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.
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.
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.
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.
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