Burgers are one of America’s favorite comfort foods. Many of us have fond memories of going to the local burger joint with our parents and friends and enjoying some greasy goodness. For a lot of Chicago’s Southside residents, that burger joint was Grant’s Wonderburger in Mount Greenwood. While Wonderburger is now closed, Parts and Labor owner Russ Grant takes inspiration from his father’s griddle burgers.
Also the owner of the pizza-focused Boiler Room, Grant’s Parts and Labor isn’t just a copy with burgers. Located in the heart of Logan Square, the restaurant has its own style, menu, team, and relationship to the community.
Logan Square is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Chicago right now, but don’t be mistaken that it’s just a place for hipsters. Walk along the actual Square and you’ll encounter a Mormon Temple, a Norwegian Lutheran church, a retirement community, a Latino-themed record store, and so much more. Parts and Labor caters directly to that diversity.
It’s a restaurant that you can bring the family for lunch or dinner, get together with your friends on a weekend night, or have a late night snack. Their lower prices make it an accessible restaurant for all types of people in the neighborhood. What’s even better is Parts and Labor actively tries to engage the neighborhood.
For instance, they have karaoke nights, trivia, and recently have had a lot of success with their Throwback Thursday event. On Thursdays, they put up old 80s and 90s TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Wonder Years (when I visited Back to the Future was up on the screens). They also regularly invite in local musicians and DJs to take over the sound system. And while not a sports bar by any means, Parts and Labor can also be your hangout when the Bulls or the Blackhawks are on a hot streak.
As far as the vibe of the restaurant, it’s fast casual with mechanical and industrial imagery. The walls are filled with striking photographs of machines and local art pieces. Everywhere you look, you’re going to find something to catch your eye: my favorite is the backdrop of black ladders behind the bar. Too many Chicago restaurants these days try to get away with exposed brick and moody lighting and call it a day, but Parts and Labor truly has its own unique image.
Compared to Boiler Room, Parts and Labor feature a much bigger bar with an assortment of drink options from shakes with local Bobtail ice cream to cocktails. But let’s start with the main draw: the beer.
Nowadays any bar is going to have some craft beers on the menu, yet they still play it safe. The taps at Parts and Labor have staples like Lagunitas IPA and your favorite cheap beers, but the selection is always rotating and always adventurous– focusing primarily on local and regional beers. Showcasing that diversity, I first tried the Dark Energy from Chicago’s Around the Bend, a collaboration with Dark Matter Coffee. An English Mild with a subtle coffee taste, it was refreshing and fully of flavor, yet light enought o have with a meal. Then we were onto a sour beer from central Illinois’s Destihl Brewing and later, a Black IPA. This is the perfect place for the adventurous beer palette.
Cocktails & Spirits
Though beer is a major focus for Parts and Labor, there are a lot of pleasant surprises here starting with Jameson and Fernet on tap (the latter of which seems to be having a major renaissance in Chicago right now). If you’re into punishing liquors like Fernet, but want to tone it down a bit, try the Chigroni. Made with Malört, the ultimate test of how Chicago you are, the ultra-strong digestive is tamed slightly by rosehip liqueur. It’s still very intense, but well balanced. And for anyone with a desire to preserve their taste buds for the night, there are many other great cocktails like their take on the Manhattan: the Whiskey Spice and Everything Nice.
Craft Sodas & Shakes
Don’t worry if you’re not feeling alcohol or you want to bring the kids, Parts and Labor has a large selection of craft sodas—something you won’t find much of in Logan Square, much less Chicago. I sampled a crisp, refreshing, and just sweet enough rhubarb soda, along with a bourbon cream soda that was out of this world. If you have a bigger sweet tooth, try a milkshake, which can be spiked with booze.
Burgers, Sides & Brunch
Parts and Labor has a relatively small menu in order to maximize service and also because the heart of the menu is its Classic Double Burger (there are a few sandwiches and salads too). Topped with American cheese, onion, lettuce, pickles, and mayo (bacon and a third patty are extras), it’s a solid griddle burger that gives you quite a bit to eat for $6. What I particularly liked was how it’s not overly greasy—you’re not going to feel terrible in an hour—and it stays together incredibly well; I’m not a fan of burgers that end up more on your hands than in your mouth.
While quite affordable, if you’re thinking about walking across the street to McDonalds, be advised that Parts and Labor sources their meat and vegetables locally—in the summer they even buy as much as they can from the local Logan Square Farmer’s Market. What you eat is going to be very fresh. They also regularly offer special burgers each month; for instance, there’s a pizza burger in March to celebrate Pizza Month.
You can also get the Double Burger with veggie or vegan patties. I tried the vegan burger, which has a surprisingly burger-like consistency, though with a thicker wheat bun, and was just as good as the normal burger. It’s a great, cheap alternative to waiting an hour+ at the Chicago Diner.
There is a combo meal that comes with fries and a beer/shot for $11, but all sides are a la carte. Crispy curly fries are an obvious choice, but even better is the poutine fries. Parts and Labor take their curly fries and smother them in chorizo gravy, bacon, chives, and mozzarella cheese. There’s so much flavor goodness going on that it’s pure comfort food heaven for your mouth. Italian beef fans will enjoy the spicy fried Giardinara, but next to the poutine fries, the fried pepper jack cheese is a must. Lightly fried, these take traditional cheese sticks to the next level.
While it may initially seem a little strange for your local burger spot to be offering a gourmet brunch, Parts and Labor does breakfast just as well. Their brunch focuses largely on simple, familiar sandwiches like a tasty bacon, egg, and tomato sandwich. Even better, and this is coming from a devout animal-eating enthusiast, is the tofu scramble. It’s pretty similar to the egg sandwich, but the tofu is surprisingly more flavorful and a little lighter. Of course, you can also get their Classic Double Burger with an egg thrown on top.
Parts and Labor Bottom Line
The Parts and Labor griddle burger will induce waves of childhood nostalgia, but with fresher ingredients than you’ll find at most burger joints, and an impressive selection of beers and cocktails. Parts and Labor offers a little something for everyone and for most occasions. This is a place you can go with your family, hang out with friends after work and sing karaoke, and spend your weekend nights. If Parts and Labor isn’t already your go-to Logan Square hangout, it should be.
Parts and Labor
2700 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647