WHAT: Maxwell Street Depot
WHERE: 411 W. 31st St.
OUR RATING: Do It!
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Maxwell Street Depot, or just Depot for short, has been doing a brisk business for many years, trading in burgers, hot dogs and fries that are fantastically traditional and yet as low priced as you can get. Located in the South Side Bridgeport neighborhood, Depot is a regular joint for UChicago students with a car and the closer IIT, doling out heaped portions of onions atop steaming meat patties that will fill the hungriest of late night, last minute crammers.
Adam: Depot has to be considered a Chicago staple: if you’re visiting and have a car it’s a must-do (as long as you don’t mind eating in your car – there are no seats). After pulling into its parking lot and trundling up to the long service window facing the street, you have a choice of the essentials: burgers, hot dogs, polishes and fries. Onions are absolutely requisite on all dishes – beautifully soft and with a slight bite, I’ve never had onions akin to this elsewhere, so the trip is worth it just to sample this deliciously intoxicating sensory experience.
What is little know is that Depot is a part of Maxwell Street Polish, of the Pilsen neighborhood, and yet I’ve never ordered a Polish here ever. I automatically gravitate towards the double cheeseburger, for a measly $4.50. For that paltry price you get your burger with a ½ pound of meat, cheese, a pile of onions, mustard, and a sizable bag of fries. And this isn’t fast food style rubbish: you’re getting a piece of Chicago history.
Alicia: $2.25. ¼ Hamburger with grilled onions and a bag of delicious freshly fried fries with a soft center and a crunchy outside. This is the best and cheapest burger deal in Chicago, and it never fails, and I will forever be thankful to my Bridgeport native college buddy for introducing this place to me. Interestingly, apparently the original Maxwell Street Depot (once actually located on Maxwell Street) was dismantled and moved piece by piece to preserve the original structure two miles away. They mean business.
The burger is juicy, the bun soft and a perfect ratio to the thick patty of meat, and the mustard and sweet grilled onions cut through it all with an amazing bite. The key is just to order the works (sans cheese for me), but this won’t come with ketchup. Don’t even mention ketchup, or the cooks will get testy. If you want the ketchup, there’s plenty of bottles outside the window, along with containers of salt, and let’s just say I get REAL messy with the both of them for both my burger and fries. It’s my sinful, salty, oily indulgence, and it’s the only way to go.
Final Thoughts: Remember: fries come with everything for no extra cost, so no need to order additional packets unless you’re starving. So strap in, sit back, motor on and try some of the best authentic Chicago cuisine imaginable.