One of my favorite places around is Illium Cafe. Because it’s a place that transforms based on the time of week, there’s plenty of different aspects to touch on.

The first time I went, I focused on their sandwiches. The second time, I went for the opening night of their “bistro menu,” when the menu goes to more refined and plated dishes on the weekend. This time, I’m bringing forward something else from the bistro menu. There’s also the topic of brunch on the weekend, but that’s something altogether different.

At Illium, they make a mean burger, and I wanted to talk about that this time because it’s probably something a number of people have overlooked because of the other awesome stuff on the bistro menu.

The evening I had a burger, there was a steak and brie flatbread special appetizer that I had to try.

There were some roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms, and scattered arugula on it as well. It was fabulous. Let’s look at it again…

The steak was tender and simply seasoned. The cheese was creamy and delicious. The bread was perfectly crisp and was a great medium to deliver the cheesy and steaky goodness. All of the other toppings punctuated the whole thing. It’s like eating an open-faced cheese steak sandwich with a bit of a twist. It was $10, which is a great price given the portion size. We shared the portion, but this could easily have served as someone’s main course.

The first point about the burger is that it isn’t served with typical fries. The fries on the plate are eggplant fries, and take it from this person who doesn’t particularly care for eggplant, they are insane! In fact, aside from some textural creaminess, I’d bet that 9 out of 10 people in a blind taste testing wouldn’t notice that these aren’t potatoes. They are delicious.

On the burger itself, the beef is grass fed American Kobe beef. Ok, I’m not getting into the whole vernacular and debate over this designation, but I’ll say that it’s as juicy and flavorful beef as you’ll find around. And when ordered medium rare, you can rest assured that they’ll cook it perfectly.

They use fresh arugula as the greens on the burger. They also put some hefty slices of tomato. The red onion marmalade adds a slightly pungent and sweet topping that brings everything together. They’ll give you a bottle, but you don’t need ketchup for this burger.

The bread used for the burger is also noteworthy. It’s a very tender and oily piece of focaccia. It’s perfectly brittle and houses the burger nicely. It tastes awesome!

The whole plate is $10, and you can add cheese or bacon for $1.50. It honestly doesn’t need either, but you can make the experience as luxurious as you want.

The night that we went, Chef Ortega wasn’t working, and the kitchen did an excellent job with our dishes. It’s great to know that she works so well with her staff that they provide consistent and high quality food every time, whether she’s there or not.

Seriously, get in there and try that burger!

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