Editor's note: The Over 21 Club series features Chicago restaurants that have been around for over 21 years. They must be doing something right, so we'll visit them and see why.
733 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60605; (map); 312-461-1116; hackneysprintersrow.net
Open Since: 1939
Cost: Homemade Kettle Potato Chips, full order ($7.95), Reuben Sandwich ($10.95); Patty Melt ($10.95); Apple Strudel a la mode ($6.45)
Hackney's is a staple for faithful, in-the-know Chicago natives thanks to their consistent burgers (reviewed here). But what if you don't want a burger? I mean, you don't want to feel like that one assbag in the corner who's not ordering that one thing that everybody else is ordering. Right? Okay, so maybe I ordered a burger. Sort of. Peer pressure, people.
Hackney's has a solid position in The Over 21 Club. Their history goes back into the 1920s, where, according to their website, Jack Hackney and his wife sold hamburgers during Prohibition. Hackney's original location is in Glenview, but I visited the one in Printer's Row in downtown Chicago.
The Homemade Potato Kettle Chips come in two sizes: a half order ($6.95) and a full order ($7.95). The full order is a dollar more, and holy balls, is this a ton of chips. They come topped with blue cheese and hot sauce (make sure you order extra cheese and hot sauce on them), and arrive right out of the fryer crunchy and full of rich potato flavor. Combined with the Tabasco and sharp blue cheese, you're armed with solid beer food.
My girlfriend, Julie, ordered the Reuben ($10.95), which features corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on Hackney's signature dark rye. The corned beef tasted just like it should—bold and peppery. If you're a Reuben fan, hit it up with no question. Man, I wish I had a sandwich named after me, but a Fart Sandwich really isn't as delicious as it sounds.
Before I came to Hackney's, I told myself I'd order anything but the burger. Anything. But I saw the words "Patty Melt," ($10.95) and that's when I died. In my mind, a patty melt is a combination of a burger and a regular sandwich. But which one is it officially? Well, at least according to Hackney's, it is a sandwich, as it's not listed on the burger side of the menu but on the sandwich side. That's all the justification I needed.
When you think about it, a patty melt is simple; it's just a hamburger patty, cheese, onions, and rye bread. I ordered mine medium-rare, with American cheese, and that's precisely as it came out.
The patty didn't come out with a spectacularly charred crust, but it was blanketed in cheese and grilled onions, which were naturally sweet and added bite. The sliced dark rye wasn't toasted and gave up after being soaked with burger juices pretty quickly, but that's more than forgivable. This is a gooey, cheesy, soft, juicy, oniony burger...I mean, sandwich. It's simple. It's happy.
The apple strudel ($6.45) looked like a good way to finish a big meal, because I'm clearly a health expert and I know how these things work. You've got choices between vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon ice cream. But with baked apple anything, cinnamon ice cream is a natural choice. The strudel came in a flaky pastry crust, drizzled with a good amount of rich caramel sauce, and the cinnamon ice cream with a relatively muted flavor made for a good way to end a comforting meal.
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.