New Geneva hot spot The Burger Local goes beyond burgers
Don't expect to find your father's burger joint here along the railroad tracks in Geneva. The Burger Local bills itself as "vintage/inspired," but this bar and restaurant belongs to this millennium with a hip vibe and a menu arrayed with creative burgers unlike any from a fast-food chain.
Don't care for ground cow? Choose from wraps, salads, no-beef entrees and a surprising selection of starters.
Opened last December kitty-corner from Geneva's Metra Station, The Burger Local quickly drew a following with long waits for seating at night. The eatery doesn't take reservations, but a staff member will text your cellphone when a table opens. If the bar's too crowded, take a stroll down Third Street with its eclectic collection of specialty shops. You might pass the owners' other eatery, Barrel + Rye, operating a couple of blocks away with plenty of similarities in style.
Hoping to skip the lines, I opted for a late, weekday lunch. Only one party stood waiting for one of the few low tables. Most seating consists of high tables for four or eight. A tall, exposed-beam ceiling gives the room a sense of spaciousness and a lounge area with a couch and upholstered chairs off the bar adds a warm, clubby feel. Plenty of flat-screen TVs cater to sports fans. Large, black metal chandeliers contribute to the vintage look.
I asked our server about the "vintage/inspired" theme. The restaurant tries to be old school, she said, with a modern take on comfort food. Indeed. My mother's deviled eggs never looked or tasted as good as my appetizer: seven half ovals topped with lump lobster, bacon and cilantro sitting on a plate smeared with homemade hot sauce. Among the other starters, listed as shareables on the menu, the oyster fry stands out. Beer-battered onion rings crown cracker-fried oysters and andouille sausages with a touch of rémoulade: nice and light, not heavy with grease.
I'd set my sights on a cocktail from the drinks menu on the restaurant's website, but the specialty cocktail menu had changed. Still, I was pleased with my 3rd Street, a mix of Bulleit bourbon, cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, ginger beer, egg white and a red wine float. Pretty in pink, if a bit sweet. You can choose from a small selection of wines and bottled beers. The names of eight draft beers appear in chalk on the wall by the bar.
Burgers dominate the menu, naturally, with nine versions made with all beef brisket sourced from Illinois and Iowa farms. My short rib burger came topped with Gruyere cheese, caramelized shallots and shredded short rib meat braised in red wine: full of flavor and dripping with juice. Six more "alternative protein" burgers include shrimp and lamb burgers. I'm told the hand-cut fries are amazing, but I chose a side of mac and cheese for a slight upcharge. It came with homemade bechamel sauce topped with chives and toasted bread crumbs. I could have made a meal of it. Some do by adding lump lobster, bacon, black truffles, chicken, pork belly or a host of other options. Watching your calories? Choose fruit or carrot and celery sticks with blue cheese as a side.
A selection of wraps and salads and a taco of the week provide options to burgers. The salmon Caesar salad comes big enough for a lunch entree, but the black truffle Caesar dressing tastes more like plain ranch.
There's a kids' menu and a selection of vintage arcade games in a back room for youngsters and adults who pretend they still are.
Our server gave good suggestions when we ordered and was attentive without being overbearing or rushing us out the door.
Dessert consists of two changing varieties of pies made by Geneva's The Sugar Path bakery. When our server brought my eye-catching bourbon pecan pie, warmed and topped with vanilla ice cream, an audible gasp came from the next table. A woman seated there said her party had watched our dishes come from the kitchen and confessed to food envy.
No need. The Burger Local isn't just a burger joint; there's enough variety and quality here to keep diners coming back to try something new.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
The Burger Local577 Third St., Suite 102, Geneva, (630) 232-2806, theburgerlocal.com/
Cuisine: Creative burgers and no-beef alternatives
Setting: Warm, clubby feel with vintage accents opposite the Metra station
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday