Umami Burger settles into Wicker Park

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Umami Burger, a gourmet-style burger chain, has opened its doors on Sept. 18 at its first Chicago location at 1480 N. Milwaukee Ave. The place experienced a steady flow of newcomers who came for its grand opening.

After staking out a location in a neighborhood already known for its abundance of hipsters, Umami Burger set up shop two doors down from the Native Foods Café, another popular  niche chain. 

Adam Fleischman, a writer who fell so in love with food and wine that he changed his career, founded Umami Burger in 2009, according to its  website. 

The first location was in Los Angeles, and Umami slowly began to spread across California before moving westward. Now the chain has locations in Las Vegas, New York City and Chicago, according to the website. 

Fleischman the name Umami after the Japanese culinary word for savory because of the ingredients he would use to separate Umami from more traditional burger joints.

The restaurant prides itself as an upscale burger joint, and one of the waitresses referred to it as a “sit down In-N-Out Burger.” Each location has its own individual decor that reflects its neighborhood, Wicker Park’s location boasts street art and massive colorful murals adorning the restaurant’s pine walls.

Umami is not your typical hamburger joint. The restaurant has taken an average burger and transformed it into a gourmet item by adding toppings like shiitake mushrooms, avocado and truffles. It also has house-made truffle cheese, truffle fries ($6.50) and the house-made ketchup is even infused with truffles.

Umami Burger has many types of burgers, including one that is made with ahi tuna. The staff favorite, Manly Burger ($12.00) lives up to its name by topping the “Umami” seasoned beef patty with melty, hearty beer-cheddar cheese, crisp smoked-salt onion strings and savory bacon lardon. As far as its taste is concerned, you cannot go wrong with the Manly Burger, though the burger is too ordinary for double digit pricing.

Among its many appetizers, Umami features its spin on a southern classic—deep-fried pickles ($6.00). The pickles are served on a spear and are blanketed with shaved Parmesan cheese. One can also dip the pickles in Umami’s very own jalapeno ranch, which is creamy and delicious but does not have any sign of jalapeno. The deepfried pickles still maintain their crunch and are not overpowered with dill flavoring.

The restaurant also provides soda-pop such as Coca-Cola and Sprite ($3.50) that are imported from Mexico, made with real sugar and come in the classic bottles, as well as Abita Root Beer ($3.50), which is bottled in Louisiana, naturally caffeine-free and made with pure Louisiana cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Umami Burger is a great place to try a new spin on an old favorite, but it is pricier than your average burger joint. If you are not a fan of truffles, this may not be your spot.