Mystery Diner: Geneva's The Burger Local elevates American classic

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GENEVA – Truffle, fennel and other appetite teasers lend culinary panache to the star-billed attraction at The Burger Local in Geneva, which enjoys a strong supporting cast of salads, tacos and other fare.

A lively, spacious dining room and bar occupy a glass-corner space next to the downtown parking deck east of the train station. Plank walls and darkly dramatic chandeliers help create the urban chic vibe, and the soaring ceiling moderates sound levels even in a packed house. Attractive constellations of flat-screens tuned silently to multiple channels let us enjoy Olympic action as we dined.

On a late Saturday afternoon, people already were beginning to fill the eatery. We opted for a window-side, high-top table. The gauzy-curtain-softened view opened onto the patio dining shaded by umbrellas.

Knowing we’d give into our pie cravings for dessert, we managed to resist appetizers including deviled eggs with lump lobster, bacon, micro cilantro and homemade hot sauce, as well as the in-house pierogis prepared with potato and caramelized onion or sauerkraut and pan fried in sage butter. Another lure was the mac n’ cheese available in its glorious basics or with an array of options to dress it up with everything from pesto to shrimp and pork belly.

The emphasis on local ingredients is touted on the website, with the beef sourced from cattle raised in Illinois and Iowa, and processed in DeKalb. The burgers are 100 percent brisket and hand-packed daily.

I opted for the burger crowned with red-wine-braised short rib, Gruyere cheese and caramelized shallots. It was decadent and delicious – the burger cooked exactly to order. Refreshing to the palate was the side salad I selected with ginger citrus vinaigrette. We also shared an order of hand-cut fries that are among some of the best we’ve eaten.

My dining companion chose the Caesar salad featuring flavorful grilled salmon, paired with baby romaine, tomato, shaved Parmesan and croutons. It comes with marinated white anchovies, which he kindly let migrate to my plate as the anchovy fanatic. And we couldn’t figure out the subtle flavor twist we were enjoying in the Caesar dressing until we checked back to the menu and saw it was black truffle. Hail this Caesar.

One doesn’t have to be a beef devotee or even carnivorous to try a range of burgers. Alternative patties extend to shrimp, lamb, turkey, Berkshire pork and smoked black bean, as well as the portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach and goat cheese, accented by black truffle aioli.

The restaurant features a taco of the week, and dessert selection is kept simple. It’s always pie, but the choices change frequently.

Our attentive server told us the pie is prepared locally by The Sugar Path bakery in Geneva. We enjoyed a seasonal fruit pastry of warm fresh peaches in an excellent flaky crust. The petite pie was just right and not too sweet, and arrived with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream. The dessert is the perfect size for sharing. My dining companion does not believe in pie without coffee, and enjoyed his java in an over-sized cup that our server kept hot and full.

The restaurant includes a video game room separated from the dining area. Next to the bar, a blackboard lists the changing array of eight craft drafts, and among the seating options are communal tables that fit around eight.

The Burger Local provided plenty of good reasons to plan a return visit soon.

The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

If you go

What: The Burger Local

Where: 577 S. Third St., Geneva

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

More info: or 630-232-2806