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Chicago Area

Peppers 211 W. Van Buren

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Peppers 211 W. Van Buren

George Bailey | Mar 26, 2004 03:42 PM

Finished power-washing the grease off my keyboard to write about Peppers, 211 W. Van Buren. I just inhaled two double cheeseburgers and the fries that come with them. Delicious! I knew going in the door that it is a Friday during Lent (forgive me Father, for I have sinned). I haven't been to this place for years, and it's still the same. Same husband and wife team working the grill and counter. Still the same unkept cramped smoky (from the grill, not cigarettes) eat-in area. I think even the prices are the same, about $3.90 for a double cheeseburger and fries. In my opinion, they are the best burger and fries around.

This place is the burger joint equivalent of the "Soup Nazi". The husband works the grill and deep fryer; the wife puts together the burgers and takes the money. "We don't need to show you no stinking health department rules." There's no small talk with the customers or smiles or even eye contact. Place your order, move down the line, pay up and get out! "Ketchup for your fries, Grrrr". Don't get me wrong, the owners aren't arrogant or unfriendly, they're just busting their ass's trying to get all the orders filled as fast as possible. They're probably more amicable after the crush at lunch, right before they go to the bank.
Peppers has a very limited menu. Burgers, hot dogs, polish, beef. 90% of the orders seem to be the double cheeseburger with everything, and that's what I would recommend. They don't seem to move much of anything else and I personally haven't tried their other items.

The double cheeseburger is two thin patties grilled. The husband chops at them with a spatula as they cook on the extremely hot grill, so flames are always erupting (this guy can't have any eyebrows left). Then he adds a slice of cheese to each patty while the burgers are still on the grill. This really melts the cheese so that it sticks to the patty and bun in that gooey way you never get at McD's. The usual condiments are added, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, all haphazardly, the best way. The topper is they add sport peppers. One or two, three if you're lucky. Don't pass on these.

The fries are the thin straight-cut. Fried in oil or lard, I do not know, and then they shake a ton of salt on them and put them in little brown lunch bags. Mmmm, so good!(My apologies to Mr. Food.) Eat them while they're hot.

If I moved you to try Peppers, you will have to wait till next week, as they are only open Monday-Friday, I think. The line during the lunch hour is sometimes out the door, but it moves fast. Traders and runners from the Board of Trade eat here, so you get to see lots of guys in funny jackets. Parking is non-existent. If you park illegally, watch out, the meter maids cruise this area.

I'd eat here more offen, but it would kill me. If I were a cardiologist, I'd stand outside Peppers and pass out my business cards. Regulars that eat here would have more blockage than Homer Simpson, but would die with a smile on their greasy faces :)

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