Forget Top Chef, Marcus Samuelsson is a Burger Master at C-House in Chicago
C-House Fish & Chops
166 East Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); (312) 523-0923; c-houserestaurant.com/
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: From the high quality perfectly cooked meat to the house-made bun, this is one spectacular burger
Want Fries With That? Most definitely. The crisp blanched and fried potatoes are great on their own and possibly better with the house-made ketchup
It goes without saying that Marcus Samuelsson, owner of C-House Fish & Chops, is a brilliant chef. Equally important for our purposes at AHT is his lifelong love of burgers. My already high expectations were raised even more when I walked into the restaurant and saw the would-be Top Chef Master sitting there eating lunch; no way the kitchen was going to be off that day.
I sat on a couch within hearing distance of Samuelsson while waiting for my guest. I assume he was in town for the National Restaurant Association Show, but he wasn't waiting for the expo to get down to business. He was enjoying his own food while a shoe manufacturer was trying to sell him on some high quality leather shoes that would make it easier for kitchen staff to stand for hours. I was happy to hear Samuelsson specifically ask about sustainability and labor issues. Apparently, he's a more selfless guy than the Top Chef Masters editors have made him appear. That said, my concern on this day was not the environment or staff comfort; it was how well C-House could make a burger.
The patty, a half-pound of high-fat Dietzler Farms beef, is exceptional. The meat is barely seasoned but is so good it is the unquestioned star of the meal. It does not have the chickpea flour like Samuelsson used on Top Chef Masters a few weeks ago. Instead, the seasoning for the extremely high quality beef comes from the peppery mayonnaise based sauce and chopped onions underneath the patty.
The burger was cooked perfectly on a grill and ended up with a warm dark pink interior and a nice surprisingly char-free crust on the outside. It was topped with some fresh red and green lettuce and a small slice of gouda cheese. The burger is served on a yeasty, chewy housemade bun that is good enough to eat on its own.
The fries are blanched and then fried in Canola oil to crisp exterior/pillowy interior perfection. They are served with house-made ketchup that I, a staunch anti-ketchup eater, loved. Unlike most ketchup, which I find to be overly sweet for potato dunking purposes, this one has a much stronger vinegar taste that is mildly tempered by the sugar. I couldn't decide whether I liked the fries better with or without the ketchup and ended up going back and forth from fry to fry.
There is really no point in going to C-House and not getting dessert. In my experience, with the exception of Mindy Segal, there's not a better pastry chef in a Chicago restaurant than Toni Roberts. And when it comes to fruit-flavored desserts, she might be the best. I mentioned her last year when her four desserts at Chicago Gourmet blew me away.
There are no shakes on the menu, though there are beer floats (yes, beer). With no shake to go with my burger, I instead went with the lemon rhubarb ice cream sandwich. The bread was a version of thin brioche and the sandwich was served with rhubarb preserves and chamomile cream. I would have liked a little more rhubarb to stand up to the tart lemon, but my gripe is minor; this was an outstanding seasonal dessert. The bread was a version of thin brioche and the sandwich was served with rhubarb preserves and chamomile cream. I would have liked a little more rhubarb to stand up to the tart lemon, but my gripe is minor; this was an outstanding seasonal dessert.