Umami (not unagi) is the Japanese word that refers to rich and savory flavors. It is one of the five flavors profiles (salty, sweet, sour and bitter) when tasting food. Some foods that are considered umami are cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, soys and meat.
Adam Fleischman realized that what made people crave foods such as pizza and hamburgers was Umami. He did not have a pizza oven so he sought out to create a hamburger that embodied the umami experience.
He carefully chose out ingredients that would bring out the best flavors of the burger. After trying countless ingredient combinations, the first Umami burger was born.
Adam first opened the first Umami Burger location in Los Angeles in 2009 and was awarded Burger of the year. Eight delicious years later, they have spread all over the U.S and even have a location in Japan.
Chicago is home to two Umami Burger locations in West Loop and Wicker Park. They are known to be some of the best hamburgers in Chicago. My friend and I visited the West Loop Location and had an amazing time.
I love all American cuisine but hamburgers are my personal favorite! Umami has a great selection of burgers and sides. There is only one vegetarian burger option (the Falafel) but that does not mean you will miss out on the Umami experience. However, majority of the sides and salads are vegetarian friendly. There is also the special burger, the Monte Cristo (Beef patty, vanilla custard deep fried bun, prosciutto, gruyere fondue, powdered sugar, and side of maple syrup) that is exclusive to the West Loop location.
I decided to go with the Manly Burger (house beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, smoked onion strings, Umami ketchup and a mustard spread). My friend went with the classic Umami Burger (Parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, Umami ketchup). We also decided to get some Maple Bacon French Fries (sweet potato fries, maple-braised bacon lardons, rosemary Aleppo salt, topped with chives). You can’t have a hamburger without French fries!
While waiting for the food, I was able to get a good look at the restaurant layout. In the middle of the restaurant is a classy sit in bar where they have a huge variety of craft beers, wine and cocktails. I decided to just get a soda but don’t let me stop you from enjoying a beer while waiting for your burger. The fries were served first and believe me we dug right in.
This was the best sweet potato I have had in Chicago! The sweetness of the sweet potato drizzled in the maple syrup paired well with the rosemary Aleppo salt and the savory bacon. The burger was presented on a spotless white platter as if you were dining at a classy restaurant, and the hamburger tasted so amazing I felt like I should be paying classy restaurant prices! I am a sucker for crispy deep fried onion strings and bacon on any burger. The meat patty was perfectly cooked, the salty-ness of the melted cheese, onions and bacon added to the umami experience. The savory burger with the sweet potato maple bacon fries was the perfect combination.
Over all, my friend I had a really good time. It is a bit expensive for a normal burger ($13 without sides) but it tastes amazing! It's a nice place to sit down, eat, and proceed to go out and explore downtown Chicago. The next time you are craving a hamburger, rather than settling for fast food. Make sure to put Umami Burger on your list of restaurants to visit in Chicago.