4471 Lawn Ave, Western Springs IL 60558 (map); 708-246-2082; vierestaurant.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: This flawless marvel is easily among the best in Chicagoland; exceptional in every way
Want Fries With That? Fries are not available but the seasonal salad that comes with the burger is a winner
While I am a lifelong Chicagoan committed to life within city limits, I like to think I have a pretty good knowledge of the suburbs. But until I started reading about Vie a few years ago, I can't say I'd ever even heard of Western Springs. And since then, the only time I've ever come across the name of the small affluent suburb 15 miles west of downtown has been when I've either read or heard someone extol the virtues of Vie (pronounced "Vee").
Chef Paul Virant's pedigree is as good as it gets. The Culinary Institute of America grad had stints at March in New York along with Charlie Trotter, Ambria, Everest, and Blackbird in Chicago before opening Vie in 2004. And since then, the chef and his restaurant have received as much good press as any place in town, culminating with its recent anointment by Gayot as one of the best 40 restaurants in the country.
Until Tuesday night, the only thing that had kept me from heading to Vie were needing an excuse to splurge and my hatred of rush hour traffic. The combination of my birthday and the discovery that the restaurant is less than a two-minute walk from the Metra station were all I needed to finally make it out there.
Before getting into a description of the beautiful treat pictured above, I want to make one thing clear: If you go to Vie, do not limit yourself to the burger. I tried bits of two appetizers, two salads, and three entrées in addition to the burger and everything was outstanding. There is not a single positive thing that has been said about this place that I can disagree with. From the food to the service to the restaurant's emphasis on local and sustainable foods, this was one of the better dining experiences I have had.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I'm going to toss out another superlative: The burger at Vie is one of the best in Chicago. Once upon a time in the history of Vie, the burger was only available as an off-menu option on limited nights when the kitchen ground up leftover meat trimmings from a side of beef butchered in-house for non-burger purposes. These days, it holds a regular spot on the menu and is made from ground chuck from cows raised by the masters at Dietzler Farms. I've mentioned the beef from Dietzler before in my reviews of C-House and Chaise Lounge (since renamed The Southern). Both of those burgers were exceptional, but Vie elevates the meat to another level.
Any restaurant can go buy quality beef, but the true test of greatness is what the kitchen can do with it. First and foremost, my rare burger at Vie was cooked absolutely perfectly on the wood-burning grill, warm and deep red on the inside with a decent crust on the outside. The half-pound patty was placed on a buttery toasted house-made Parker House roll with a very lightly crisp outer edge that gave way to a tender interior. I'd never had a burger on that style of bun before and am now left wondering why more places don't use them. Atop the burger was a cascade of melted white cheddar along with outstanding firm house-cured bacon that added texture and a healthy dose of salt to the meal.
The final touch on the burger comes from the house-made pickles. Chef Virant and his sous-chef Nathan Sears have a track record of pickling virtually any vegetable they can get their hands on, and their experience shines through on these traditional pickle slices. To say these crisp and juicy dill pickles with shades of spice and sweetness were outstanding would be a gross understatement. Side orders of pickles are not on the menu, but when I return to Vie, I will beg, plead, and cry if I have to, but I am going to get an order of these things and I have no intention on sharing them.
I've made my love for David Burke's pretty clear on this site, and I think it remains my gold standard. But the burger at Vie is positively exceptional in every way and has to be in the conversation for the best in or around Chicago.