A quick shout-out today to David S. who sent me an e-mail touting a place I wasn't familiar with in the western suburbs of Chicago - Palmer Place in La Grange, IL. "It's obvious from your blog that you like burgers and you like beer," he wrote to me. "I'm sort of surprised that you haven't been to Palmer Place before." I immediately put the place on my "Restaurants to Visit" list and went there on a recent trip into Chicago.
I'm sort of surprised that I hadn't heard of the place either since it's been around for 33 years now. It all started when Mike and Ruth Palmer had traveled to Europe in the summer of 1982 and found themselves loving the biergartens of Germany. Determined to have their own authentic biergarten in the western suburbs of Chicago, they found a space along La Grange Road in downtown La Grange and opened Palmer Place in 1983.
Mike Palmer passed away in 1990, but Ruth and her sons Phil and Steve continue to run the restaurant today. Phil and Steve's children now also work in the restaurant making it three generations of Palmers to work in Palmer Place.
Now, I had driven by Palmer Place a number of times as it's located along La Grange Road, the main north-south drag in La Grange. (see map) In fact, it's located just up the street from Q-BBQ, a wonderful barbecue joint that I visited a couple years ago. (Click here to read about my experience at Q-BBQ.) I found a parking space across the street from Palmer Place and made my way inside.
There's a front part and a back part to the restaurant. I took a seat in the smaller front part - quite probably the original part of the restaurant. I was met by my server - Nina - and was given a menu. They have a large beer selection at Palmer Place - domestics, imports and craft brews - and I got a Goose Island Summertime, a wonderful German-style Kolsch beer.
The back part of the restaurant is substantially larger than the front part of the restaurant. There was a bar, a number of tables and a brick wall along two sides. Windows along the south wall allowed for natural light to come into the room.
Behind the restaurant and next to the back room of the place was the biergarten. For some reason the pictures I took of the biergarten didn't turn out - the umbrellas they had and the cloudy skies made the picture too dark. So, I found this picture on the Palmer Place Facebook page. It was a bustling and popular place for lunch that particular day.
Not only did they have a large beer selection at Palmer Place, they had a number of burgers to choose from on the menu - over 30 different burgers. They had basic burgers and they had a number of interesting and eclectic burgers such as a Wagyu steak burger; the Tuscan burger topped with sautéed peppers, grated parmesan, and basil pesto; the New York Deli burger featured toppings such as corned beef and Swiss cheese: the Belvedere burger was topped with blue cheese, Canadian bacon and grilled onions; and the California burger that was topped with Monterrey jack cheese, guacamole, sprouts, and artichoke hearts. They also feature two signature burgers - the Ultimate Gourmet Burger that won a Silver Medal at the 2010 Chicago Gourmet Hamburger Hop, and the Benchmark Burger that won the People's Choice Award at the 2011 Gourmet Hamburger Hop. The Ultimate Gourmet Burger features Wagyu beef and is topped with Nueske's bacon, aged white cheddar cheese, braised onions, sliced beefsteak tomatoes and a slew of other veggies. The Benchmark Burger featured a blend of ground chuck, short rib and brisket beef, charbroiled and topped with a spice rub, aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese, smoked picante ketchup, a roasted red pepper remoulade sauce, chopped Nueske's pepper bacon, a slew of veggies.
In addition to their extensive burger menu, Palmer Place also features a number of sandwiches including eight different variations of club sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, a reuben, a pulled pork sandwich, and their signature corned beef sandwich. Soups, salads and appetizers are also available as well as a handful of entrees such as steaks, ribs, seafood and Ruth Palmer's homemade meatloaf.
I was really wanting to try the corned beef sandwich, but they had so many different types of burgers that I couldn't really make up my mind which direction to go. The Frisco burger was topped with ham and Swiss cheese, the Black and Blue burger had Cajun spices and blue cheese on it, and the Breakfast burger featured a fried egg, bacon and cheddar cheese. I could have gone in any direction and come up with a winning burger.
In the end, I decided upon the 3 Cheese Mushroom burger. The burger was topped with Muenster, cheddar and provolone cheese and sautéed mushrooms. I asked Nina if they could throw on some bacon with the burger. She said it would be no problem.
The burgers at Palmer Place feature 1/2 pound char-grilled patties. The burger came on a lightly grilled brioche bun with sliced tomatoes and onions as well as pickle slices and a lettuce leaf were all served on the side. I got fries on the side, but I knew I probably wouldn't be eating many of them.
The burger was big and juicy, the three cheeses melted over the top of the patty. I threw on the onion slice, pickles and some ketchup and mustard. The bun was light and fluffy, a great accompaniment to the burger.
The taste was very good. I'd rather have flat-grilled burgers, but some places know how to make a good char-grilled burger. And Palmer Place is one of them. The patty wasn't dried out and it was very flavorful. With all that was going on with the cheese, bacon, mushrooms and condiments, I could still taste the charred beef patty. It was a very good burger, indeed.
With as large of a burger selection they have at Palmer Place, one could eat there every day for a month and still not experience all that they have on the menu. And the menu at Palmer Place doesn't just stop at the burgers, they have some other interesting items on the menu that I would like to try including their signature corned beef sandwich. The beer selection was top notch, I felt the service was fine and efficient, and I liked the atmosphere in Palmer Place. I will be heading back there at some point for either another burger or a sandwich on my next visit.