25 Degrees (Chicago): Burgers heat up the menu at a new downtown joint

25 Degrees recommends eating its burgers medium rare, but does not discriminate against those who prefer theirs more well done. Photo by Alex Janowski

Twenty-five degrees is the temperature difference between a medium-rare and a well-done hamburger.

One gets the impression that 25 Degrees, a new River North burger bar, is giving customers a major hint as to how their burgers should ideally be cooked.  Even our pleasant waitress ever-so-gently urged us to go medium rare.

No dice, sister.  Our foursome was made up of unabashed lovers of well-done meat.  And although the menu is “chef-driven” — it was created by the restaurant chain’s California chef-founder Tim Goodell — thankfully, there were no icy stares or upturned noses when we went medium-well and well-done.

The restaurant features options — appetizers, sandwiches and salads — for those who want to go beyond burgers. Photo by Alex Janowski

That’s because brothers Mac and Joe Boumaroun, who own the chain’s sole Chicago outpost, are all about making people feel at ease in their joint.

So although craft burgers — offered with house-made sauces, epicurean toppings and gourmet cheeses— are at the heart of 25 Degrees’ menu, there’s also an array of contemporary appetizers, comforting sandwiches and lady-friendly fresh salads, they note.

“We wanted to widen our market,” Joe says.  “We didn’t want just burger eaters.  We wanted everybody.”

Appetizers, therefore, are “pretty unique and totally diverse — from our spicy tuna [on crispy eggplant chips] to our [ricotta-blue cheese stuffed] bacon-wrapped dates,” he says.  If you ask us, faux-healthy, ever-so-lightly-battered tempura green and yellow beans ($9) with tarragon remoulade also deserve a little recognition.

With the exception of the plain and sweet potato fries ($2/$4), all menu items — down to hand-cut and battered onion rings ($2/$4) — are fresh and house-made.  “There’s nothing that comes in frozen and that needs to be defrosted,” Joe says.

Most condiments are house-made, and the eatery offers a plethora of upscale toppings and gourmet cheeses. Photo by Alex Janowski

Sandwiches include high-end renditions of snack shop classics.  A Sonoran hot dog ($10.50) is a modern-day cross between a chili dog and a francheezie that features a bacon-wrapped Bobak hot dog with caramelized onion, pinto beans, queso fresco, fresh chiles, garlic aioli and more.  The popular fried egg sandwich ($12) combines Applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and herb aioli.

Go ahead and be healthy if you want... Photo by Alex Janowski

The “how-does-a-hamburger-possibly-taste-this-good?” burgers are simply not to be ignored.  Yes, one of the ladies was swayed by the roasted beet salad ($7/$12), and Little M. was rewarded with a robust mix of citrus vinaigrette-dressed red and orange beets, melty burrata cheese and baby arugula.  But the rest of us were corrupted by those burgers, which are available in beef ($9), turkey ($8) or house-made veggie ($7) variations.

The 9-ounce, hand-formed beef burgers are a proprietary blend of three meats, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and served on a paper-wrapped, fresher-than-fresh brioche bun.

(You can nose around a bit on the Internet if you’re dying to know what makes these hefty mothers so amazingly good.)

The restaurant offers four signature burgers ($12).  O. attempted to be good, topping her savory turkey patty with avocado, fresh diced jalapeno and chipotle sauce ($1 each). But CoCo and I both opted for the diet-busting Number One.

But I recommend you indulge. Photo courtesy of 25 Degrees Chicago

After all, 25 Degrees “is a place where you want to indulge,” Joe says.  “Go big or go home with the burgers.”

The Number One was certainly indulgent — albeit hard to put down — and featured caramelized onions, Vella Toma and and Ader Käse Reserve cheeses, bacon, arugula and Thousand Island dressing.  I swapped my plain bacon for fiery and addictive jalapeno bacon.

Cooked to medium-well perfection, it was one well done burger.

25 Degrees Chicago
736 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois  60654
312.943.9700
www.25degreesrestaurant.com

25 Degrees on Urbanspoon

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2 Responses to 25 Degrees (Chicago): Burgers heat up the menu at a new downtown joint

  1. Matt Galo says:

    Neat place, never heard of it before, but that’s the point of discovering it via Fine! Will be sure to try it. But H, medium-well and well-done? Oy . . .

    • Harlene says:

      Matt, yes, the restaurant is new and opened very quietly, so I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it. And, yes, I’m trying to learn to eat rarer meats. Medium-well is progress for me! Baby steps. Baby steps.

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