Staying in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, I've found a number of places that have satisfied my culinary urges. One place that popped up on my radar last year was a burger place called American WildBurger. I wasn't certain what to expect when I took off from my hotel one evening to find American WildBurger. When I did find the place on E. Oakton in Des Plaines (see map) I still didn't know what to expect.
The building that houses American WildBurger is a small square structure that has a little bit of parking and even less seating. But that seems to be part of the major plan for the ownership group headed by Ricardo Talavera, Jr., chef Alfredo Esparza, Luke Tworek and two other investors. The group wanted to offer gourmet burgers at as much as half off the price of burgers of other places with bigger and established names in the Chicagoland area. Keeping the overhead low is one of the keys to keeping their prices reasonable.
The other thing the group set out to do is to have fresh beef, turkey and chicken that contains no hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. Their never-frozen burger meat is ground in house and contains no filler, just 100% natural U.S.D.A. Prime beef. And it's been that way since they opened on December 1, 2012.
It was around 7:30 when I found American WildBurger. Actually, I drove past it once because the building is so small that I didn't see it until I was past it the first time. Going around the block, I found some parking in a small lot on the west side of the building.
As I said, the place isn't very big. It features a small metal bar with about 8 high chairs to sit on as you enjoy your burger looking out onto Oakton Ave. It's pretty basic and I'm guessing that most of the people who patronize American WildBurger get their burgers to go - as did a handful of people who called ahead to pick up their orders while I was waiting for mine. American WildBurger also has delivery service around their immediate area.
They were playing "headbanger" rock when I walked in. Before I ordered my burger, they switched the music to classic rock. I kind of mentally laughed at that. Hey, if they want to listen to headbanger metal music while they're on the job, that's fine with me. They certainly weren't upsetting the middle-aged guy standing at the counter.
The menu at American WildBurger is on boards above the open kitchen. They feature 6 signature burgers on the menu including the Big Breakfast burger that features a 6 oz. beef patty, fried egg, salsa, pepper jack cheese, and smoked bacon on a pretzel bun. The "You're My Boy Bleu" burger also features a 6 oz. burger patty on a pretzel bun with bleu cheese, smoked bacon, mushrooms, grilled onions, tomato and lettuce. For the health conscious people, they also have a grilled chicken sandwich on the menu topped with pico de gallo, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, sliced avocado and chipotle mayo on an egg bun. American WildBurger also has a salmon burger and a portobello mushroom burger. On the weekends, American WildBurger features bison burgers on their menu, as well.
You can also make your own burger with a combination of four different types of buns (including a gluten free bun), eight choices of cheese from American and cheddar to smoked gouda and bleu cheese crumbles, and a host of toppings, condiments and sauces. I decided to get a burger with smoked bacon, sauteed mushrooms and pepper jack cheese on an egg bun. American WildBurger also has sides such as regular French fries, Cajun-style fries, cole slaw, and, interestingly, calamari ceviche. I figured the burger would be fine for me on its own. American WildBurger doesn't have beer, so I just got a bottle of water.
The burger took about 15 minutes to get to me after I ordered. It was wrapped in an aluminum foil wrapper holding in the warmth and the juice from the lean burger.
Ample amounts fresh sauteed mushrooms were on top of the two slices of pepper jack cheese. At first I thought they had forgotten the bacon because I didn't see any on top of the burger patty under the cheese. But it turned out that they put the bacon on the bottom bun before placing the burger patty on top of the bacon.
The bun had a nice consistency and held together well. About the only quibble I had with the burger is that they didn't melt the cheese on the burger patty long enough. The pepper jack cheese would split and flake off the burger on the ends.
But the burger was cooked to what I would call a perfect medium - it had a little bit of pink in the middle and maintained a juicy taste with each bite. There was a lot of taste sensations going on with the burger, as well. It was simply stellar.
I have to tell you - the burger I had at American WildBurger was not only great tasting, it was a magnificent value. Burgers start at $5.95 and with the cheese, bacon and sauteed mushrooms, the burger came up to $7.45 before tax. Keeping the overhead low helps keep the price down and I think it's a concept that is a winner for the owners of American WildBurger. The group is looking to expand and franchise locations around the Chicagoland area. In a city with a lot of great burger places, American WildBurger more than holds their own versus others in the area.