Opening a burger restaurant isn't exactly a move into uncharted waters, but given the popularity of America's favorite sandwich, it's small wonder that so many restaurateurs -- from chains to independents -- continue to enter the market.
One of the latest entrants to give it a go is Big Chef Burgers, which debuted in Schaumburg early this year. This startup is the brainchild of chef-owner Cristiano Bassani, who for some seven years has fed customers classic Italian fare at Bapi Ristorante in Arlington Heights.
Big Chef Burgers1604 E. Algonquin Road, Schaumburg, (847) 221-8539, bigchefburgers.com
Cuisine: Burgers and pizza
Setting: Contemporary storefront
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Bassani, who continues to operate Bapi, decided to branch out and try his hand at the "gourmet" end of the burger circuit.
Big Chef, a casual sit-down storefront restaurant, gets its name from its towering 6-foot, 6-inch owner. Customers have 11 burger choices with an intriguing assortment of toppings. Except for the turkey and veggie burger, almost all are half-pounders made with fresh ground, hormone-free Angus beef and priced from $8-$12. One anomaly is the Big Chef Burger, a one-pound bruiser that goes for $20 and is decked out with half a dozen toppings.
The restaurant also wisely hedges its bet by expanding the menu to include eight hand-tossed pizzas baked in a brick-fired oven. Each custom-made Neopolitan-style 12-inch pie costs $8 and comes to the table with a nice, crispy crust. Classic renditions such as Pizza Margherita and Quattro Formaggi were represented as well as a vegetarian version. And bargain-hunters will find pizza prices half-off from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Another available option that gets the brick-oven treatment are calzones filled with tomato sauce, prosciutto, mushrooms and mozzarella.
Four tossed salads -- Caesar, house, lentil and spinach -- round out the menu.
During a recent visit, my Italian burger -- a tasty patty cooked medium-rare as requested -- came with sun-dried tomatoes, onion, arugula and a slice of buffalo mozzarella. The regular bun proved no match for this hefty sandwich and was quickly in shambles. Stick with the more durable onion or pretzel roll.
A tablemate's bacon burger, topped with spicy cheddar, bacon, lettuce and tomato sated her hunger.
All burgers come with a choice of a side dish. I found the seasoning on the sweet potato fries bland, and other places do a better job with french fried onion rings. Other options available included homemade potato chips, fresh cut french fries, coleslaw and mashed potatoes
A highlight of the meal was the whipped-cream-topped mocha cappuccino milkshake, a rich, flavorful treat. One suggestion to the kitchen: for such beverages have a supply of wide straws available and reserve the thin ones for ice tea.
Big Chef's bar carries a small selection of red and white wines, available by the glass or bottle. Diners get a view of the open kitchen, and off a corridor in the back is an alcove that can be curtained off to accommodate small private parties.
Service was attentive and properly paced. Water glasses never had a chance to run dry. Large windows, even though they overlook the parking area, lend a pleasing airiness to the space as does its understated contemporary decor.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.