Vinyl-covered stools, green Formica, ceramic-checkered tile floor, a Hamilton Beach mixer and buckets of Carnation malted milk…just the kind of scene you'd expect from a vintage South Side burger and shake shack. Even the orders get ripped from a standard-issue order pad and clothes-pinned on a line above the grill.
But, this ain't your typical shake shack. Also know as Bill Grant's Grill and Gallery, Wonderburger doubles as an art gallery where a bevy of moderately-priced kitschy paintings cover the walls. The current piece de resistance includes linebacker Brian Urlacher in full Chicago Bears uniform fishing in a rowboat amidst a pastoral Impressionist river scene that conjures painter Thomas Kinkade. If pop culture's your thing, focus on the opposite wall, which includes a bevy of refrigerator magnets depicting old stars like Lucille Ball and Dean Martin.
The burger is superlative—freshly grilled, topped with ketchup, relish and onions and nestled on a toasted bun. Curly-q fries, the love child of curly fries and McDonald's golden spuds, are crisp and redolent with a bit of hot, tasty grease. The prices, which range from $2.20 for the basic Wonderburger to $8.70 for a shrimp basket, may not have changed much since this spot opened in 1954.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant