Arbella [River North]

Suspenders, mustachio’d bartenders, and prescription monocles – this hipster heaven better have one hell of a burger…

On my early evening solo adventure to Arbella, I had a tough time separating the food from the environment. I’m glad I was dining alone, because I don’t see how anyone would be able to have a conversation with techno music blaring in the background – listening to the lovechild of Wall-E and IBM Watson is not my ideal audio accompaniment to a meal. Nevertheless, being the Martyr of Meat, I put my head down and powered through – not for myself, but for my half-dozens of readers who have come to rely on my trustworthy tasteimonials.

The Menu

Just like this restaurant’s British trade ship namesake, Arbella’s menu is a collection of items picked up from across the globe. Dishes from India, France, Japan and the Americas present a variety of good-looking options, and there’s definitely something on this menu for everyone. For me, it’s the Frenchman Burger – a 7oz beef patty topped with pan-seared provolone, béarnaise sauce and crispy shallots, with a basket of steak-fries riding shotgun. At $15, this burger was a little on the high side, but they’re clearly advertising a top shelf product here.

Rating: 4/5 British Imperialists

burger 4 stars

The Beef

I’ve gotten feedback from my first couple posts that I need to start incorporating cross-section shots to really “sexify” the meal, let’s explore:

Arbella Burger Chicago River North Food Review

Wow – definite improvement, noted and onwards…

As the scintillating shot above shows, this patty was the truth: perfectly medium rare with a nice sear on the outside. Like OJ in a White Ford Bronco, this burger’s juice was loose. This bovine blend was hands down the best part of the meal.

Rating: 5/5 Rob Kardashians

burger 5 stars

The Accessories

Here’s where the burger starts to slide. Although mouthwatering on paper, these notes didn’t hit. The waiter spun me a tale about how they pan seared the provolone before setting it atop the burger…cool gimmick, but the result was just melted provolone without notably improved flavor or texture. The béarnaise was heavy and completely masked any hint of crispy shallots. Much like the ill-advised sequel “Weekend at Béarnaise,” these toppings were dead on arrival. One small saving grace here was the brioche bun, which held up well against the moisture of all the ingredients.


Rating: 1/5 Impractical Plotlines

burger icon small

The Sides

Arbella’s thick-cut steak fries get a resounding “meh.” These Ore-Ida obelisks lacked the crispiness you get with thinner fries, although they did have a good cajun spice blend that brought me back to them more often than expected. When it comes to starch soldiers, I tend to value texture over flavor, so these ended up on the lower end of the spectrum for me.

Rating: 2/5 Mediocre Pyramids of Giza

burger two stars


Although I’ll give credit to a nice slab of beef, there were too many negatives on the plate and in this restaurant to overcome. Perhaps I’m just not hip enough to appreciate the décor and theme (I don’t bottle my own kombucha or drink Pabst Blue Ribbon by choice). Nevertheless, the audible assault playing over the speakers was a jarring and unsolicited side dish accompanying my meal, and the burger itself didn’t live up to the expectations set by the menu description or sticker price. Having a diverse menu that crosses continents is a bold undertaking, but perhaps Arbella would have been better served perfecting cuisine from one single region. There are probably some great dishes on Arbella’s menu, but – at least for this Analyst of Angus – the Frenchman Burger isn’t one of them.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Un-ironic Fedoras

burger 2.5 stars

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