Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Paradise Pup

The suburbs of any city can seem like a culinary wasteland.  In Chicago this is particularly so with the prevalence of chains like Panera Bread, Potbelly Sandwich Works - there are literally hundreds.  I am not fond of chain restaurants.  Many came from one very successful, original business, but like the Roman empire, many seem to have expanded too far and lost the essence of what made them a success in the first place.  Melbournians can't take the high moral ground here, considering how Grill'd, Trampoline, and now even Brunetti's are popping up in different corners of our city.  But like any city, if you look beyond the hyper-real lights and colours of the food chains, you will find buried treasure here in Chicagoland.

For example, just past the airport and sandwiched between two auto repair shops, is the Paradise Pup.  This burger shack was opened by two brothers 22 years ago and has been run by them ever since. I knew it was going to be good by the huge line snaking out into the parking lot.

Despite their name, they are known for their burgers, not their dogs.  The favourite is the cheddar charburger, which comes with Merkts cheddar, a type of natural cheddar cheese that comes in a tub.  It's from Wisconsin, the state to the north of Illinois, which is so known for its cheese that its citizens are known (not particularly endearingly) as "cheeseheads."

Holy cornfields, this was the greatest burger!  The patty (still red in the middle, which I know is hard for Australians to get their head around) was so tasty and juicy, and the meat juices mingled with ketchup and mayo to snake down our forearms as we ate.  It came with "everything" - pickle, onion (raw or grilled), fresh tomato, ketchup, and mayonnaise.  The cheese was very rich, salty, and full of flavour, the perfect foil to the tasty meat.  A burger is easy to do, but so hard to do right - this hit the nail on the head.

As if it wasn't enough of a heartstopper, next we gobbled up the Paradise Pup's three-layer fries.  Crinkle-cut fries topped with Merkt's cheddar, sour cream, and real bacon.  I normally avoid loaded fries as they are often covered in mediocre chilli (as in chilli con carne) and awful, fake, lurid yellow "cheese" sauce.  The Paradise Pup's are the real deal, though - even the bacon was real bacon, lovingly chopped, not horrible "bacon bits" that come on the supermarket shelf.  Wow!

These were washed down with black cherry lemonade and an Oreo thickshake.  On the drive home, I put the seat back in the Buick, put my arm out the window, and wished I had cruise control.

Paradise Pup on Urbanspoon

The Paradise Pup (map)
1724 S River Rd
Des Plaines, IL 60018

** UPDATE!  Ms Baklover will be coming back to Australia next week!  I am just a city girl at heart.  Until then, enjoy a flurry of US posts before I get back into searching out new Footscray gems.  Thanks for reading, and to all my guest contributors for keeping the dream alive! **


  1. Black cherry lemonade! And love the look of that obnoxious burger!

  2. I don't know if I've ever thought of a burger bun as cute before, but that's just adorable. Swirly bread-fun!

    US posts... squeeee!

  3. YAY! Now I'm even more pleased I'm going to the US in October- my ex-pat friend, whom I am staying with, read this and promptly showed me it - asking if I wanted to go there (hint hint hint)!!!

    Sooo looking forward to checking that place out with loaded fries and black cherry lemonade.... drooooool

  4. Everything sounds delicious! I was hoping you would post something from the US ;-)

    Wow--back next week--that was quick! It will be great to have you back!

  5. I was seriously wishing this was in Melbourne. I want to sink my teeth into that burger right now!

  6. Hi all, thanks!! Yes, Kurichan, it was a bit quick! My 4 y.o. is so bored without kindy, swimming lessons, playgroup, friends etc. I am not cut out to be a homeschooler! Can't wait to be back and have a proper coffee...

  7. heheheh about your coffee comment ;-)
    I have never been a coffee drinker, but my Aussie husband actually likes coffee in the US because he likes strong drip coffee---and you find that in abundance and cheap in the US!

  8. Hi Kurichan - for sure! I have come to accept drip when I am here, and I must say when you get a steaming cup o' joe from an old school diner, it's on par with the best short black. Not the same, but still good. I deliberately avoid the espresso coffee here after so much disappointment, but I did give in to a latte from Starbucks the other day. Yeeeuch. Weak, pallid, with overly bubbled milk. As always when travelling, best to stick to what the locals order!!


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