By John Carruthers and Ken Haynes
We set out with a sacred duty – to find the best Kinda Fancy Chain Burger (and fries) in our great city.
Here are the only rules:
- We order a place’s signature (or standard, if that’s the only option) cheeseburger and fries.
- We eat whatever else we want because Freedom
Who is the Burger Champion? We turned, as one does in time of need, to the strip mall.
Level 4: Meatheads
3304 N. Western Ave.
Motto – “Serving fresh experiences”
Locations – 17 in Illinois and Indiana
Beer – Nope.
Meatheads is a local chain with locations sweeping from the mighty mountain ranges of Bloomington to the endless, waving fields of Schererville to … Zion (cough). They’ve done the general kinda-fancy burger thing where they started with burgers and fries, then slowly added chicken, sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, and whatever other crap the market research seemed to cry out for. But they planted their flag on burgers, so they qualify for our list.
That strip mall thing at the top wasn’t a crack at their franchise, by the way. Seriously, check this out. It’s like they didn’t make the in-app purchase that lets them build interesting-looking locations. On the day we visited they did, however, seem to cater to a middling but formidable swarm of child-sized athletes looking for sustenance after their local “everyone is a winner” tournament.
For the first time in our lives, we sympathized with Where’s the Beef Lady (RIP). The poor beef was buried under a raft of toppings, including the unmelted cheese slice that usually portends a kitchen that doesn’t have a good system in place. It’s worth mentioning that the ingredients themselves were tasty and fresh. The beef had a nice char and was deliciously seasoned. Four thumbs up. But hiding your beef it isn’t a great thing to be doing if you’re a burgerman by trade. Celebrate your beef!
(More like Toppingheads, amirite?)
And about that bun: it’s terrible. It’s as if someone gave Hostess a shot at making an “artisan” hamburger bun. Soft, doughy, kinda sweet. It was a chore by the end. We don’t expect burger places to have some sort of flour-dusted pasty chef in house, but the bun should at least pass the “better than the store brand white bun” test if you’re going to change it up and charge seven dollars for the result.
Meatheads makes a big deal about their fries. There are, apparently, 32 dang steps to making them. So how were they?
Well seasoned! Awesome!
Not crispy …
SON OF A BITCH!
They should have added a thirty-third step to make them crispy. Hand-cut fries are beginning to be the thing that was an awesome idea before lesser cooks yucked them up with their fumbling mitts. Move over, sliders! Can we agree as a society that French fries should be crispy? We’re starting to feel like we’re shrieking sanity into an ignorant, uncaring world. We call this feeling Twitter Angst.
This is a place with a lot of things that keep it from being incredible, but enough good things to provide a pretty solid floor. Add to that a friendly demeanor and quick service and you end up with the Gary Gaetti of hamburger franchises.
Final Score: 3.09/5
Meatheads features a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine for a touchscreen pop experience. By combining a few different beverages and a variety of flavoring syrups, they create hundreds of drink options. It was while we finished our burgers, staring at the thing, that the realization came: this is what Leinenkugel does with their beer!