Meaty Maneuvers

10,648 burger varieties (and counting) at Butcher & the Burger

According to Al Sternweiler, every chef has a forte, and his has always been butchering.

Now, the seasoned Chicago chef has opened a counter-service Lincoln Park burger shop with ambitions that stretch well beyond the bun.

Thick, flame-licked patties are available in a staggering variety of combinations of bun, meat, spice and toppings. Sternweiler's 11 seasoning blends can be mixed into at least 11 types of burgers, including shrimp, mushroom and elk, and served on four different buns with a choice of more than 20 toppings. Note: This is not a restaurant for the indecisive.

We took a classic route: local beef seasoned with "Grandma's onion soup," a mixture inspired by Campbell's, and topped with Laack aged cheddar from Wisconsin. We were rewarded by a juicy, smoky sandwich with a doubly savory kick.

Next week, Sternweiler will begin stocking the restaurant's butcher case with cuts of meat butchered in-house and an array of house-ground patties, available for purchase from the time the restaurant serves its first beignet and coffee in the morning through the end of dinner service (9 p.m., or midnight from Thu. through Sat.).

Sternweiler's butchering skills benefit the fries ($2.25) as well. Thick-cut and made from heirloom Kennebec potatoes, they're some of the best in town.

Butcher & the Burger, 1021 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-697-3735 or butcherandtheburger.com