How many burger joints can Chicagoland stomach? Apparently, at least one more.
Two entrepreneurs with a McDonald's pedigree have signed a franchise agreement to open Illinois' first Burger 21 in Schaumburg by fall 2015. Future openings are being considered for Rosemont and Naperville.
The young restaurant chain, which says it is "what burgers would eat if burgers could eat burgers," has 15 locations across the country with another 20 in development. The chain was founded by the owners of The Melting Pot fondue restaurants, which is based in Tampa, Fla.
The first Burger 21 opened in 2010 with menu items such as The Ahi Tuna, Tex-Mex Haystack and The Skinny turkey burger along with shake flavors like bananas Foster and Key lime pie.
Ed Karayanes and Art Chmiel, who are behind the Illinois location and have operations experience with McDonald's, say they'd like to expand the brand in Chicagoland. The two each spent more than 25 years working their way up the McDonald's food chain, Karayanes said in an interview, starting as crew members and eventually operating multiple restaurants before deciding to strike it out on their own with Burger 21.
The Burger 21 location is one of a flurry of expanding burger chains in Chicago.
Checkers, a drive-thru focused fast-food chain, has chosen Chicago as one of its expansion areas, and Shake Shack is opening in Chicago on Tuesday.
Other chains expanding here: Culver's, Five Guys, Meatheads and Sonic. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers opened two smaller fast-service locations in Chicago this summer.
Karayanes said he thinks Burger 21 is different than the rest because it offers something for everyone, fish burgers included. A special burger arrives every month on the 21st and on that day a portion of sales goes to a cause in the community.
Tribune reporter Jessica Wohl contributed.