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Chicagoan Returns Home From NYC, Bringing City's First Bareburger With Him

By Ariel Cheung | October 5, 2016 8:16am
 Bareburger, known for its organic burgers and creamy milkshakes, opened its first Chicago location Monday at 3357 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lakeview.
Bareburger opens first Chicago location in Lakeview
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LAKEVIEW — As far as midlife crises go, Jerry Brunton is having a great one.

In the past two years, the Chicago area native got married, had a daughter and uprooted from his New York tech career of two decades to open his first restaurant.

Since moving to Lakeview in June, Brunton admits that he's "never had this much fun working, I think in my life." It took 10 months of renovations and years of planning, but his Bareburger fast-casual restaurant opened Monday at 3357 N. Lincoln Ave.

"The food is outstanding, [as is] the whole philosophy of organic and all-natural behind the food," said Brunton, 54. His salt-of-the-earth "can do" attitude is winning, combined with an earnest Midwest spirit that outed him as a non-native New Yorker for his duration there.

"Even after 20 years, people still said, 'You're not from here, are you?' " Brunston said. "I still had that Chicago blood in me."

Bareburger, 3357 N. Lincoln Ave., opened Monday. It features a full bar and a menu specializing in organic burgers and milkshakes. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Bareburger began in Queens in 2009, with its founders setting up shop in their own Astoria neighborhood. The organic burgers and creamy milkshakes were lauded as some of the best in the city, and the company now has 38 locations reaching as far as Toronto, Ohio, Japan and Germany.

Lincoln Avenue is Bareburger's first foray into Chicago. Brunton knew from the first time he sank his teeth into a perfectly cooked, supremely tasty Bareburger that he was the one to bring it to the Windy City.

"I just loved the product so much. I loved the presentation," Brunton said. He got in touch with the five partners who started the franchise and floated the idea of expanding west to Chicago.

Jerry Brunton returned to Chicago after a 20-year career in the New York financial world to open his first restaurant, expanding the Bareburger mini-chain to the Windy City. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

After losing out on two Wicker Park storefronts — including the "High Fidelity" spot that became City Soles — and touring dozens of options in neighborhoods like River North and the Loop, Brunton settled on the corner building near Paulina, Lincoln and Roscoe.

"I said 'I don't want to go in any place where there's a little burger shop we're going to compete with,'" Brunton said. "And No. 2, Bareburger has a certain personality, we wanted the personality of the neighborhood to match."

The restaurant's main attraction currently comes in 14 varieties, plus a build-your-own burger option with patty options spanning from wild boar to quinoa. The specialty burgers go for between $9.65 to $13.65. The Fire Quacker, made with a duck patty, is topped with pepper jack, pickled jalapeños, red onions, spinach, tomatoes and habanero mayonnaise on a brioche bun for $10.95.

Bareburger specializes in organic burgers like the Burger Supreme and desserts like this banana sundae. [Provided/Bareburger]

There are upscale spins on classics, like the Blue Elk burger topped with Amish blue cheese, bacon, stout onions and tomato fig jam. Vegans can enjoy the Guadalupe black bean burger or the gluten-free Farmstead burger, wrapped in collard greens and made with sweet potato and wild rice, green hummus, baby kale and avocado basil dressing.

Shakes come in four flavors: Mexican chocolate, banana foster, hot honey and the cococado mix of coconut and avocado.

Bareburger opened its first Chicago location Monday and offers organic burgers, milkshakes, sandwiches and shareable plates. [Provided/Bareburger]

Large salads for two-four people run for $13.95 to $16.95, with smaller options also available. Sandwiches like the Hot Honey Chicken — buttermilk fried chicken slathered in hot honey with grilled pineapple, crispy lotus root and a brussels slaw — are $8.95 to $12.95.

Bareburger also has a dozen shareable plates like short rib sliders, Sriracha pork belly brussels sprouts, and a platter of pickles and slaws.

The full bar includes eight craft wines and 11 drafts of Chicago craft beer staples like the Half Acre Daisy Cutter, Begyle Crash Landed and All Rise Three Orange. Cocktails are $10 and include five craft options and an alcoholic root beer float made with Coney Island Hard Root Beer.

The Lakeview location will be open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and until 11:30 p.m. weekends.

Bareburger, 3357 N. Lincoln Ave., opened Monday. It features a full bar and a menu specializing in organic burgers and milkshakes. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

The newly storefront is part of an extensive redevelopment from L3 Capital, a retail investment firm that also owns large strips of property on the Southport Corridor.

In 2014, L3 bought $3.5 million in property from 3351-3361 N. Lincoln Ave., hoping to restore the faded corridor as the bustling shopping destination it once was.

Soon after signing his lease, Brunton said he made friends with Michael Jorndt, who similarly left behind a longtime career to follow a newfound passion: craft beer. Jorndt opened Bitter Pops in April, and he and Brunton are planning some collaborative events in coming months.

RELATED: Bitter Pops Beer Shop Bringing 500 Brews To Lakeview's Lincoln Ave.

Reverb also moved its offices to the development last year.

Brunton said he'd initially hoped to open on the Southport Corridor, but found it well outside his price range. Like other small business owners, Brunton eschewed the pricey leases between Addison and School for more modest blocks nearby.

But like his fateful introduction to Bareburger, "it was serendipity, a meant-to-be kind of thing," Brunton said. Similar to finding his general manager, Mary Kores, who was a sales rep for Louis Glunz Beer distributors before she met Brunton and saw his operation.

Days after his original pick for the job backed out, Kores called up and asked for the job on the spot.

"I've learned not to get upset about things, because in the end, it always works out better," Brunton said. "She's really helped me take this place the last three yards across the goal line."

Eventually, Brunton said he might expand and open additional Bareburgers in Chicago, but he doesn't mind taking things slow — in fact, he prefers it.

"I signed this lease in August 2014. We all waited a long time to do this right," he said.

RELATED: Can Southport Stay Charming, Or Will National Chains Drive Out Diversity?

He's thrilled to be a part of the Lincoln Avenue renaissance and excited to bring the gospel of Bareburger back to his hometown. 

"Everything sort of ebbed and flowed to the right place," Brunton said. "And it was well worth waiting for."

Check out the full menu below:

Dinner menu:


Drink menu:

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