Whenever I talk about the “best burger” people always bring up burgers with lots of stuff on them or a great special sauce, but no one ever takes the time to talk about a really good flavorful piece of meat. I don’t like sauces and condiments on my burgers. I want a burger that tastes good with a slice of cheese on a bun that wasn’t delivered to the back door three weeks ago. I’ve found a few places in Lansing with burgers like that, but it’s never at the places that win “best burger.” Very few places take the time to grind their own meat and put the emphasis on the cow. Lucky for me, there’s still a place in Chicagoland that does just that.
If the name Hackney’s sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re a fan of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. Guy Fieri visited the original Hackney’s in Glenview. There are six restaurants overall including a downtown Chicago location. We chose to visit the Palos Park location which has been open since 1986.
Hackney’s in Palos Park sits on the corner of LaGrange Road and 123rd Street. It’s across the street from the forest preserve and there’s not much else around it. The building looks like an old farm house both inside and out. We showed up on a Saturday night just before 5:00. There’s a huge parking lot that was fairly empty, so we were pretty confident seating wasn’t going to be a problem.
When you walk in, you’re met by a hostess right away. From the lobby area, there are two main rooms. To the right is the bar which also has a number of tables. To the left is a huge dining room. In the lobby itself is one of the prized collections at Hackney’s. Inside a glass case is a little dinner scene with glass figurines including a whole cow taking it’s place on the center of the table.
We were shown to a table in the main dining room. The feature you first notice about the dining room is the high vaulted ceilings and exposed beams. It looks like an old farmhouse. The dining room was still decorated for Christmas. The bookcases and walls were still covered in tinsel and lights.
While we were waiting for the waitress, we got a good look at the drink menu. They had a number of beers both foreign and domestic as well as a number of cocktails. J was feeling a little cold and a drink called “Peppermint Patty” jumped off the menu at her. The drink was a hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. J’s mom got an Amstel Light and her step-dad got a Miller Lite. Just like last week, I was odd man out and went with a Diet Coke.
The waitress brought back drinks and forgot who ordered what. She tried to give me the Amstel Light then when I said it was J’s mom who ordered that, she got really confused. No way a guy could order a Diet Coke. I mean, hey, it’s not like I’m not watching my waistline (a little bit) too….right? Anyway, after getting that sorted out, we still weren’t quite ready to order, so she gave us a few more minutes.
It took another ten minutes or so for her to come back during which gave J time to look around and realize we were just in time for the “Blue Hair Special.” We were the youngest people there…including her parents…except for a tween girl who was dining with her grandparents.
Hackney’s is famous for hamburgers. All their hamburgers are ground fresh by their own butcher. Why would I go to a place famous for burgers and not get a burger? I ordered the Inside Out Burger which was the sandwich featured on Triple D. Before I saw that episode, I saw an episode of Guy’s own show, Guy’s Big Bite, where he made a similar burger. I didn’t know at that time where he got the idea, but soon learned after seeing Triple D a few weeks later. The Inside Out Burger is one of their famous Hackneyburgers stuffed with cheddar cheese and bacon. The cheese and bacon is on the INSIDE of the burger, not on top. I ordered the burger medium and it came cooked perfectly medium. It was still a little pink on the inside, but not bloody. After the first bite, the cheese and bacon oozed out and became one with the meat. The meat had so much flavor and could have stood on it’s own with no cheese. It was one of the best burgers I had ever had. Unfortunately, it was really small and I could have had three more of them and not been satisfied. The sandwich came with fries which were nothing special and did little to put a dent in my hunger. The burger was great, but needed to be bigger.
J ordered the Strawberry Spinach Salad. Her bed of spinach came topped with strawberries, walnuts, and grilled chicken with a raspberry vinaigrette. She said it was delicious but needed some kind of cheese…maybe a gorgonzola or bleu cheese. She wasn’t really in the mood for chicken so she picked most of it off and gave it to me. Still, didn’t put much of a dent in my hunger.
J’s step-dad went with the Original Hackneyburger done medium well. He topped his with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. No cheese. Like me, he thought the burgers were good, but not enough.
J’s mom ordered the Reuben. She really liked the dark rye bread that it was served on, but thought the meat was sliced too thick. She said it was ok, but she had had better Reuben’s. She only ate half and took the other half home. Her sandwich came with fries as well.
Since we were all still pretty hungry, we decided to split some desserts. J’s mom and step-dad ordered the bread pudding which they said was great. It was really smooth and topped with toffee and nuts. They loved it.
J and I ordered a chocolate cake that was layered with chocolate pudding. It was delicious. We sort of fought over who got more. I think she won out, but only because I let her. She had her eye on that all night and ordered a salad so she wouldn’t feel as guilty. I didn’t care. I was still hungry and it sounded good. I’ll take the extra calories..hell, I got a Diet Coke! 🙂
Hackney’s in Palos Park was really good. The burgers were outstanding. The unfortunate thing, like I’ve already mentioned several times, was the portion size. We noticed a lot of senior citizens there and the only thing I could think of was how the smaller portions were probably perfect for most of them while someone like me would be better off going to a chain that overdoes the portion size. There is no burger like this anywhere else…they just need to stop skimping.
Our bill, with four drinks and dessert was $80. Hackney’s is one of those places you have to try at least once. If nothing else, you need to taste was a real “best burger” is and leave the “special sauces” to places that want to serve you a frozen patty.