2900 W. Belmont Ave.
Let's get right to it, this sitting at Kuma's Corner constituted one of the top five meals of my Chicago existence, and I can agree with Nat's early advising that although Rosebud Steakhouse probably serves the best basic burger in the city (and has the best value), Kuma's has the best speciality burger (although TOC lists it as the best "pub" burger). With a variety of different ingredient permutations to choose from, I could imagine devoting an entire blog/project to Kuma's alone.
Nat had already been to Kuma's a number of times, so my expectations were inconceivably high. Upon arriving and sitting, we were greeted by a waitress with a sparkling personality and an aesthetic that made me homesick for the Seattle-cum-Minneapolis cigarette-adorned coffee shop girls of my adolescence. We ordered Bloody Marys, brewed six days previous and made with jalapeno vodka, which by themselves made it worth the trip.
This Bloody Mary contains the three things I always hope for: intense spiciness, dill, and some sort of salt/worcestershire sediment.
When it came time to order food, Nat steered me away from the Slayer--a pile of fries topped with a burger, jack cheese, chili, cherry peppers, and andouille onions--as it had previously destroyed him, and doesn't "technically" count as a burger (although Nat and a friend of ours had previously ordered the Slayer with a side of hamburger buns). I went with the Mastodon, which was a great first foray into the diverse menu. The most amazing aspect of the Mastodon, is the exactly proportionate nature of each of the ingredients. Left to my own devices, I generally will not order cheese on my burger, but the perfect amounts of cheese, BBQ sauce, fried onions (which absolutely make the burger) and bacon, make sure that the patty itself was not subsumed.
The Mastodon (aka the realest thing I ever ate): fried onions, bacon, BBQ sauce, and cheddar.
Nat, an old pro, ordered the Led Zeppelin (pictured below). Our cherubic waitress remarked that she always feels a bit winded after finishing the Zeppelin, but when we left, both Nat and I were perfectly full, and neither of us felt sick.
So the real dilemma is this: Given Kuma's extreme proximity to Hot Doug's, we are left with a cognitive dissonance-inducing choice to make, every Saturday around noontime. Kuma's essentially is the hamburger version of Hot Doug's. Incredible quality ingredients, creative combinations of elements, and an overall indie sensibility. The drinking options at Kuma's clearly tip the scale in the hamburger's favor, yet Doug's delectable fries favor hot dogs. Either way, I guess we should be glad we don't live around California and Belmont and have to confront this conflict on a daily basis. To ambiguously echo the concerns of one of our mothers, I would probably never again know what fruit tastes like.