The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
In Chicago, you can find a burger almost anywhere.
You’ve got your fast food ones (at the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King) and you’ve got your upscale ones (such as the cheeseburger at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Wicker Park, rated in 2009 by Chicago Magazine as the best in the city).
You’ve got your run-of-the-mill ones (that can be found at any random corner bar) and you’ve got your ones with loads of pizzazz (such as those on the menu at Kuma’s Corner, the wildly popular, heavy metal-themed burger joint in the Avondale neighborhood).
But, no matter where you find a burger in the Windy City, odds are that the one you find will be made of beef.
Maybe buffalo, if you’re living on the edge.
At Hop Haus (thehophaus.com) in River North, however, the burgers get a whole lot more exotic than that. So much so that they don’t come simply made of beef, they come made of lamb.
And wild boar. And even ostrich.
Located beneath the rumbling “L” tracks at 646 North Franklin, the River North Hop Haus – there’s an additional location up in Rogers Park – is an eclectic mix of a burger joint and sports bar where signs outside boast about serving food until 4 a.m., 365 days a year. You know, just in case you have a hankering for boar while waiting for Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny.
Last week, I had a hankering myself, so I swung by Hop Haus after work on Friday evening and slid into a booth where I surveyed the restaurant’s impressive menu of sliders.
Most people know those as the mini burgers sold at White Castle. But Crave Cases don’t come with sliders like the ones you’ll find at Hop Haus.
There, you can order steak sliders like the “Philly Mignon” (made cheesesteak style), the “Black & Bleu” (blackened and topped with bleu cheese dressing) and the “Steak & Egg” (smothered with a fried egg).
You can order cheeseburger sliders, including the “Little Haus” (with yellow and white cheddars), the “Smokehouse” (with gouda and Swiss) and the “Pequeno Guacamole” (with pepperjack).
And you can order chicken sliders such as the “Cobb” (like the salad), the “Teriyaki” (it comes with pineapple) and the “Cordon Bleu” (with garlic Parmesan sauce).
Those entrees alone make Hop Haus worth a visit, but I didn’t come for any of them. Rather, I was lured in by “Wild Sliders,” which Hop Haus bills as “for the courageous … or jaded appetite.”
I’m not sure which description fits my own, but I placed an order for an ostrich, a lamb and a wild boar slider to satisfy it either way.
My meal arrived with toothpick flags popping out of each slider’s pretzel role to make sure I didn’t confuse lamb for boar, or vice versa.
With curiosity getting the best of me, I dug first into the ostrich slider, topped with lettuce, tomato, roasted onion, havarti cheese and Jamaican jerk sauce. It offered a sweet, almost tangy taste with a texture that certainly seemed more like beef than bird.
Next up, I tackled the lamb slider with its cucumber salad, feta cheese and feta dressing, making it taste like a gyros burger. And finally, I went wild on the boar and its lettuce, tomato, bacon, smoked gouda and ranch dressing toppings.
The boar was my favorite, but maybe that was just because of the bacon, which makes everything better. In all, I left Hop Haus fully satisfied and hungering for a return, albeit with one hope.
And that’s that the kangaroo burger soon leaps back onto the menu.