at 75 cents each and, as you may have guessed, they offer a ton of options. We kept it simple with hickory bacon and cheddar as we had our hands full with the sliders and both were up to our standards. Their waffle fries are nothing spectacular. Great beer selection.
River North, new location opening in Rogers Park
Beef burger $9.95
Sliders $3-6ish