By Laina Dawes
First, I must begin this restaurant review by advising y’all to not go to Chicago in the winter time. You will freeze your ass off – and this is coming from a born and bred Canadian (with Jamaican blood) who grew up in rural Eastern Ontario – dirt roads, trailers, white-trash neighbours and where cow-tipping is a national sport. I’m telling y’all, Don’t.Do.It. It’s a great city but man, after fifteen minutes outside I thought I was going to lose some toes.
But if you have to go, I suggest you check out Kuma’s Corner. Yes, the burger joint encased in a fine English pub atmosphere is quickly becoming a metal institution as almost every reputable metal publication has raved about it. The music is friggin’ dirty, the atmosphere is chillax, and the food is awesome. But another warning: Despite what you might think (or not think) about going to get a quick burger before you hit the hockey game, if you go to Kuma’s, which is located in Chicago’s residential North Side, get there early and prepare to stay late.
I first sensed that a casual afternoon of drinking and catching up with a fellow sista/metalhead journalist was going to be interesting when she advised me to meet her no later than 11:40 am on a Sunday morning, even though the restaurant opened at 12. Sure enough, when I arrived there was already a lineup around the block. But the restaurant is well-prepared because the hostess, whom in an earlier life was probably a drill sergeant, started barking orders as to where the large crowds should sit. People diligently took their seats and the stragglers at the end of the line patiently hovered near the door – one of the servers told me later that it is usually a two-hour wait to get a table.
As soon as (almost) everyone was seated, the music (they only play doom/stoner metal) came on…loud, and even though I thought I knew my stuff, it was really enjoyable because I didn’t recognize anything they played. After my friend arrived we perused the menu. Known primarily for their burgers, they introduce a new one every month whose name and toppings are inspired after a metal band. I’d heard about the Mastodon (buffalo sauce, bacon, bleu cheese dressing) and the Lair of the Minotaur (caramelized onions, Pancetta, Brie, bourbon soaked pears) but I really wanted to try the Goblin Cock – just so I could say I did (bacon, cheddar cheese, ¼lb. Vienna hot dog, tomatoes, onion, neon green relish, sport peppers, pickles, celery salt mustard).
I heard my colon cry out in pain at the thought, so I decided on their January special burger which was the Blood Horse (Italian sausage, pepperoni, onion on a pizza bun with mozzarella cheese) with a helping of humongous waffle fries. As for the booze? I thought I would start off with an, ahem ‘appetizer,’ a PBR which was probably one of the few Domestics on the alcohol menu. My friend wrinkled her nose at my passion for Pabst Blue Ribbon and ordered one of the fine brews Kuma’s carry from Dark Horse Brewery.
After a couple of beers, our fabulous server Katie suggested we try one a new beer they carried from Dark Horse, Scotty Karate, which was probably, if not the best, one of the most flavourful beers I have ever tasted in my life. It was rich, oaky and fruity at the same time and seemed to go well with the burger, which was hands down, the best burger I had eaten in my life. The beer was also about 9% alcohol which at the time, seemed like a bonus but not so much a couple of hours later when I was on a plane heading home to Toronto. While I didn’t partake, their Caesar, which looked homemade, seemed to be a favourite and served in a milkshake glass and looked like you got a lot of booze for a relatively cheap price.
So what makes Kuma’s stand out from the rest? They cook your burger exactly how you want it – for me, I do not like blood, so it’s always medium-well; the meat is incredibly seasoned, so you don’t find yourself grabbing for the salt and pepper; the helpings so plentiful that without you even asking, they will take your plate away and put your food in a take-out dish and the staff, that despite the hectic pace (our server told us that our visit was actually a slow day) were really friendly, professional and quick. And of course, the ambiance. The music was spot-on, the crowd seemed like a healthy cross-section of what you would expect in a large, cosmopolitan city and there were lots of young, white tattooed metal boys that made me want to keep my hands in my pockets. All of it made for a yummy afternoon.
Oh, and if you heed my warning and decide to go in the summer, they open their patio in May and in July they hold their annual block party. Last year, Baroness played so you know that this year is going to be hot. Check it!
2900 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-5804
So we’ve reviewed Kuma’s Corner in Chicago and we’ve also done a feature on Toronto’s notorious Black Metal Brunch in a previous article. Know of any other metal-friendly eateries that Hellbound.ca should be covering? Please let us know!