I'd first heard about Hamburger Heaven in Elmhurst, IL last fall from a Road Tips reader (whose name escapes me at this time) who wrote and told me, "This place has the best burgers in all of Chicago. Believe me. You've got to go there and give it a try sometime."
The only problem is that when I finally got around to trying the place out, it was closed for the winter months. You see, Hamburger Heaven is a little ice cream shack at the corner of York Road and North Avenue in Elmhurst (see map). They just happen to be well known around the western suburbs of Chicago as having some of the best burgers around.
I was driving on North Ave. through Elmhurst in late March and I happened to notice that Hamburger Heaven was open for the season. I was on my way downtown and couldn't stop in at that time, but the next day I went back for a quick burger before I left town.
Actually, the official name of the place is "Jim's Hamburger Heaven". It's been in business for 60 years, first opening in 1948. Since 1977, Angelo Kouretas has been running the business. I haven't been able to find out who the original "Jim" was, but I read that it may have been the nephew of the original owner who took over the business sometime in the 60's. Rumor also has it that Hamburger Heaven's Double Decker burger was the influence behind McDonald's Big Mac. McDonald's will dispute this, but a lot of McDonald's employees from their nearby corporate offices would eat at Hamburger Heaven.
I pulled into the parking lot on a sunny early spring day around 11:45. There were a couple people standing at the order window ordering food. There's a single menu on the board outside the restaurant. I just wanted to get a double cheeseburger and a root beer, which I understand they make in house.
Everything is made to order, so there's going to be a wait for a burger. I waited outside watching the traffic going by for about 10 minutes before the girl opened the pick up window and called my number. I took my double cheese and root beer to my car and dug in.
I'll have to say that while the burger is good, I don't know if it's the best I've ever had in Chicago. It was juicy and the condiments were fresh. I really did like the root beer, though. It was a good compliment to the burger.
Hamburger Heaven is definitely a throwback to the 50's and the fact that it's kept its unique nature over the years is a testament to the good food they serve. I may have to come back for a root beer float sometime this summer. And I'll probably get a hamburger again. Only I'll try a Double Decker next time.