Feasting in Phoenix – Chicago Hamburger Co.

(reprinted from Feasting in Phoenix, July 22, 2007)

Chicago Hamburger Outside Sign[UPDATE: Shortly after my review, the owner contacted me to apologize about the hot dog and slaw and offered to refund my money. This more than makes up for the cold hot dog and, truth be told, I have sneaked back in twice for more sliders and onion rings. A great customer service outreach!]

The past two weeks have been a time of great anticipation for me.

Just over 24 hours ago, I, along with half of Phoenix, was standing in line waiting to get my copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Just under two weeks ago, I was hurrying home from work to change clothes and then head to the theater to see “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” (And if you are looking for spoilers, all I can tell you is that Rosebud is a sled.)

After exiting the movie theater, I thought about the movie and how I felt about it. By and large, I was happy. I really liked the acting and the special effects, but I hated the fact that the longest book in the Harry Potter series was made into the shortest movie. I also disliked the lightning fast jump from the climactic battle scene between the forces of good and evil to the credits. I felt there was no real time in the movie for resolution and set up for the next movie.

I think about the same questions when I go into a restaurant and make the same observations: Did I like it? Was it good? Where there problems? Etc.

I recently found myself at the Chicago Hamburger Co. on the southwest corner of 38th Street and Indian School in East Phoenix. The building has been around for ages and Chicago Hamburger Co. has been there for quite some time as well. Hunting for a parking space and ending up parking on the street, I was not surprised at how busy the place was. The parking lot had always been jammed when I drove by on my way to run errands or the like.

I walked into the place and realized that it hadn’t changed much in the past 10 years, which was about the last time I was in the joint. There was still plenty of Chicago memorabilia on the walls, Chicago street signs and the like. The place wasn’t big inside and there were plenty of people waiting in line to order and sitting at tables waiting for their numbers to be called. I took my place in line and waited.

When I approached, I had already made up my mind as to what I wanted. I had been surveying the menu board that spanned above the ordering station. My order was comprehensive enough to get a good idea of the food at Chicago Hamburger Co. I ordered three Windy City Sliders with Cheese ($0.99 each), an order of Onion Rings ($2.39), a Vienna Beef Hot Dog ($3.95) which came with Cole Slaw, and a large Lemonade ($1.85). The total for my meal, including tax, was $12.06. I was handed my number and I took a seat toward the back of the restaurant.

After claiming a small two-top table in the back, I headed for the condiment area and got napkins, seasoning and ketchup. I returned to my table and waited about 10 minutes before my number was called. I went to the large window to claim my food and a large tray was waiting for me with everything I had ordered. I returned to my seat.

Chicago Hamburger Sliders

I decided to tackle a Windy City Slider with Cheese first. The small hamburger was on a hot bun with plenty of onions, ketchup, mustard and pickles. The first bite was savory, salty and delicious. I loved the flavors and it was a simple yet substantial creation, especially for a buck. I gobbled up the first one with just a couple of bites, but it was completely satisfying. I loved that the burger was piping hot and the bread was soft and very warm. There were no complaints from me regarding the sliders.

Chicago Hamburger Onion Rings

The same could be said about the Onion Rings. The serving was large and a great value. The basket of rings was radiating plenty of heat, but with very little oil residue. I took one ring, dipped it in the ketchup and took a bite. They were very good. They were not as good as the onion rings I had had at Dillon’s, but they were quite pleasing. The batter was almost tempura like and the rings were perfectly cooked. The coolness of the ketchup helped to regulate the heat and I finished off the basket very quickly. Things were humming along quite smoothly.

Chicago Hamburger Vienna Beef Hot Dog

I turned my attention to the Vienna Beef Hot Dog and Cole Slaw that sat in a separate basket. I had a jarring moment when I picked up the hot dog and discovered, to my disappointment, that the bun was ice cold. Not room temperature, but lower than that. I wondered how the buns on the sliders could be so hot and fresh and the hot dog bun so cold and unappealing. I looked over the dog and it was covered with plenty of mustard, onions, relish and pickles. I took a bite and I was completely puzzled. The hot dog, along with the bun and the condiments were cold. I kept hoping that my next bite would bring me some warmth, but in the end, the entire production looked like it had gone from refrigerator to basket. Although the taste was okay, the temperature had me scratching my head and wondering if the focus on the sliders means the hot dogs get short shrift.

Trying to push out the thoughts of the hot dog, I decided to try the Cole Slaw that was in a small plastic container next to where the hot dog sat. When I removed the lid, I knew this was not the cole slaw for me. The slaw was drowning in so much dressing that I thought about throwing in a life preserver to save the cabbage. I figured this dressing better be instantly addicting or else my first bite would be my last bite. One bite later, I was done. It truly was dreadful. The only thing that I tasted was dressing with bits of crunchy texture.

So, I returned to the other two sliders in the first basket which chased away the bad memories of the hot dog and cole slaw. I was pleased again. After finishing up my meal, I bussed my table and headed back to the car.

Like “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” I left pleased with my experience with Chicago Hamburger Co. because of the sliders, the rings and the value. But, like the movie, there were some things that just rubbed me the wrong way.

Chicago Hamburger Co.
3749 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85081
Dress: Casual
Hours: Monday through Saturday – 10:30 AM to 8 PM; Closed Sunday.
Notes: Parking is limited, but you can park along 38th Street.
Alcohol: None.