"1/2 Pound Cheeseburger" $6.95Anywhere else, telling customers "we don't have a microwave" might bear the whiff of pretense, but never here. They don't have a microwave, yes. They don't have much decor either. The plants droop over. Fluorescent lights above fade and flicker.
No matter. If the food is spot-on, all is forgiven. The Chicago Reader liked the Skokie restaurant enough to name it "Best Diner."
Unfortunately, the property's landlord is evicting Patty and Suzy Tunk, sisters who have run the restaurant since it opened 20 years ago. "We're day to day," Suzy said.
You now have a month, if that, to sample their stellar burgers.
There's Patty making the burgers behind the grill. She presses down on the half-pound chuck patty with her steel turner, the oil dripping into the flames and shooting orange fire out through the grates. This gives the meat a crusty char, but it's not overcooked.
The thick patty is fatty, if a bit under-seasoned (though the American cheese makes up for it). It is a reservoir of moisture, spilling into the golden wisp of crispy house-made buttered bun (reminds me of a Parker House roll) that absorbs the savory beef juices. Patty gives the bun a liberal slather of mayonnaise. Each bite is rich, simple and pure.
The home fries, or "old potatoes" as they call them, are potato coins fried into crunchy bits, mixed with sauteed onions and topped with a secret seasoning that tastes of garlic, onion powder and pepper. 3358 Main St., Skokie, 847-675-4274
"Cheeseburger with American Cheese" $9.50 (includes fries and coleslaw)
Now that I'm actively soliciting recommendations for great burgers, at least once a day someone suggests I check out Charlie Beinlich's, open nearly 60 years in Northbrook.
This was the restaurant bar (more North Woods bar than restaurant) raved about by the late TV food critic James Ward. Several years ago, it got "Check, Please'd." The Bulls have a practice facility in nearby Deerfield, and the restaurant, I'm told, was a favorite of Phil Jackson and Horace Grant.
Expectations were sky high. And you know what happens with sky-high expectations.
Not that this burger is bad. It's good. Better than 90 percent of all bar burgers. But my socks are still on my feet.
A hamburger press forms the one-third-pound chuck patties daily. They are on the thin side, and when cooked medium-rare on the griddle top, they emerge butter-tender and smooth to the bite (or lacking texture, you could interpret). The taste is unmistakably beef, no trace of filler, and there is a slight mineral aftertaste.
Sweet caramelized onions sit atop the bed of cheese (bacon would be nice here). It's served open-faced, on a soft bun that's crisp along its circumference. This is the textbook for how a burger should be aesthetically presented.
Taken together, it's fine; the initial taste registers cheese and onions, then juices from the patty, with a melting quality to the texture from the finely ground beef.
For this price, though, I expected the burger to be more substantial. That said, it comes with creamy, crunchy coleslaw and thick crinkle-cut fries stacked high. 290 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847-714-9375Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times