BLACK & BLUE BURGER
- Grilled, caramelized onions
- Wisconsin Blue cheese
- Cajun spices
- 8oz. beef patty
- Pretzel bun
“Palatine, this may very well be the new center of the universe!“, so sayeth Elliot Bambrough, food pundit of Chicago’s Best in this little gem of a review about Brandt’s of Palatine. Trust me, if reading this sentence out loud didn’t make you laugh, the video will…. Now, if you know me, please try to imagine me doing my best King Leonidas impression. Ready? Okay. Here it goes:
“Chicago’s Best… We’ll put their name to the test…”
Stranded on the corner of Northwest Highway and Quentin Road is Brandt’s of Palatine – a historical building that has seen markets rise and crash, taken advantage of the Prohibition and withstood more than 140 years of wear and tear in suburban Cook County. Once a roadhouse, a speakeasy, and the county’s largest illegal brewery, Brandt’s is now a newly renovated diner/pub hybrid in its infancy which looks like a Masonic lodge straight out of Diagon Alley. It’s intimate in the “rubbing elbows” kind of way, as well as in the “move your chair so that others may pass” kind of way, and its brick-and-mortar environment may be a great place to bunker up during the zombie apocalypse. It has its charms. And it has its burgers.
You’d think that a place such as Brandt’s, with its rich history, would tap into its intriguing past to entice you with interesting burger combinations, maybe a burger dedicated to a local Prohibitionist, bootlegger or just something to showcase Palatine’s origins, right? Well, don’t hold you hopes up. Brandt’s menu relies on its customers to “build their own”, and the so called “The Brandt’s Burger” is nothing but your typical lettuce-tomato-onion with a pickle on the side. The specialty burgers are more of the same. In general, the place is mostly known for its 25% loin and 75% chuck “Chicago stockyard” patty, as well as the availability of 6 different types of buns.
The Black & Blue burger, clearly named after its cheese and blackening Cajun spices was the only thing that really grabbed my attention. Blue cheese on a burger is not a rare sight nowadays, but was unusual to me, so I decided to go with it. From the list of buns I went with my favorite pretzel bun, and when the burger arrived I was pleasantly surprised! It was like a a Penicillin monster coming out of a petri dish! The fresh, Wisconsin blue cheese had this gentle, yet odorous bouquet reminiscent of old coconut shavings, ammonia and the aroma of mulled, dry red wine spiced with wormwood. What I expected to be a light dusting of blue cheese was instead a generous offering present in every bite. It had that pleasant saltiness that you might find in some domestic feta cheeses and overall I found it to be pleasantly mild – just the right amount of pungency to appease a lot of Palatine palates. The grilled onions were also a very good addition and rather large. Equal parts crunch, equal parts caramelized, tender goodness which I’m sure is hard to pull off. Many places offer grilled onion rings, but Brandt’s offered large slivers whose color reminded me of looking at the 1999 total solar eclipse through a piece of smoked glass. The patty was large, slightly oval and very flat, and was cooked just the way I like it – medium rare. A perfect, perfect medium rare. I was thoroughly shocked! As for the taste, I thought it felt just the way it looked – a bit flat. I was expecting to be hit with the promised Cajun blackening spices, but all I felt was some feint oregano, and maybe some cumin. I’m afraid that the onions and plethora of blue cheese overshadowed all the other spices in the mix. I felt no smoked paprika, no cayenne pepper, no garlic. This is where I thought the Black & Blue burger really suffered. Had the patty been thoroughly encrusted and blackened all the way to the very core of its soul, it would have been an excellent burger, but nothing can salvage an under-seasoned patty. This is something I’ve experienced before and usually it’s always places that boast about the quality of their meat. The butchering doesn’t matter when the execution is not flawless. Really, I’d keep all other variables the same, just kick up the spices up a notch. Actually, kick them up a lot. Bend those spices like Beckham or Aang. I dunno.
I know that this current version of Brandt’s is trying to be a weird blend of local watering hole and family environment while being affordable, but with some other pretty darn good burger spots less than 15 minutes away, you have to be willing to offer some edge. Not to mention that this is not a cheap burger – at $12.95 this is more expensive than some of Kuma’s Corner’s Schaumburg’s award-winning and larger burgers. If you do the math, you’re actually paying $1 for Cajun spices.
Overall, a decent burger and a quaint historical location. Is it the best burger spot in the area?
P.S: I find it weird that Brand’s of Palatine’s website offers no information on the history of the building or its previous owners.