Usually, there’s nothing I crave more than a hamburger, preferably a good one. In a pinch, however, I’ll eat pretty much any griddled ground beef patty on a bun. Heartbroken as I was by the closure of Five Guys (one of the better quick-service burgers), their absence has caused me to seek out other sources of the longed-for sandwich.

So it was that I found myself at Scratch Kitchen on Lake, a place that has generated some good buzz, and it’s near my house, so before boarding a plane for an international flight, I thought it’d be the perfect place to acquire some belly ballast. 

When I arrived at Scratch Kitchen, some people at every table were eating burgers: a very good sign. 

I went with the Scratch Burger, which has a lot going for it: bleu cheese (always so good with beef), arugula (the leaf’s pepperiness balances juicy beef), red onion (somewhat sweeter than yellow and more complementary to the cheese flavor), all on a pretzel bun (preferable to the standard white flour bun). 

This was a very good hamburger, though it was cooked to a non-negotiable medium; the customer does not have a choice; it’s up to the kitchen and the menu advises, “We do not take burger temps” – I’d have preferred medium-rare. Something else that’s up to the kitchen: salt. There’s no salt on the tables, and you can ask for it, though when asked, our server quoted a previous manager that “to ask for salt is an insult to the chef.” To that I say, Gimme a break. I respect the chef’s judgement, but when you’re serving a burger and fries, to not make salt an automatic part of the deal seems to border on arrogance. Maybe I like salt too much. 

Another thing we had to ask for was the $10 hamburger lunch deal. As we were eating, I heard the server mention the $10 hamburger lunch deal to another customer, but when our check arrived, we were both charged the regular price, $14. When I mentioned this, the server immediately adjusted the bill; it was just an innocent mistake, I’m sure, but again, this is not something the customer should not need to ask for. 

Despite all that, the Scratch Burger was really good, and Carolyn gave me half her lamb burger, also delicious. I would gladly go back to Scratch Kitchen on Lake for either…though I suspect the next time I go, I’ll branch into new territory: Chicago Combo Burger sounds intriguing, a play on the classic Italian beef combined with an Italian sausage patty, with jus and house-made giardiniera. 

To celebrate National Hamburger Day, July 28th, I’d recommend going to Scratch Kitchen on Lake for a Scratch Burger. Just remember to ask your server for salt and, if it’s lunch time, the $10 burger deal, which is a tremendous value. Yes, fries come with that.

Google turns up several different dates for National Hamburger Day (including dates in December and May); I chose to go with July 28, but really, any day is a good day to celebrate the hamburger, the all-American sandwich.

Note: reviewer is anonymous and pays for all meals; viewpoints expressed are those of the reviewer alone.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...