Updated: Mar 23, 2021
To get to unpacking the joys of the Shiddy Burg, part of a Monday-only burger pop-up within the Big Kids pop-up, we must begin with an actually shitty hamburger: the Wisconsin butter burger.
Food is as much about story as it is satiation, and the butter burger has a good one: a state-specific vision of a burger to be consumed in rural drinking holes and small grills, where the same person who takes your order or fills your mug also cooks your meal in front of you. It’s bare bones; it’s honest. It feels right; it should be great.
Context matters--you just can’t eat it.
The problem with the butter burger starts with basically everything. The slim diner-style patties are of no particular provenance or quality, and though cooked on a flat-top grill, are steamed for a good portion of the cook time; there are no crispy, lacy edges like those you find in a Northwest Indiana smash burger. The cheese is American: all softness, no flavor. The impression of the bun, too, is merely of softness: it exists to soak up some of the swath of butter put onto it, and to push the rest back onto the meat. Onions are more steamed than caramelized; several of the notable Sconie joints, including Solly’s, don’t serve pickles with it, depriving it of needed acid and contrast.
You see where this is going: there is a single texture of melted fat; there is basically no flavor--not from the meat, the cheese, the butter, and so on. It’s not good.
Attention to these pitfalls immediately marks the Shiddy Burg as qualitatively different from the Midwest diner burger tradition and significantly superior to most thin-style burgers in Chicago. The patty is distinctively smashed, the edges crispy in spite of being saturated by the primordial ooze Big Kids have conjured up by wedding cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and lettuce in a manner similar to what you’d find in the mid-century modern style of hamburger of Los Angeles. The inclusion of crinkle-cut pickles adds brightness and texture contrast to that creamy and slightly sweet goo; in a difference-making move, the top of the bun is also toasted on the grill, adding a subtle crunch. This is a sum-of-its-parts burger: no one single element stands out but the package as a whole is supremely well-balanced and an immense pleasure to consume.
What we have here, in short, is a superior specimen to Red Hot Ranch’s take on the In-n-Out burger and an emerging rival to The Loyalist’s Dirty Burg as the city’s best thin-style burger--maybe not quite as elegant as its competitor but certainly a more direct shot to the ol' dopamine receptors.
Uncle Shiddy’s Burger Barn @ Big Kids
2545 N. Kedzie Ave.