This post is part of my new occasional miniseries, Burgers Abroad, which will feature burgers I try outside of Central Indiana.
The Indy Burger Guy visited DMK Burger Bar at Navy Pier on Saturday, April 8, 2018.
Chicago is one of my wife’s favorite cities and was voted the #1 most exciting city in the world by Time Out. So, when planning a simple vacation to get out of Indy for awhile, we opted to start our vacation by heading up to the Midwest’s crown jewel. And while we absolutely noshed on Italian food and the deep-dish pizza Chicago is known for, I managed to convince the Mrs. to stop for a gourmet burger while we were in town!
DMK Burger Bar is a local Chicago burger chain that was started in 2009 by restauranteur David Morton and James Beard-nominated chef Michael Kornick. They currently have four locations in the city and one in nearby Oak Brook, IL.
The wife and I stopped into their Navy Pier location – the closest one to our hotel – and took our seats. The restaurant is located in the Navy Pier food court and has an open-concept feel like you would expect in an airport bar. The vibe, though, is pretty cool without being toxic. It’s a fun place to pop in and grab a burger and a beer.
Upon glancing at the menu, one thing became readily apparent. Right away, I could see this was different than the menu posted online. For starters, only a handful of the fifteen total burger options were available on the Navy Pier menu. Instead of more burgers, there were a number of seafood options here that I would assume aren’t on the menu at the other locations. Also, rather than varying prices for each burger (as seen online), each burger was priced at $15… but that price also included fries and a soda.
After coming to grips with my surprise over the menu, I opted for the #8 – the closest thing to a classic cheeseburger I was able to see on the menu. It came with iceberg lettuce, a slice of fresh tomato, pickled red onions, bread-and-butter pickles, mayonnaise, and a choice of cheese (I, of course, went with American). I paired it with their plain hand-cut Russet potato fries, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. (Sadly, their award-winning and attention-getting sweet potato fries were also missing from the Navy Pier menu.) My wife, meanwhile, opted for the #9, a patty melt with bacon, balsamic grilled red onions, remoulade sauce, and smoked swiss on grilled rye bread, along with their parmesan-truffle cream fries. (I don’t mind telling you – I made the wrong call on those fries. The truffle cream sauce that accompanied them was INSANE!)
In terms of how done I wanted my burger, the waitress asked what I’ve come to call “the Applebee’s question” – that is, “some pink or no pink?” I’m not a fan of this question. You don’t ask it when cooking a steak, so I don’t really see why you’d ask it of a burger. This blog post from The Girl in the Blue Apron does a good job of echoing my frustration with that stale line of questioning (and with the difficulty of getting a properly-cooked burger).
When our burgers came to the table, I was salivating just looking at them! It was an incredibly simple presentation – the burger was nestled on a small blue plate with the fries sitting beside it in a small paper boat – but it looked so delicious! Picking up the burger, I noticed that the bun was extremely pliable, sinking down as I picked it up. While I was initially worried that it wouldn’t hold up to the burger or its contents, I was very pleased to find that the bun (which tasted fresh-baked, leading me to wonder if it was prepared in-house) lasted to my final bite and, more or less, kept all the burger contents safely in place.
Also, the fresh grass-fed beef was the out and out star of the burger – properly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and wonderfully juicy. The toppings were a welcome addition and did little to overwhelm the burger. I was especially happy to see bread-and-butter pickles on the burger as these sweet and sour beauties are my absolute favorite and I rarely see them in a burger. That, for me, was a real treat!
While they didn’t overwhelm or distract, I was less a fan of the pickled red onions, which didn’t taste so much “picked” as “marinated in Italian salad dressing.” I’m probably wrong about that (or, at least, I hope I am).
All told, however, this is a very impressive burger and is well worth your time should you find yourself passing through the Windy City!
FINAL RANKING: 9.1/10
DMK Burger Bar
Cost Range: $$$ ($12 and over)