On a recent trip to Chicago, I was talking about good burger joints with one of the sales guys at the Tweeter store in north suburban Deerfield. He said, "Have you tried Charlie Beinlich's? They have great burgers!"
I'd never heard of Charlie Beinlich's and he categorized it as an old type of neighborhood tavern that sort of stood up through the test of time with shopping centers and office buildings being built up all around it. He said, "It's not far from here. It's right across from that little mall on Skokie Boulevard, just south of Lake Cook."
It was close to lunch time, so I went east on Lake Cook Road and turned right on Skokie Blvd. Down a ways on the right was Charlie Beinlich's (see map). I pulled into the large parking lot and walked inside.
It immediately reminded me of an old time supper club/tavern in the northwoods of Minnesota or Wisconsin. There was a lot of fishing decor throughout the place and the walls in the dining/bar area were made out of knotty pine. I was greeted by a waiter and I asked if I could sit at the bar. He said, "No problem. Have a seat!"
Now, the menu at Charlie Beinlich's is pretty sparse. In fact, the only menu you'll see is the one they have in the corner on the wall behind the bar near the kitchen area. (Click on the picture at the right to see the menu and other pictures of Charlie Beinlich's). And no prices are listed, either. If you have to ask how much a certain item is, well, then you don't need to be going to Charlie Beinlich's.
Charlie Beinlich's has been around since 1950 when a young Charlie Beinlich opened the doors. Throughout the years it has been known as a go to place by the lunch-pail laborers and the North Shore millionaires. Beinlich died in 2003, but the restaurant is still going strong today run by members of Beinlich's family. And I'm not certain if the decor or the food has changed since Beinlich first opened up.
Charlie Beinlich's meat is brought in fresh each day from Lakeside Meats, a butcher/deli/grocery shop in Winnetka. The cooks at Charlie Beinlich's grind the meat in house for the burgers. That's a good sign in my book.
I ordered up the Cheeseburger Deluxe - a half-pound cheeseburger with everything (lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pickles and your choice of grilled or raw onions - I went with raw) that comes with a side of fries and cole slaw. I topped it off with Swiss cheese. I had some other dealers to see and I knew it would be a long day, so I just got a Coke to go along with it.
The noon time crowd was beginning to come in while I was waiting for my burger. There were construction guys, guys in suits, regular guys, rich guys - all coming in for a great burger at Charlie Beinlich's. I immediately liked Charlie Beinlich's knowing that the blue collar crowd and the white collar titans of business could co-exist in the place.
My burger came up and I dug into it. It was good. Very good. It was flat top grilled a perfect medium with a little pink in the middle. The bun was fresh and tasty. I always say a good bun is what makes a good burger and Charlie Beinlich's were very good. The fries were also good, but the cole slaw was a little bland. That's OK, between the burger and the fries, I was plenty full by the time I got done.
With tip, the bill came to about $11.00. A little pricey, but it is Chicago. But it was very good and I'll be going back sometime. Please note that Charlie Beinlich's doesn't take credit cards and is not opened on Sunday or Monday. And I understand that it gets sort of packed on Saturday's. But it's a cool place with great burgers. Definitely a must-return place.