MORGAN PARK — Within shouting distance of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade route and countless Irish taverns comes the Irish Burger.
Topped with corned beef, seared cabbage, a potato pancake, roasted tomatoes, Applewood-smoked bacon and white American cheese, the Irish Burger is one of several exotic creations from Five Star Burgers at 2353 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park. It's a savory sandwich that tastes akin to a hardy Irish breakfast.
Five Star Burgers opened on July 5, and the Southwest Side neighborhood quickly began buzzing about the Irish Burger as well as Five Star's other offbeat menu items. Other popular burgers are topped with pulled pork, caramelized pineapple, fried pickles and other unlikely ingredients.
"There is a whole science to making burgers," said Humberto Manzo Jr., 21.
He pushed his father, Humberto Manzo Sr., and mother, Claudia Manzo, to open Five Star Burgers. Manzo Sr. has spent a lifetime working in restaurants, ranging from French bistros downtown to McDonald's restaurants in the suburbs.
It was in a high-end restaurant downtown that Manzo Sr. developed his knack for unusual burgers. The restaurant specialized in dishes featuring prime cuts of uncommon meats, such as bison, venison and duck.
"I started doing burgers for the staff with all the scraps," Manzo Sr. said.
His experiments with quirky burgers and equally quirky toppings prompted the restaurant to open for lunch. Manzo Sr.'s burgers soon became the talk of nearby restaurateurs and were even recognized by several Chicago culinary magazines, he said.
Meanwhile, his son was studying microeconomics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Manzo Jr. convinced his father to open his own restaurant, capitalizing on his father's talent for making burgers and his son's newfound business acumen.
"I am applying what I'm learning," said Manzo Jr., who works at Five Star Burgers alongside his father, mother and two brothers — Josue, 18, and Alejandro, 16.
The family business quickly found an audience thanks to social media. Glowing reviews filled Facebook newsfeeds as local customers fell in love with Manzo Sr.'s fresh-pressed burgers and unusual toppings. Twice within the first 30 days, the restaurant sold out of ground beef. Once it sold out of buns, Manzo Jr. said.
The signature Five Star Burger — topped with Applewood-smoked bacon, grilled onions, stout caramelized pineapple, white American cheese, lettuce and tomato — is the most popular menu item. The turkey burger topped with pepper jack cheese, avocado, citrus chipotle aioli and organic mixed greens is a close second, Manzo Sr. said.
The Manzo family lives in the shadows of Midway Airport. They hope to someday add restaurants on the North Side, downtown and possibly in the far western suburbs.
Meanwhile, Manzo Sr. continues develop unusual burgers. To satisfy his curiosity and hungry customers, he plans to unveil a special Burger of the Month in the coming months.
The Hangover Burger is Manzo Sr.'s leading candidate for the first Burger of the Month. Rather than using a bun, the Hangover Burger sits between two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. The burger is then topped with grilled onions, bacon, lettuce and tomato.
"My dad is the one with all the ideas," Manzo Jr. said.
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