by Rob Bukowski

According to Rockit Burger Bar, Americans consume 40 billion burgers every year. I am not sure when that statistic is from but I am certain that number might be kicked higher as Chicago continues to go through its’ Burger Renaissance. Over the past decade, in the city that was famous for its’ slaughterhouses and stockyards, the hamburger has become a work of art with the beef patty and bun becoming a canvas for gourmet sauces, dozens of cheeses, unconventional toppings- such as peanut butter, eggs, and apple, and a foundation for more slabs of meat- witness a half pound burger topped with a pile of pulled pork. As for the patty and beef, those have been remade as well. The beef now is angus or kobe, and nestles on a bun that was probably baked that morning and is not covered with sesame seeds.

Beginning on the opening day of Cubs season this year Rockit Burger Bar has taken its’ stand and joined this renaissance. This foray into the Chicago burger scene began in 2009 when the Rockit group purchased the old Tuscany Restaurant at the corner of Clark and Waveland and opened a new location of Rockit Bar and Grill. Since that time they noticed some interesting burger statistics of their own. An analysis of their sales showed that 75% of all of their food sales were sandwiches and 90% of all of their sandwiches sold were hamburgers.

A decision was made to relaunch the restaurant with a menu and atmosphere that were a celebration of the American icon- the burger. A process was begun to develop a selection of gourmet hamburgers, comforting sides, and drinks to match. Taste testings were held, dozens of burgers and fries were sampled, until the best made the final menu. Servers were trained to give opinion on which beer or whiskey best matched which burger. Music and décor to match were put in place and the new Rockit Burger Bar was born.

The menu is simple but delectable- many gourmet burgers and a few chicken sandwiches as the mains; Mac and Cheese, flatbread pizzas, and a couple other salads and expected appetizers as the sides. Generally seasoned curly fries or waffle fries come with the sandwiches or can be upgraded to sweet potato or truffle fries.  Some of the standout burgers are the Farmhouse Burger which is a half pound angus patty, slathered in pulled pork, a fried egg, and applewood bacon; and the Calabrese Burger which is topped with spicy salami, shaved asiago, and kalamata olive aioli. The Rockit Burger which is an upper echelon (and more expensive) kobe beef burger, loaded with date aioli and fried shallots on an onion brioche bun, was called the “best burger” by the anchors of Good Morning America. Every burger on the menu has been specially and creatively crafted. Most burgers do not even come with tomato, lettuce, and pickle unless requested.

There is a large selection of draft beers, craft beers, and specialty beers, import and domestic. They also serve wine, cocktails, and pitchers of mixed drinks. A specialized whiskey menu has been put together to fit the celebration of American iconography.

Unlike many of the bars and establishments in the shadow of Wrigley Field, Rockit Burger Bar is somewhere that a family would feel extremely comfortable coming after a Cubs game or seeking a dinner out. They offer a kids’ menu for this purpose. The interior is more restaurant than bar but there are ample flat screens easily visible from anywhere. From our table we had a great view of the Wrigley Field scoreboard. The outside had a nice al fresco dining area that is also dog welcoming.

The Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese was stellar- curly pasta swimming in a cheesy, creamy sauce with an obvious infusion of wing flavor and spice. Chopped chicken and a generous bleu cheese topping round this dish out into something killer. For the main course we tried the Locavore burger which is a half pound angus patty underneath smoked cheese, goose island beer battered onion rings, and a bacon aioli on a pretzel roll. We also ate the Macdaddy burger which consists of the angus patty blanketed by short rib, mac and cheese, and caramelized onion. It is obvious that the burger itself is top of the line beef. The buns are bakery fresh yet a little large for the patty which makes the first bite more bread than stuff. The short rib was melt in your mouth tender and did not overpower the burger as these meat toppings tend to do in other gourmet burger places. At first, the Locavore was disappointing but was much improved when we realized that the bacon aioli had been inadvertently left off the burger. Once this was added the burger became very good. Although it could not save the onion rings which looked picture perfect but were dry, tasteless, and floury.

While the burgers we tried were not better than what we have had at the other trendy burger places in the city they stood their own and were very good. All things considered this should be a strong choice for someone looking to grab some food before or after a game or in the area and looking for a good time and meal. This would certainly be the first place to go if you were at Wrigley and had a taste for a hamburger.

Rockit Burger Bar is open 5pm to midnight Tuesday-Thursday (soon to add hours on Monday), 5pm to 1:30am on Friday. On the weekend they open at 10:30am for brunch and stay open until 2:30am on Saturday and midnight on Sunday. You can check out their menu and get more information online at rockitburgerbar.com or follow them on Twitter @rockitburgerbar.

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