August 12th, 2020 9:46 AM
Brendan O'Connor, of Berwyn, fills the bloody mary burger plate with fresh chips. | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer
Will Duncan, owner of Fitzgerald's, at 6615 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn, has embraced his love of collaboration to lure both music and burger lovers to his Berwyn venue throughout August.
After spending decades working in the music, restaurant and bar industries, Duncan made his longtime dream of owning a music venue come true when he purchased Fitzgerald's in March of 2020. Just two weeks later, a global pandemic turned the music industry upside-down.
"It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride," said Duncan. "But I've always been a thrill seeker."
Ever the optimist, Duncan is dedicated to making the outdoor area an appealing and safe place for the community. Pooling diverse skill sets makes for a more memorable event, according to Duncan, and they have teamed up with a quartet of chefs to bring a bevy of burgers to their generously-sized patio on Saturdays in August (5-10 p.m.).
"Collaborations bring something new to the table every time," said Duncan. "We have the music covered and a great bar, but the food element was missing."
The "Burgers are Best" event series kicked off on Aug. 8 with music from Dozen Buzzin Cousins and Fareed Haque & His Family Band. The burger du jour had a decidedly local feel with Brendan O'Connor of Big Guys Sausage Stand, 7021 Roosevelt Road, manning the grill.
"I love serving up safe burgers that put smiles on faces," said O'Connor. "And I have a soft spot for Fitzgerald's because I grew up going there. Will Duncan is new, and he is doing a fantastic job."
In addition to serving up a classic burger topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, O'Connor dabbled on the creative side offering a Bloody Mary Burger. The nine-ounce beef patty was larger than the standard Big Guys Burger and came topped with 18-month-aged gouda, fried egg, pancetta, arugula, roasted garlic aioli and a house-made Bloody Mary Ketchup. The sauce made from fire-roasted Roma tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, and lime brought a brunch beverage flavor to the sturdy burger.
The crowd-pleasing theme extends for the next three weekends bringing in an array of bands and three additional chef-created burgers.
Masks are required and reservations are accepted on the patio. Half of all available tables are left to accommodate walk-in customers. Fans of both burgers and tunes are encouraged to pop by — with proper social distancing, the patio holds at least 80 guests.
On Aug. 15, Berwyn resident, Chef John Manion of Chicago's El Che Steakhouse will fire up the grill while The Corcoran Brothers Band and Chicago Farmer contribute tunes for the evening. Manion's burger will undoubtedly have an Argentinian twist and embrace his passion for live fire cooking. Additionally, El Che meal kits, meats and provisions will be available via pre-order on El Che's website for pick up.
Chef Michael Lanzerotte of American-fare hot spot Saint Lou's Assembly, and Oak Park's School of Rock Band will provide the burgers and music on Aug. 22. The Chandelier Swingers and Toronzo Cannon & The Chicago Way will provide entertainment as folks enjoy a burger by Nick Jirasek of sandwich-focused newcomer, Big Kids.
We've got food, music and booze," said Duncan. "When you get those three things working in harmony, experiences can become memorable."
The Burgers are Best events are an effort to stay positive, stay focused and stave off challenges. Duncan noted there are some "bleak aspects" of both the music and restaurant industries at the moment, but he finds optimism in what he sees coming from communities that surround Fitzgerald's.
"Community members are supportive, connected and engaged," said Duncan. "These events are going to be awesome."
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