By Mason Johnson
666 W Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60657
How do you judge the sequel to Chicago’s most beloved burger place? Do you compare it to its predecessor? Judge it as its own entity? Not bother writing a review at all?
That’d be nice.
Anyway, for those of you who don’t know, Kuma’s Too, which opened in February, is the little sibling to Kuma’s Corner.
You can read our review of Kuma’s Corner here.
Kuma’s Corner, which opened in 2005, has long been Chicago’s favorite burger joint. Located in Avondale, they’re known for three things: good burgers, a long wait to get in and really, really loud metal music.
Mostly, it’s the burgers that are the draw.
Kuma’s Too has a long list of metal-themed burgers that’ll please just about anyone (who loves meat).
Their signature Kuma Burger comes topped with bacon, cheddar, fried egg, lettuce, tomato and onion on a pretzel bun. Always on a pretzel bun — exactly how it should be in Chicago. Their giant beef patty tends to be combined with flavors that go well with it, as opposed to take away from it. It’s giant too, the beef and the burger in general. Sure, you can probably finish a Kuma’s burger in one sitting, assuming you enjoy being in pain. Just take the rest home! Kuma’s beef, along with many of their other products, are also locally sourced, which is a plus — especially when you look at their draft selection.
I ended up going with the Led Zeppelin burger on my visit to Kuma’s Too, which comes topped with bacon, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, sharp cheddar and pickles. The BBQ sauce was sweet and the pulled pork was tender and juicy. As was my burger, which was cooked medium rare. Except for a touch of salt, I couldn’t detect any other spices added to the beef, which is fine with me. It was good meat, cooked well, with great toppings — what more do you need?
Does the Led Zeppelin not sound like your kinda thing? Try the Pantera (housemade ranchero salsa, bacon, shredded monterrey jack, roasted poblano and tortilla stripes), Goatsnake (herbed goat cheese, poblano corn relish, Cholula Lemon Vinaigrette, buttermilk breaded frizzled red onion), High on Fire (Sriracha [you can put it on anything, ya know], roasted red pepper, prosciutto, grilled pineapple and Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Paste) or one of their many other burgers.
The fries were also great on my trip to Kuma’s Too. I remember the uproar when Kuma’s Corner switched from frozen waffle fries to handcut fries — people were quite sad. The first time I had their new fries at Kuma’s Corner, they were tasteless except for my salty tears (and the salt that was on them). The fries tasted great on my trip last week to Kuma’s Too though. A pinch of spices can go a long way, I guess.
All in all, the food was great. The burger was just as good as Kuma’s Corner. Not better, but better than Kuma’s Corner would be a difficult feat to pull off.
Kuma’s Too has one very important advantage over it’s predecessor: it’s size. It’s a lot bigger than Kuma’s Corner, and subsequently, the wait isn’t nearly as long. Typically, a Friday afternoon trip to Kuma’s Corner would mean a two hour wait. When I went to Kuma’s Too around 1:30 last Friday, my buddy and I were seated immediately. There were plenty of people eating there, mind you, but the sizable restaurant had yet to fill up.
The metal music was still as loud as ever, which is to say, so loud you can barely hold a conversation. If ya like this, cool, if ya don’t, at least the burgers are good. I’m somewhat ambivalent to it. I could definitely see some people being turned off by what was playing while I ate. I couldn’t name the band, but the entire hour I was there it sounded like only one song had played. No lyrics, just lots and lots of guitar and the occasional guttural noises that kinda sounded like my cat before he vomits. It was funny to think about the kind of person who might get grossed out by the song.
Obviously, I’m not that kind of person.
Some, too, might be turned off by the cleaner feel of Kuma’s Too (people are weird). Kuma’s Corner kinda looks like a Northwoods bar. Kuma’s Too might look just a tad too much like any other restaurant you’d find in Lakeview — except for the framed metal records and posters on the walls.
But who the hell cares, the burgers are still good.
If you’re that concerned about the look and feel of a restaurant, maybe it’s not the burgers you’re into, maybe you’re into being an elitist.
Kuma’s Too had good food without the wait of Kuma’s Corner. What’s not to love?