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Death Metal Delight

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Art can be manifested in various mediums.  While paintings and sculptures can be found all over the world from the beginning of humanity, music has a special place in the collective soul of mankind.  It can reflect a gamut of emotions, cultures, and innovations in technology (or hatred of said technology).  An eatery in Chicago called Kuma’s Corner  (Kuma means “bear” in Japanese) manages to fuse metal music culture with a menu focused exclusively on creatively named and constructed burgers.  What could be better than that?

Now, I’m not a huge fan of death metal or really heavy rock music outside of listening to it on my workout mix, so I was curious to see why so many people kept on raving about their burgers even though they seemed like the last people to be headbanging or howling along with the gutteral lead singers.  The exterior looked pleasant enough, but as soon as I walked in, I was greeted with a wall of people and fierce chords being pumped out of the speakers overhead.IMG_3730  I was surprised though since I heard from friends that the music was turned up to 11, but I didn’t find that to be the case.IMG_3718IMG_3719  Since I was dining alone, I was immediately seated at the bar, but I’d recommend bracing yourself for a wait if you’re going there around lunchtime.  The bartender along with every other employee there was friendly and covered in tattoos.  Not only did the artwork decorate my server’s arms, but I even found her probable inspiration all over the bathroom walls as every square inch was covered with tattoo samples.IMG_3728IMG_3729  After sitting down and pouring over the burger options, I noticed that they had very creative names paying tribute to different rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Megadeath, Slayer, and Plague Bringer to name a few.  Not only were the names intimidating, so were the options since they all looked so delicious.  After bringing it down to two choices in my head, the Plague Bringer and the Goatsnake, I asked my bartender which she’d recommend out of all of them.  Surprisingly, she said those two were her favorite.  She then gave me time to think about it, and even said she’d surprise me if I couldn’t make up my mind.  After some deliberation, I told her I’d take the Goatsnake ($10) along with a complimentary side of handcut fries, but I could have also picked chips or a salad instead of the fries.  If you’re not feeling like a burger, they do have appetizers, salads, and sandwiches.  After waiting for some time and slobbering on myself while checking out other peoples’ burgers, my burger was placed in front of me.  I didn’t know where to start. IMG_3721 It was overflowing my plate, and the guy next to me even asked me what I got since it looked so much more intense compared to his burger.  Jackpot!  This creation named after the doom metal group from California caught my eye because of its creative ingredients.IMG_3722  While there was a pile of fried red onion strings on top, I’ve had that on other burgers I’ve destroyed at other restaurants.  The holy trinity of ingredients that piqued my interest was the herbed goat cheese, poblano and corn relish, and Cholula lemon vinaigrette.  I could see the first two elements, and the third one could only be experienced.  I put my top bun on and was ready to rock my socks off. IMG_3724 Wow!  From the first bite, I knew I was dealing with a unique burger.    The patty was hearty and juicy but was borderline greasy.  It didn’t take away from the bold flavors that were more radical than a face-melting guitar solo.  The goat cheese was plentiful and provided a strong flavor background for the rest of the star ingredients like Lars Ulrich’s drumming for Metallica.  As for the corn and poblano pepper relish, it supplied a counterbalance of texture and a hint of spice that I enjoyed.  Finally, there was the most outrageous yet memorable part of the burger which was the Cholula lemon vinaigrette.  With every bite, my palate was awash with a spicy citrus punch that went especially well with the goat cheese that almost made it seem like they did an homage to Chicago’s saganaki legacy unintentionally.  Once I demolished my main dish, I turned my attention to the fries.  They were on the less crispy side which I perfer and weren’t too salty.  I wasn’t sure, but I believe the ketchup had a bit of spice in it.  Either way, these fries couldn’t measure up to the burger magnum opus I experienced moments before.  The bartender finally saw the feeding frenzy was over, and offered me a round of applause with how thoroughly I cleaned my plate.  I applaud you too, Kuma’s Corner, for your passion for creating insanely delicious burgers.

