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Chefs using pasta, doughnuts and more for burger ‘buns’

Where to
find them

Buzz: 1935 W. Irving Park, (773) 880-9810

On the Bun: 3617 N. Broadway, (773)

Rockit Burger Bar: 3700 N. Clark,
(773) 645-4400

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Updated: February 9, 2014 6:02AM

Few things in life are more sweetly satisfying than the first bite of a juicy burger, perfectly cooked and sandwiched between a lightly toasted bun. But what happens when a bun isn’t made of bread? When it’s made of noodles or doughnuts? Is a burger really a burger without a traditional bun?

Some Chicago chefs have an answer: Yes. Recently burgers with innovative “buns” made with anything but dough have been popping up on menus in Chicago. Capitalizing in part on the national ramen burger trend (that originated in Brooklyn last summer) and in part on Chicagoans’ appetite for anything-goes-burgers, chefs are reimagining exactly what goes best with an all-beef patty.

When the gourmet burger spot Buzz opened in North Center in September, its menu included a burger sandwiched between two house-made glazed doughnuts (lightly grilled to melt the glaze) and its own take on the ramen burger. The latter has a bun made with ramen noodles and a patty made of rich Kobe beef — it makes up 30 percent of the restaurant’s burger sales. “We have people coming from all over the city to try the ramen burger,” says owner Marcel Somfelean. While Somfelean would not disclose how exactly the buns are formed out of ramen, he said the noodles are cooked and then deep-fried. A low-calorie option this is not.

Another diet-buster? The Mac Attack burger at Rockit Burger Bar in Wrigleyville (also available at Rockit Bar & Grill in River North on Tuesdays). Executive chef and partner Amanda Downing came up with the burger in September when brainstorming for that week’s specialty burger. “I thought, why not use pasta?” The burger, which has a bun made of mac and cheese, was so popular it became a permanent fixture on the menu by October.

To make the bun, Downing tweaked the popular mac and cheese recipe and added gelatin to bind the corkscrew pasta, heavy cream and four cheeses (Parmesan, jack, Cheddar, and blue Gorgonzola) when it cools. She then presses the mixture and creates buns with a biscuit cutter. The result? A bun that oozes gooey cheese when you bite into it. “This is not something you’d eat every day or even every week,” says Downing. “It’s a special treat.”

While you can order waffle fries at the new burger joint On the Bun, you can also order the waffle burger. Attached to the Lakeview outpost of Waffles, it serves a patty with your choice of meat (wagyu, bison, steak) between two beefed-up waffles. Owner Alex Hernandez added wheat flour to make waffles firm enough to hold a burger. And since On the Bun is attached to the kitchen at Waffles, you can order a specialty flavored waffle bun, too. (It’s not on the menu, but you can ask for it). Mexican-chocolate waffle burger, anyone?

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