Check out the burgers-to-banana splits menu at Maillard Tavern, Tony Priolo and and Ciro Longobardo’s new restaurant, and odds are, you’ll find a lot of your favorite dishes on it. According to chef Tony Priolo, that’s not an accident.
“Nothing beats a burger,” Priolo observes. “It’s been a favorite ever since a creative cook sandwiched a beef patty between two slices of bread.”
Located just across the street from Piccolo Sogno, the duo’s first restaurant, Maillard Tavern has been a work in progress for months.
“Ciro and I had been eyeing the space for a long time,” Priolo explains. “It’s small, and the kitchen space is limited, so we knew the menu had to be focused.”
Pasta or tacos were a possibility, but the more the duo thought about it, the more they leaned toward burgers.
“Burgers are a blank canvas,“Priolo continues. “You can top them with a classic combo like American cheese, lettuce and tomato or take them upscale with layers of foie gras, black truffle pesto, foie gras mayo and prosciutto.”
A great burger is all about the details. There’s some wiggle room in the choice of meat, but not in the 80/20 ratio of meat to fat. Lower the fat content, and you wind up with a dry and tasteless burger. Half-pound burgers are the norm, but instead of using one large patty, Priolo pairs two four-ounce patties.
“This is crucial,” he says, citing the Maillard Reaction, a term defined at the bottom of the menu as “a nonenzymatic reaction between sugars and proteins that occurs upon heat and that produces browning of some foods, such as meat and bread.” Using two patties instead of one doubles the number of surfaces exposed to the heat, which, in turn, enhances the flavor of the burger. Priolo and Longobardo consider the interaction so important that the restaurant is named for it. As for the meat, it’s a mix of short ribs, chuck and brisket sourced from Illinois farmers.
For Priolo, the type of potato used for the French fries is crucial. He eventually settled on the Norwis, a variety typically used for making potato chips. The skin-on fries are cooked twice, the first time in vegetable oil at 300-degrees, and the second, just before the potatoes are served, at 350-degrees. After the oil is drained, the fries are tossed with Sicilian sea salt and duck fat.
In addition to burgers, Maillard menus a sloppy joe made with a wild boar ragu, along with a buttermilk chicken sandwich, a grass fed veggie burger, clam chowder, chili and a house salad. For dessert, there are milk shakes, sundaes, and splits, and to drink, there are soft drinks and a carefully curated list of craft beers, wines, cocktails, whiskeys, and spiked shakes. McDonald's this isn’t.
Maillard Tavern, 494 N. Milwaukee Avenue 312.766.2727.
Hours: Sundays-Wednesdays 11 am- 11pm, Thursdays-Saturdays 11 am- 1pm