I’ve done a burger place in a previous review. THIS is a burger joint. Unapologetic, no-nonsense, huge, juicy, meaty, make a man outta you burgers that will ruin you. Forever! This place speaks to my cactus sensibility, rough around the edges, but a satisfying center, if you can survive the 2 hour wait, ultra loud metal blasting, shuffling in between bodies in the 4 square feet of waiting space trying to get an aloof bartender’s attention to fill your stomach with something during which the rage hunger is building incrementally with each song, each minute, each burger that wafts by. Only the strong survive. And I mean the hours before, the 5 minutes you spend scarfing, and the hours after, for this better be a day off for you because productivity is out the door as soon as you commit to this place. I wish you luck, strength, and patience. It’s worth it. I could describe my first experience at Kuma’s, which you’d undoubtedly assume is where the most interesting story is. That’s simply not the case. Went with my mom, brother and husband, waited a bit as expected, ate, enjoyed, left, slept. The most interesting Kuma’s endeavor was with three other ladies, on a cold Sunday afternoon. Well, morning into afternoon truthfully.
A special friend from Minneawfulous (the well-known town in Minnesota) was visiting a warmer climate here in Chicago back in the grey days of March. I was stoked to see her, and my other smart and funny friends, but they were just obstacles, or I should say, avenues, on the way to an amazing burger. We left at 1115 in the morning. Luckily we drove, as it’s west of California so public trans is out of the question. Kuma’s opens “around” 12. Again, unapologetic.
We arrive minutes before noon to the shock and horror of an open and running restaurant, stuffed like sausage with people, and the scent of greasy meat and spilled beer. The best. You can barely walk in, that’s how many true fatties for food there are in Chicago and there is truly no better winter remedy than hot, melty, big food. So we yell our name to the girl with gauged ears and the asymmetrical hair-cut, she shouts something about an hour and forty-five minutes and we walk back outside, feeling stung by the cold air and excited about the relatively short wait.
After minutes of red noses and bouncy knees we decide to brave the crowd, force our way to the bar and spend this 105 minutes the right way, by drinking. We all have boobs, if we can’t make way and get served, something’s wrong with this country. Naturally, all is right and we had delicious brews in our now warm hands within minutes. It should be mentioned here that I deliberately went on an empty stomach. It was a Sunday morning at this point, I’d barely been up for significant amounts of time and knew I had a heaping hot mess of food about to enter my hot mess of a mouth. I do not recommend it as a diet plan, it’s actually counter-productive, but this is about taking advantage of an experience and I needed room to challenge the shit out of my digestive system.
Kuma’s is small. They proudly boast about a 16x6’ kitchen and implore, rather demand, patience. Shut up and wait, do it nicely, or go home. Seriously, I’ve included the link to their site, read it. So blunt and wonderful. What they lack in horizontal space they make up for in the vertical. This place has pretty damn tall ceilings, interesting and provocative art-work, including multiple breasts, the aforementioned borderline death metal breaking sound barriers, and maybe 45-50 seats, including the few at the bar, for the fortunate single or double who wonders in and lands a coveted stool.
Back to the booze. They have really fricken fantastic Bloody Mary’s. I’m a beer and wine girl and I tried a sip of my friend’s and fell immediately in love. I’m in awe of this drink. I stuck with beer as they have a unique and high quality selection on tap. I had 3 pints. On an empty stomach. Yeah.
The over two-hour wait flew by! We had fun catching up. And drinking. Now for my 1st favorite verb. Eating. We snagged a four top, a nearly as cool server covered in tattoos and attitude, more beer (don’t judge me) and the glorious menus. We started with their famous jalapeno poppers, keeping it classy. We continued with our genius burger selections, all with clever names, assaulting your senses, and intelligence. Most are metal inspired, the “Megadeth”, the “Black Sabbath”, the “Goatwhore”. You get it.
On my 2nd quest for burger nirvana I opted for the Kuma Burger, #1 on the list, right out of the gate, in your face, 10 ounces of ground beef, bacon, cheddar, fried egg. Now for whatever reason it didn’t read as enough fat to me, so I added avocado. Haha. I laughed when I recollected that little memory. What a fatty. Oh well. This isn’t everyday, its quarterly, like my taxes. It also comes with delicious french fries, which I ate. Naturally.
So I finished the burger, on my own, no sharing, no doggie bag, just me and my belly in it to win it. I’m so strangely proud of this accomplishment. In my food and beer delirium I forgot that I had a class to teach at 630 that evening. It never occurred to me as a factor because this was intended to be lunch; but by the time we finished our meal it was almost 3! I was done. Gone. Sto finito, as my beloved Italians say. I mumbled some goodbyes to my friends and immediately threw my wrecked body on the couch, waved so-long to my mind as well and took a nearly 3 hour nap. I had to be shoved awake and somehow made my way to the yoga studio. A hot yoga studio, by the way. Beer, beef, cheese, fried potatoes and jalapeno poppers all somehow trying to get along and make their way through my intestinal tract while flowing upside down, side to side, and god knows what directions in 97 degrees with 40% humidity is not a recommended combination.
All of the above considered it was still beyond worth it. The burger is so damn juicy. Did I mention it’s served on a pretzel bread bun? The beer is so refreshing, makes the waiting, and the chewing, much easier. This happened months ago and the memory is still so profound despite alcohol use and coma causing food. This is because of the defiantly bold atmosphere and flavors and who you choose to take it all in with. I can’t wait until my quarterly return.
Burgers are about $10-12 a pop, including fries, and if you’re not a glutinous pig like the author of this review you may stretch it into 2 meals, as the burgers are large. Perhaps you can split one and share their mac n cheese, which is as aggressively delightful as everything else at Kuma’s.
Life is too short to eat mediocre or boring food and the same goes with the company you keep. Set the standards high and your life will be memorable, to you, which is most important. There’s Dr. Danielle’s advice for the month.
Unlock your jaw. Bite into a high quality burger. Wipe your face. Wash it down with equally high quality beer. Enjoy.