By Mason Johnson
Nestled between Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park, Lockdown Bar & Grill is a solid burger bar with some solid specials and some solid(ly loud) metal music. Solid or not, they've got a lot of tough competition in a city like Chicago that's filled with bars serving great burgers. Below, you'll find out how they compare. But! Before I judge them with my piercing, unprofessional, slightly creepy gaze, I should lay out what I'm looking for...
How do you judge a burger?
That wasn't rhetorical, I really want to know.
Do you rely on your tastebuds alone? Consider the limitless possibilities of condiments and side dishes? Judge the ambiance of the setting—the restaurant or bar—and how nicer your waiter or waitress is?
I think you do it all. You could, for example, say the ambiance doesn't matter as long as the burger is good. That is unequivocally false though, since you probably wouldn't eat a burger on the beaches of Normandy on D Day, no matter how good that burger is. You could grouse that my "beaches of Normandy" hypothetical isn't realistic, but I think my point still stands: anything can ruin a burger.
Needless to say, these best burger articles will be judged from three aspects:
The Burger – We're talking the basics, here. You got your bun, you got your patty -- what else do you need?
Extras – Sides, condiments, brews, whatever else they offer that the burger lover might enjoy.
Ambiance – Man I hate that word. Regardless, it sums up what I'm lookin' for: is the place clean, friendly, did the waitress slap you, did the waiter fart in your face...
And that, friends, is how we will judge Chicago's best burgers. Shall we start?
I don't know who established that the pretzel bun was the official Chicago burger bun, but it's something I wholeheartedly agree with. So does Lockdown apparently. This will earn them extra love.
It's the meat that matters though. Their patties are nice and thick, made to order and quite tasty. I wouldn't say they're doing anything more special than countless other burger places, but they seem dependable, that's nice. It's angus beef, it's thick, it's juicy, you can't really go wrong.
These days, most places will let you get just about anything on a burger. Lockdown is no exception. They got all the toppings that are now becoming basics: bacon, fried eggs etc. One nice touch is prosciutto. Between that and the braised pork, you've got some comparable alternatives to the pulled pork most places are allowing on their burgers. If you want something spicy, you can get The Federales (spicy roasted peppers, chorizo, fried egg, valencia hot sauce and smoked pepper mayo), if you're a child and want peanut butter and banana on your burger, you can get The Jail House Rock (The Fat Elvis) (bacon, banana and peanut butter).
Their fries aren't bad, but aren't special either. Their mac & cheese makes up for their bland fries though. Bacon, green onions and bread crumbs make it a pretty filling and tasty addition to your burger.
Beer-wise, they have a decent draft list that changes regularly (lots of expected good stuff like Lagunitas, Allagash, Goose Island and Bell's). Most of their drafts are 6 bucks, which is a little much for some, and cheap for others. The most important thing you need to know is that they're half price on Thursdays. I can't really decide whether this is better than their half price burgers on Tuesdays. Guess it depends how much you drink.
I can't help but wonder if Lockdown's tired of being compared to Kuma's Corner. I also can't help but wonder how many bars now exist in Chicago that blare loud metal music and serve killer burgers. Regardless, Lockdown should be judged by its own merit.
The music is loud. It's a metal bar, it's supposed to be. With that said, as far as metal goes, you're more likely to hear Metallica or Guns N' Roses than you are Iced Earth. It leans more toward what might in a "THIS IS METAL" type CD sold in a TV infomercial than it does the taste of what a more uptight metal expert might bang their head to.
So yeah, it's loud. That's the point. There are more important things than this, to be honest.
Like the staff. I've had really great experiences with them. They seem friendly and warm, to the point where I've realized many places like Lockdown have a staff that are more disinterested than attentive. It's nice of Lockdown to remind me that sometimes, yeah, servers are cool.
Lockdown is a great burger bar. They're definitely a contender for my top five burger bars list, but they're not a shoe in. Their burgers are great, but with so many others places offering the same kinds of unique sides and toppings they offer, it's hard to find anything at Lockdown that is completely unique.
Top 5 be damned, they're worth going to regardless...
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Mason Johnson, CBS Chicago
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