The Unvegan

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Following the Rules at Kuma’s Corner

That burger sounds loud.

The following guest blog is courtesy of Ryan Glasspiegel. Check him out on Twitter: @RGSpiegel

After living the unvegan lifestyle in Chicago for the better part of a year, I am extremely ashamed to admit that I had never eaten at Kuma’s Corner until just recently. Located off the beaten path on Belmont Avenue near the corner of Belmont, California, and Elston, Kuma’s Corner is not easily accessible to me by either walking or public transportation. Further, there is a perpetual wait time of over two hours so in addition to knowing someone who has a car, you have to be willing to stake out the significant portion of a day in order to indulge in their renowned hamburgers.

As expected, the wait time at Kuma’s Corner was about two-and-a-half hours on the Sunday afternoon that myself and two friends decided to go. The second one sets foot in Kuma’s, he is in for a largely unique experience. Intentionally positioning itself as counterculture, Kuma’s seemingly has a policy of not allowing one to be an employee unless he/she has several conspicuous tattoos. Our friendly server had sleeves of tattoos on both arms and casually mentioned that the point in which she got her tattoos on her elbows were far and away the most painful moments of her life, easily surpassing the time she broke her back.

To go along with their tattooed staff, Kuma’s plays very loud metal music. Now, this unvegan characterizes himself of being tolerant of all forms of music, even dipping into the metal genre to enjoy bands like Tool and Iron Maiden. However, those bands possess a melodic quality that the music at Kuma’s did not on this particular day. For the entire time we were there, the only metal we heard was the type with indistinguishable screaming and heavy power chords on the guitars. None of the songs sounded particularly different from each other and, although unique, the music definitely detracted from the enjoyment of the overall experience.

Further perpetuating its counter culture, Kuma’s had a list of rules on the wall, including, “No we will not turn on ‘the game.’ Nor would we want to” and “We will never serve any Miller, Coors, or Bud Product. Or Corona. So don’t even ask.” Also, there were strict rules against bitching about the wait time (I can’t imagine why anyone would ever be guilty of breaking that rule).

After 2.5 hours characterized by intense hunger that was only exacerbated by the death metal and having to watch other customers voraciously gorge on their delectable-looking burgers, our turn finally came to be seated. We were PUMPED. When we opened the menu, we were greeted to a list of burgers named after metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. All of the burgers had a carefully thought out pattern of ingredients and all of them looked absolutely delicious. I finally settled on the famous Kuma’s burger which was a hamburger that came topped with bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg sandwiched between a pretzel bun with a side of waffle fries. This was sure to be unvegan paradise.

After about 45 minutes more of waiting, the burger came and I was disgusted to see that, in addition to the described ingredients, it was topped with lettuce and tomato. LUCKILY, the top half of the bun was not attached and the tomato was on top of the lettuce, ensuring that the tomato would not have the opportunity to tarnish the prized burger that I had waited over 9 months in theory and 3 hours in practice to try. Disaster averted. After adding some of their homemade spicy ketchup, I was ready to dig in. When I took my first bite, the wait time and the death metal-induced headache were all but forgotten as I entered into a state of unvegan bliss. The ingredients complemented each other perfectly as I immediately realized I was eating one of the best burgers of my life.

Three things especially distinguished the Kuma’s burger from the typical hamburger. First, the quality of the meat was outstanding. Kuma’s clearly went the extra mile in procuring the finest ground beef it could find. Secondly, the fried egg was exquisite. From this point forward I will be hard pressed to enjoy a burger to its fullest unvegan extent knowing that it could be made better if topped with a fried egg. Finally, I had never before eaten a burger with a pretzel bun before but was highly impressed and left to wonder why it is an exception and not the norm. All of the ingredients on my burger were carefully chosen for the utmost quality and complemented each other perfectly. The fries were very good, but pretty standard for waffle fries and by no means extraordinary.

As I finished my 10 OZ burger around 4:00 pm, I knew that I would not be eating again for the rest of the day. It was absolutely outstanding and without a doubt one of the 3 best burgers I have ever eaten in my life. That being said, I do not know how often I will be making it back to Kuma’s. DMK Burger Bar and Rocks also make burgers topped with fried eggs. While they are not QUITE as delicious as Kuma’s, they are both within walking distance, do not have a 2.5 hour wait, and do not play music that gives me a splitting headache. I will almost certainly be back but wish that Kuma’s had better accessibility and ambiance to complement its delicious burgers.