Okay, Butcher Boy Burgers is probably not going to appear on Guy Fieri’s show anytime soon, but they are literally, and perhaps coincidently, all these things. I journeyed to Rantoul in search of burger nirvana, with a name like Butcher Boy Burgers I had high hopes. What I found was not exactly what I was expecting.
First off, I went on a Wednesday evening and the place was packed. It took me a few minutes to review the menu because it was quite long. I did find the variety to be a bit odd — not bad — it just had a few things the were unanticipated, for instance egg rolls at a burger joint? Also, they had daily dinner specials like chicken and noodles and spaghetti and garlic bread, something that shows their diner side. Did I mention they were open for breakfast as well?
The couple at the booth next to me were kind enough to pose their dinner for a photo: chicken and noodles on Wednesdays. The first thing you can’t help but notice is how big the servings are for just $7.49. The couple mentioned that they come here at least once a week and even go as far to say that the chicken and noodles is better than another nearby home-style favorite.
The noodles looked good and all, but my mission involved a burger. When it comes to these things I like to choose something basic for a first encounter. You can often tell a lot about a place based on the effort and attention they put towards the foundation. For me there is nothing more basic for a burger joint than a double cheeseburger.
The key to success in a burger (b)eat burger world is balance, like organizing a chorus. Balance between the components is very important and if there is going to be a stand out star it should be the meat. The wonderful thing about places like Butcher Boy is the flat top grill. Flat tops are perfect for cooking burgers if the cook knows what they are doing. The idea is to cook the meat hot and fast without overcooking or burning it.
The understanding of this principle is owed to a French chemist you may have heard of, Louis-Camille Maillard. Now in no way do I have time to go down that rabbit hole here; if you are interested take a trip to Noyes lab and see if a professor can explain it in more detail, but for now I’ll keep it simple: It is the browning that occurs between amino acids and certain sugars that produces the amazing flavors we enjoy daily. Think of breads, cookies, toasted marshmallows, and yes…grilled meat.
Back to the flat top. The thin patties are pressed against the hot surface allowing all sorts of Maillard reaction goodness, the danger is the potential for a steam pocket forms under the patty. Steamed beef is not what anyone is after. I can report that the Butcher Boy Burger team is knowledgeable.
I had my double cheeseburger for a paltry $2.79. I couldn’t pass up beer battered onion rings for a mere $1.99. If you aren’t hungry yet just wait, I haven’t even gotten to the best part — pie! And not just a pie or two pies, but, like, six different pies, all “homemade” like you’d expect from grandma’s kitchen. Although I could only sample one on this trip (peach for $2.50), I am comfortable bestowing the title of delicious upon on all of them…plus there are plenty of reviews out there to back this up.
Butcher Boy Burgers seems to be doing something right; the food is good, the prices are extremely low, and it appears popular with the community. I do have a few suggestions however. The ventilation system doesn’t seem to keep up with demand, so you will probably walk out smelling like you worked in a fry kitchen. This is not the end of the world; I’m sure I’ve smelled worse. Just be aware up front and don’t go in wearing a difficult to clean garments. This place is come as you are, and at the opposite end of the spectrum from pretentious. Perhaps they could raise prices slightly and make some mechanical upgrades, I wish them success either way. Go give them a try.
Butcher Boy Burgers
422 S Garrard St
M + Sa 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tu-F 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Photos by Rob Schaffer