On the Cusp of Brilliance with the Burger at Longman and Eagle

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[Photographs: Daniel Zemans]

Longman & Eagle

2657 N. Kedzie Ave Chicago, IL 60647 (map); (773) 276-7110‎; longmanandeagle.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Spectacular meat, this burger is a couple easy but significant tweaks from being among the best in town.
Want Fries With That? You bet your Lifesavers
Price: $12

Inspired by my trip to Atlanta's Holeman & Finch where I had a spectacular burger and some delicious cuts of meat that would bring tears of joy to Chichi Wang, I headed over to Longman & Eagle when I got back to Chicago. L & E opened at the beginning of the year in Logan Square and has suffered no growing pains, earning national praise as one of the country's five best bars for eating by Esquire (Holeman & Finch got the same honor).

We had a meal of roasted marrow bones, grilled pork cheek, and the absolutely remarkable Tête du Cochon. We also sampled bits of L & E's ridiculously large selection of whiskey/Scotch/rye/bourbon. All of that led up to the purpose of my visit: to check out the burger.

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I'm mentioned a couple of times before that I think the recent burger boom has completely changed the expectations many of us have for burgers. In years past, all it took was for a burger to be large and made with fresh ground beef to stand out. That's how places like Hackney's got so popular. Today, with an increasing number of places featuring high quality ground beef, the stakes have been raised substantially. Eaters may not be able to tell different quality eggs apart, but with beef the difference is huge. The flipside of the growth in places using exceptional beef is that in order to be at the absolute height of the burger world, even more than quality cow is needed for a burger to be among the elite.

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Longman & Eagle starts off strong by using a patty from Slagel Family Farms. The beef is simply phenomenal and my burger was grilled to rare perfection. There wasn't much of a crust, but that's a forgivable flaw as that's hard to pull off on a grilled rare burger. Not content to stop with good beef, L & E sources every component of the burger from quality producers.

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The burger is topped with some fantastic sharp cheddar from Widmer's Cheese Cellars, a third generation Wisconsin cheese maker. The bacon comes from Nueske's which is remarkable for a side of bacon, but I've grown to think is a little bit too powerful for a burger. The bun, a brioche from the otherwise excellent La Farine bakery, was the burger's massive flaw. The bun was so bready that it actually came close to overwhelming a half-pound of beef, rich bacon, and sharp cheddar cheese.

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Sitting atop the Tête du Cochon, which was the highlight of my excellent meal, was a perfectly cooked sunny side up duck egg. I found out after I'd eaten that, while it's not on the menu, adding a duck egg to the burger is an option. With lesser meat (in quality or quantity) I'd avoid adding a duck egg because it's so rich, but the patty at Longman and Eagle could handle it. The burger I had was very good. With a duck egg, it would have been exceptional. With a duck egg and a different bun, it could be among the best in town.

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One part of the meal that needs no tweaking at all is the fries. Cooked in beef fat, these skin-on beauties were cooked to crispy/pillowy perfection. There's really not much to say about them other than in a city full of great french fries, these are definitely in the top tier.