Chicago: The Verdict is In - Jury's Food & Drink Puts Out A Very Good Burger

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[Photographs: Daniel Zemans]

Jury's Food & Drink

4337 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60618 (map); 773-935-2255‎; jurysrestaurant.com
Cooking Method: Burgers are charbroiled, patty melts are griddled
Short Order: Cozy and friendly neighborhood restaurant puts out excellent classic burgers
Want Fries With That? Just say no to tasteless fries; onion rings are okay though
Price: Half-pound burgers start at $8.75; patty melt, $9.50

The first time I noticed Jury's Food & Drink was when I saw their sign proudly proclaiming that National Geographic had named their burger one of the ten best in the world. More intrigued than impressed by the designation, I did a quick Google search and discovered that it wasn't the magazine who said it, but rather a book published by National Geographic entitled The 10 Best of Everything: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers. Further undermining the credibility of the designation is that the list of the world's 10 best burgers includes Fuddrucker's.

After subsequently hearing from more reliable sources that Jury's does in fact serve up excellent burgers, I made it over there last week to check the place out. The corner bar and grill pairs the feel of a neighborhood hangout with white linen tablecloths and has a menu that bridges both elements. I dabbled on the fancier side of things with an appetizer of some of the largest shrimp I've seen in a shrimp cocktail but then settled in to feast on the burger portion of the menu.

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Burger eaters get their choice of building their own burger concoctions starting with a charbroiled half-pound patty, or getting The Judge, which is topped with cheddar, bacon, avocado, onion, tomatoes and lettuce. Those who prefer something off the griddle can opt for a Jury's Melt, known everywhere outside the restaurant as a patty melt. I opted for a cheeseburger and a melt and had the pleasure of sampling two excellent burgers.

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The cheeseburger was ordered medium rare with cheddar and grilled onions and arrived precisely as requested. There is nothing farm fresh or artisanal about any aspect of the burger, but that doesn't change the reality of its deliciousness. The patty was juicy and flavorful and, thanks to a firm crust and a soft center, a textural treat. The bun was a run-of-the-mill grocery store variety, which was fine, and the cheese and the onions both pulled their weight. Taken together, this was a great classic bar and grill burger; it didn't rock my world, but it did cause a slight ripple.

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The more I eat patty melts, the more I like them. And the one at Jury's, which is the first patty melt I've had that included a half-pound patty, did nothing to stunt my burgeoning love. Ordered rare, this one came just as requested and was gushing burger juice. Like the cheeseburger, the patty melt came with cheddar and grilled onions, though it was served on toasted and heavily buttered rye bread. It was a shade on the messy side, but in an impressive slap in the face of the laws of physics, the bread managed to hold together.

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With every burger, diners are given a choice of steak fries, pasta salad, coleslaw, onion rings, sautéed vegetables, or a baked potato. I tried the fries and onion rings and was entirely disappointed in the former and only mildly appreciative of the latter. I really have no patience for any restaurant serving crappy frozen fries that taste far more like the oil they're cooked in than the potatoes from which they're made. The onion rings were similarly weak in the tastes like a vegetable department, but the thick crunchy breading made them somewhat enjoyable.

Problems with the fries aside, I really liked Jury's a lot. Are the burgers one of the ten best in the world? Of course not. And ever since Bad Apple opened 300 feet away, Jury's doesn't even have the best burger on the block. But for what it is—a classic burger from a bar and grill—it's tough to do much better than Jury's.