Spare me the lectures: I like my hamburgers rare. As in if the juices don’t soak the bun before I finish my sandwich, the cook either doesn’t understand the definition of rare or his manager told horror stories of potential lawsuits if he carried out that order ticket as written.
Not even my offer to sign a waiver will budge some chains.
So this list of juicy burger joints in the Midwest has been more than a decade in the making — hard research consisting of hundreds of dollars and even more hours of dealing with acute disappointment and setbacks. These gems didn’t let me down:
1. Weber Grill: I swear with my hand on a Bible, until they opened in downtown Indianapolis in 2007, I drove 7 hours roundtrip to Chicago and paid to park my car on State Street at least once a year just to order a burger from these guys.
They won my undying loyalty when I first asked what it would take to get my hamburger prepared rare, and the waiter — a large, jolly African American — threw his head back and laughed. “Order it that way,” he said with a wink. Then he brought me my dripping sandwich, smothered in Swiss cheese and covered with a chewy pretzel bread bun.
I came back for dinner, too.
539 N. State Street
Chicago, IL 60654
2. Hard Rock Cafe: Go figure. I’ve collected bears from 37 Hard Rock Cafes around the world, but rarely bothered to stay for a meal until a client suggested it as a meeting place in Louisville, Kentucky. Unfortunately, I wish I’d discovered this in another setting, actually, because trying to wipe hamburger juices off your chin before they hit your blouse is less than impressive. Still, I wasn’t embarrassed enough to put the burger down.
424 S. Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40202
3. The Coachman Restaurant and Lounge: I stumbled onto The Coachman because they offer a coupon in our Entertainment Book, and that was the page my husband and I opened to one night when deciding where to eat. They tempted me with the baby back ribs daily special, but I was too deep into my burger research mood to be persuaded, thank goodness. The sandwich was easily as messy as any barbeque sauce.
6112 Cambridge Way
Plainfield, IN 46168
Honorable mention goes to Max & Erma’s Restaurant because someone in the kitchen gets it right roughly every third time I visit. And when they don’t, at least they have a killer banana cream pie to drown my sorrows.
8817 US 31 South
Indianapolis, IN 46227