Munchin’ with Michael: Burgers

Michael Barthelemy, Food Critic

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The spirit of America. Our country’s proudest accomplishment to date. The source of joy for so many. The cheeseburger.

While it may appear simple, the art of the cheeseburger has grown to become quite complex. In order to build a quality cheeseburger, the beef patty must be cooked and seasoned to perfection, the cheese must be melty and the toppings and bun must play as sole contributors to the masterpiece of a sandwich. 

For this review, I decided to visit four spots: Bill’s Drive-In, Blind Faith Cafe, Edzo’s and Mustard’s. While these places may all reside in Evanston, they present three different styles of the burger: the “cheap” casual burger, a more gourmet sandwich and… a veggie burger. Yes, I tried a vegan cheeseburger during this review, a first for me. With this does not come any special judgment, as all three forms of burger will be judged evenly. 

So without further ado, let’s get to munchin’.

Mustard’s

Mustard’s is a classic neighborhood spot. On the north side of Evanston, this is a go-to for anything from beach days to before Northwestern football games, as the prices aren’t high and who doesn’t like burgers and fries? While Mustard’s is known primarily for their hotdog, the burgers are still the standard for many, including myself.

The burger itself is a typical thin beef patty. While it may not provide the highest quality, it still gives great taste. The burger is cooked perfectly medium well and is certainly juicy.

The cheese used is American and is, once again, not of the highest quality but still works. The taste is a great compliment to the burger, and the meltiness of it adds a great gooey texture.

As for the bun, there weren’t many positives here. The bread was crumbling from the beginning and by the end was a bit soggy and falling apart. This fits into the cheap-burger persona Mustard’s is presenting but, unlike other aspects, it feels less charming and more lazy.

Overall, this is a great spot to go with your friends for any casual occasion. It’s inexpensive ($5.25) and will leave you satisfied amidst its average quality.

Score: 3.5/5

Bill’s

Pulling into Bill’s, the appeal is that of another Mustard’s, only on the far south side of town; there’s a neighborhood feel in the restaurant that has an odd sense of comfort. Just the same as Mustard’s, the burger is clearly not gourmet, but is certainly a bang for your buck, as it’s only $2.45 for a single burger. 

The patty greatly resembled Mustard’s with it’s thin nature. The taste was there for sure, and this patty brought a crispier feeling while still remaining juicy and tender.

The American cheese was extremely melty on this burger. It was coated onto the patty, a great advantage seeing that the sandwich will stick together with no problem. The bun was strong as well, holding up to the high melty levels of the cheese. Rather than having Mustard’s cheaper buns, Bill’s used a bun that did its job and contained the burger well.

The issues that arose for me here were the toppings. For starters, Bill’s does not offer lettuce, a must-have for any burger fan. Without that crunch, I was forced to rely more on the tomato and pickle, which didn’t have the same effect. In addition, there were times where the tomato and pickle were just too much for me and overpowered bites.

If Bill’s were to carry lettuce and work on a more equal ratio of topping, no doubt it would be stronger than Mustard’s, but because of the faults in the toppings, these burgers are nearly the same.

Score: 3.5/5

Edzo’s

Edzo’s was for sure the favorite coming into this contest. They’ve received countless recognition from publications such as the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Eater, but the question remained: would they be able to live up to the hype? Coming in with such high expectations, the slightest of errors could result in disappointment, but in the case of Edzo’s, there isn’t much to complain about.

The patty is thin, yet brings a higher-quality feel unlike Bill’s and Mustard’s. Instead, the ground beef on this patty is clearly fresh and seasoned perfectly, as you can taste the numerous flavors coming off the meat while still holding onto that classic burger taste. Yet, because of its thin nature, it doesn’t overpower and cause you to forget about the toppings.

The veggies are certainly fresh and provide great texture and complementary flavors. Although ordering just lettuce, tomato and pickle, there was a slight dryness at points, which is understandable due to the topping selection. If I were to get a more complex order, such as topping the burger with an egg, surely I would not be having this same issue.

As for the bun, it wraps the whole sandwich together. It’s soft yet firm and is even able to subtly add to the overall taste of the burger. The bun is the glue to it all and keeps the operation on track.

Overall, I could see why there was so much hype around Edzo’s. For $5.75, all the high praise is well deserved, and this should definitely be any burger-lovers’ go-to spot.

Score: 4.7/5

Blind Faith

Coming into Blind Faith, the expectations could not have been lower. As an omnivore, stepping into a vegetarian restaurant to eat a vegan burger with vegan cheese had me scared. How could a burger made from plants compete with the real deal? Well to put it frankly, it simply can’t.

The burger itself is made with tofu and rice and gives a yellow color that almost resembles falafel. This is where the problems began. The burger was completely errant of flavor and eating it, you tasted absolutely nothing. On top of that, because of the soft nature of the patty, there was no stability to the burger itself. Looking at it, the toppings were able to morph the shape of the burger and it turned to mush once it hit your mouth.

The highlight of the dish was for sure the cheese. Vegan cheese is one of my greatest fears and was what I was most hesitant of trying from the beginning. But after tasting the cheese, I could not spot a difference. It tasted and felt just like classic mozzarella, yet was made with tapioca.

As for the toppings and bun, nothing much is to be said. The bun was a nice grilled bun that added much needed crunch, and the toppings added a majority of the flavor due to the burger lacking.

Going to Blind Faith was an odd experience to say the least. I’ve never had a vegan burger and this was not a good introduction, especially for $12.95. This review has nothing against veganism as a whole, I don’t judge people based on their dietary habits, the dish was just simply lacking.

Score: 1.2/5