Chicago: A Completely Average Cheeseburger at Odge's
730 N. Damen Ave, Chicago IL 60622 (map); 312-666-7335; No website
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: An average burger at a fun little mom-and-pop stand
Price: Cheeseburger and fries, $4.99; Double cheeseburger and fries, $5.99
Even though it's brightly colored and cheerful, it's surprisingly easy to pass by Odge's. I've lived nearby for a long time and I haven't been by in years, but when I stepped in again recently, it hasn't changed a bit. Odge's has a classic feel, with booths that are slightly greasy to the touch and a menu that's a combination of hot dogs, burgers, and Italian beef sandwiches. There are fun signs all over the wall, and it's a regular cop hangout.
The burgers at Odge's are grilled, and if you ask for everything you pretty much get the same toppings as a classic Chicago hot dog: tomato slices, pickles, mustard, grilled onion, and lettuce. All the toppings are actually underneath the burger, so as you can imagine, the bottom of sesame bun disintegrates under all the watery ingredients.
The beef on these bad boys is a little on the coarse side, and this isn't a place where you order your beef medium-rare—you get what you get. The double cheeseburger ($5.99) is pretty hefty, and the ratio of the beef to bun is a little overwhelming. There's nothing particularly outstanding about this burger, but there's nothing terrible about it either. Because the condiments are on the bottom, each bite of the burger tastes, well, like mustard and pickles, and the beef comes after, and you don't get too much of its flavor by then.
I actually prefer the single cheeseburger ($4.99) over the double. The meat's a little easier to handle, but you have the same issue as the double: the bottom bun disintegrates, and the beef flavor gets straight jacked Money Train-style by the toppings again. Are they technically toppings if they're under the burger? Maybe we should call them "underings." Good one, Dennis.
The crisp bacon adds a touch of extra fatty smokiness, but it doesn't change the experience too much—I just ordered it to see if it'd elevate the burger. The french fries are thicker than your average fast food variety and they're crisp, but they're also greasy. You get them with every order, so you can take them or leave them.
Considering Odge's is right next to a McDonald's, it's way more satisfying than a drive-thru disappointment. But it's also nothing to get excited about, food-wise. There's just something about the place, though, that's charming enough to forgive the averageness of the burger. If you've been there, you'll know what I mean.
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.