What more could we want from Redhot Ranch? It already serves one of the best hot dogs in Chicago and the fries are exceptional, especially if you order them extra-crispy. But recently, Redhot Ranch has been expanding its horizons ever so slightly. First was that partnership with the Bunny Hutch up in Lincolnwood, which also saw the introduction of thin, griddled burgers to menu. Now Redhot Ranch has a second location Lakeview, and it brought those griddled burgers along for the ride.
Owner Barry Nemerow is not shy about his aim to replicate a classic In-N-Out burger. But as many others have already noted, the offering misses some very key components. Some of these are minor, like the fact that the construction of the burger is reversed (at In-N-Out, the toppings are stacked on the bottom bun). But the burger is also missing pickles, which is a bigger deal. While frustrating, it kind of makes sense when you remember that Redhot Ranch serves a Depression Dog—that minimalist version of the Chicago dog—with only mustard, onion, relish, and sport peppers. If it had pickles for the burgers, someone would probably want them for the dogs, and then can you imagine the chaos? It's not an excuse, and I want pickles as much as everyone else, but it's at least an explanation.
Anyway, if you spend your whole time counting the flaws, you'll miss the things that Redhot Ranch actually does better than In-N-Out. Just take a look at that patty. In-N-Out griddles fresh pre-formed burger patties, but Redhot Ranch uses the smash burger technique, where a ball of beef is cooked for a minute and then flattened on the griddle, which produces a glistening, crispy surface. It's fantastic.
Plus, In-N-Out's fries don't even come close to Redhot Ranch's exceptional spuds, which are some of the best in the city. Plus, they come free with every order.
So, Redhot Ranch's burger is its own beast. While I'm still holding out for some pickles to come along, it's best not to let a minor issue get in the way of a genuinely excellent new burger option in Chicago.