The first salvo of the Great Burger-Beer-Bourbon Skirmish of 2012 was fired June 8. The last salvo was also fired June 8. There were no casualties or damage, and to be honest, it was a one-sided skirmish.
Via Twitter, Owen & Engine in Logan Square fired on Publican Quality Meats in Fulton Market. Aside from a handful of retweets and stray comments, the war itself remained mercifully passive-aggressive, dumb and brief. PQM never bothered to fire back, or even respond, though it certainly had reason to. O&E tweeted: "So PQM can't come up with their own specials, gotta steal ours. Least we know where BBB started."
The BBB it alluded to was its Tuesday night burger, beer and bourbon special. PQM had recently announced its own Tuesday night burger, beer and bourbon special. So in subsequent tweets (none of which PQM responded to), O&E began referring to its own BBB special as the original Chicago BBB special.
"You know, I think the average person understands offering a burger, beer and bourbon special one night a week isn't an incredibly original idea in the first place. But I guess they were trying to instigate something," said Andrea Tambourine, PQM assistant manager, who has not-so-surreptitious plans to check out O&E's Tuesday night BBB special. Indeed, there has even been very tentative talk between the burger slingers to settle this — patty-to-patty, or as the O&E tweet stream suggested, "Fisticuffs on the Flattop."
Until that happens, here's our take.
Publican Quality Meats
The deal: $10 burgers (the Publican burger and a weekly special); $5 bourbon shots; usual beer prices.
The nice thing about eating a burger in a deli/butcher shop is that you know the meat will look all screwy and idiosyncratic — like a mom's attempt at replicating McDonald's — and Publican's gnarled, craggy patties have a lot of personality. The signature burger comes with a square yellow slice of American cheese, ample mustard, a spicy dill relish and a pile of balsamic red onion, held in place with a white-dusted potato bun. It's not too big, not too small, a perfectly sloppy blend of sirloin, skirt steak and chuck. Also, each week there is a special second burger. The week we attended, Justin Large (of Big Star) contributed a "'Fun' Dido Burger" topped with house-made chorizo, roasted salsa, Chihuahua cheese and poblano pepper. (Oh, almost forgot: Burgers come with crisp, excellent fries and a house-cured pickle delivering a bit of kick.)
The Tuesday night we went, they poured a strong and caramelly Old Weller Antique bourbon. As for the beer: Generally, two drafts (one light, one dark) are offered and a smallish but well-chosen selection of bottles. (For example, Three Floyds' terrific and vaguely citrus-esque Zombie Dust pale ale, which is $6.)
Pleasant outdoor patio. Offering a choice of burgers (and beers) is thoughtful. And despite the a la carte nature of this special, our tab for two wasn't significantly higher than the O&E bill.
Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market; 312-445-8977. Special runs 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Owen & Engine
The deal: And what a deal. The burger, fries, pickle, beer and bourbon shot — $15.
The kind of burger that bleeds, that leaves a pool of beef juice on the plate (and on your chin). A patty is a half-pound Slagel Farm grind of short ribs and brisket, dropped between a toasted, house-baked potato "bap" — or a crinkled, airy English-style bun. It's all topped with a second burger's worth of caramelized onions. Comes with textbook fries (crisp outside, molten in) and a creamy malt-vinegar aioli.
Everything arrives at once. We received a black, malty German Kostritzer Schwarzbier holding a thick white head of foam; and the bourbon was a smallish shot of mildish Old Overholt rye whiskey. (The offered beer, our server explained, tends to be "something smooth and drinkable with a huge burger.")
The beer and bourbon are selected by the bartender.
Owen & Engine, 2700 N. Western Ave.; 773-235-2930. Special runs 5 p.m. Tuesdays to 2 a.m. Wednesdays.
Owen & Engine. The price is crazy, the burger is one of the city's unsung treasures and the beer selection is can't-miss. That said, it's quality burgers and booze for cheap — if we could call a tie, we would.