Early last year, Melissa Elsmo reported that the Chicago Tribune’s Nick Kindelsperger named Carnivore’s bacon burger the twentieth best hamburger in Chicago. In awarding this recognition, Kindelsperger explained that “In general, bacon on a burger never works as well as you think it will. Even the crispiest slices go limp next to the warm meat, and they often fall off after a couple of bites. But grinding up bacon and mixing it with ground beef? Now we are talking. That’s what you’ll find at Carnivore in Oak Park, an ambitious butcher shop that also has a small lunch menu. The half-pound patty oozes juice and delivers a fascinating smoky aroma from the ground-up bacon.”
I agree with Kindelsperger that the way to make bacon integrate with and enhance hamburger meat is to grind it all up, as Carnivore does, so that the bacon strips don’t become flaccid or fall off, and so that flavors merge more completely. Working bacon into the beef meat also adds moisture and fat, which makes the whole sandwich taste better.
Hamburger is maybe my favorite food, so simple and unpretentious. Just biting into a hamburger, even a commodity burger sold at a franchise location, is a grounding experience, a comforting feeling of going back to something that I’ve eaten all my life but that almost never fails to please (major exception would include the abhorrent offerings from White Castle.)
Here’s how much I love the bacon burger from Carnivore. Since the pandemic, I’ve been on a regimen that includes a daily eighteen-hour intermittent fast; through this discipline, I’ve lost over forty pounds (thank you, thank you!). Still, the only hamburgers I’ve really craved during this period are the bacon burgers from Carnivore, which I’ve had several times. It’s been proven on more than one occasion that I’m incapable of walking by Carnivore without stopping in for two bacon burgers and buns (it’s super convenient that Carnivore will sell just a bun or two – and high-quality buns at that – along with Mighty Vine tomatoes, which may be all you need to make a superior hamburger sandwich at home – though Carnivore will cook it up for you on the spot, if you like).
If I had one criticism of Carnivore’s bacon burger, it would be that grinding the bacon and burger meat so fine gives it a somewhat homogenized texture, but that’s a small price to pay for such a delicious handful of food. The burger itself tastes so good that I avoid adding mustard or ketchup and just go with the clean and simple flavors of tomato, raw onion, and pickle.
At the end of Kindelsperger’s hamburger listing, he concludes that it’s a somewhat “ridiculous exercise” to compare burgers, and I tend to agree. It’s equally ridiculous for me to claim that the Carnivore bacon burger is the best burger in the world. So, I won’t make that claim. But I will assert that it is the best burger I can remember eating, and I hope to eat it again many times. You really should eat it.