So if you’re tired of the same old burger joints that use the same old ingredients in the same old bar and grill environment, bear crawl on over to Kuma’s Corner and party on!

Kuma's Corner on Urbanspoon

Baby Got Burger

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Chicago is a tapestry of many different people from various walks of life and nationalities.  However, this doesn’t mean that everyone lives in perfect harmony.  The city is broken down into small neighborhoods that could be defined through race and/or socio-economic class.  All of this manifests itself in the form of being the most racially segregated city in the USA.  Thus, if someone tells you if they’re from one of the “sides” of the city, you can almost always determine what race and/or tax bracket they fall into.  Disclaimer:  the following are stereotypes associated with residents of different parts of the city, but some aspects are rooted in truth.  Northside residents are normally more educated, affluent, and white (of Central or Northern European descent).  Westsiders and Southsiders are a bit more variable in their education and economic class, but one can find more black, Latino, Southern and Eastern European enclaves in these parts of the city.  Along with that, there is a certain feel that the Southside is more blue collar and Ditka-obsessed in comparison to the genteel and hipster Northside.  It’s especially evident in the crosstown baseball rivalry with the Northside Cubs and Southside White Sox.  Therefore, I’d like to bring a bit of my old neighborhood on the Southside that is an institution.  I’m talking about Nicky’s Hot Dogs in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood located at 6142 S Archer AveChicago IL 60638.

Ever since I could remember, my family and I would visit this family-run hot dog stand to get a ton of delicious food for reasonable great prices.  I was recently in the ‘hood and decided to pay the old boy a visit.IMG_3383  I got there around lunchtime, and as I expected, the minuscule parking lot was packed to the hilt.  I parked on the adjacent block since I was getting my food to go.  As soon as I stepped in, the place hadn’t changed in ages. IMG_3384 They still have the same swivel seats along the lunch counter and plastic signs for menus.  Nicky’s is a symbol of the no-frills, hardworking, homely spirit of the Southside in both decor and menu.  It ranges from burgers to Polish sausages to hot dogs as you can see in the following picture.  IMG_3386I wanted to get two of the best items on the menu:  the Big Baby double cheeseburger ($2.90) and a hot dog ($2.25 with free fries).  However, I’d definitely recommend their gyros as well.  The cashier joked about Brazil winning the opening game of the World Cup against Croatia (he was Croatian) and possible riots after a Brazil loss.  I assured him they didn’t have to worry; people were rioting before the first ball was kicked.  After placing my order and waiting with a diverse clientele of Polish and Mexican construction workers, bankers, and families, my food finally came out.  It was encased in a simple brown paper bag, and I could already see the grease stains coming through from the mountain of fries they give you.IMG_3387  If you are worried about portion sizes, put them to the side when hitting up this Chicago eatery.  Their fries are a bit on the salty side, but that doesn’t take away from their overall quality.IMG_3389  Then there is the Big Baby.IMG_3391  It’s a double cheeseburger that grabs you at the first bite with it’s grilled, juicy patties, melted slices of American cheese, pickles, ketchup, and caramelized onions. IMG_3392IMG_3393 While it wouldn’t be considered “big” according to ‘Murikan standards where a big burger could feed a family of three for four days, it’s a titan in terms of flavor.  As for the hot dog, they are of a boiled variety and then topped with almost all of the standard Chicago toppings:  onions, mustard, relish, and pickled sport peppers. IMG_3395 No ketchup here, and you will be chewed out (pun intended) if you ask for it.  While it lacks the tomato slices I enjoy, I love the beef mixing with the sweet relish, tart mustard, and pungent diced white onion atop the bun like confetti.  By the end of the meal, I finished strutting down memory lane with a full stomach and a “see you soon” in my mind.

So if you want to venture beyond the cutting-edge eateries and more expensive restaurants on the Northside and want to sample a tried and true establishment that serves basic yet delicious and cost-effective food options, come on down to Nicky’s Hot Dogs.

Nicky's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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