By John Carruthers and Ken Haynes
We set out with a sacred duty – to find the best Kinda Fancy Chain Burger (and fries) in our great city.
Here are the only rules:
- We order a place’s signature (or standard, if that’s the only option) cheeseburger and fries.
- We eat whatever else we want because Freedom
Who is the Burger Champion? Perhaps these capitalist locavore hippies.
Level 3: Epic Burger
500 W. Adams
Motto – “A more mindful burger”
Locations – Eight (Six in the city, one each in Evanston, Skokie)
Beer – Nope.
Epic Burger is a chain that focuses on fairly local (read: a lot of good Wisconsin stuff) ingredients. Their schtick is a mix of very good techniques (they don’t freeze their beef) and weird neo-hippie garbage (they literally tell you to go “Google nitrates”* on their website).
When they came out, we remember thinking something along the lines of “Holy mother, there’s ANOTHER new burger chain?” So we’ll peg their existence at around 2008.
By the way, not only do they not have beer, there’s a soda fountain with tap handles. This fake beer soda machine was clearly installed in a blatant attempt to antagonize us.
*Here’s where we point out that “nitrate free” bacon is still packed with celery powder or other natural sources rich in … yep. Nitrates! There’s no such thing as “nitrate free” bacon. Truly nitrate-free bacon is just a slice of pork belly. But don’t let that get in the way of your brand story.
Ken selected the Epic Burger Classic: Two patties on a brioche bun with cheddar and all the fixins including raw, bareback onions. More on the bun later. John opted instead for grilled onions and politely turned down an invitation to add an egg for flavor and (strong) character. We both got lettuce, tomato, onions, and Epic Sauce as part of the “all the fixins” deal.
Side Declaration: Stop trying to brand your Thousand Island Ketchupstardayonnaise, burger people.
This was one of the few establishments that respected the science behind stacking patties atop the other various burger accoutrements, thus maximizing the time before the grease fights its way through the bottom bun and toward the center of the Earth.
Sure enough, this resulted in fluffy, glutenous buns (tee hee!) that held up remarkably well. The use of brioche for a burger bun should normally be met with the same degree of suspicion reserved for activists on the street asking for a moment of your precious time. However, this paid off in spades. Science wins again!
The patties were seasoned really well, and the sharp Wisconsin cheddar cut through everything like a teen pregnancy through well-laid plans. Each burger also came with enough lettuce for the sandwich, a tasteful garnish, and enough leftover to fashion into a tiny dress that a mouse would find simply fabulous. #themousedressmaker
We executed the Robert Frost Protocol and took diverging paths on the fries, mostly because Ken hates sweet potato fries and all they stand for. So John went for the waffled sweet potato offering and Ken went with faithful old regular ones.
The regular ones were a decent example of hand-cut fries. They weren’t bad by any means, but two fistfuls of them aren’t going to cure your bad day. They’re the Jason Newstead trying to keep up with Burger Lars Ulrich.
These sweet potato fries, on the other hand: crispy (!!!), perfectly seasoned, and delicious. These are literally the best sweet potato fries we’ve had. Anywhere. The sauce that comes with them (honey mustard, but heavy on the honey) is unnecessary. John wanted to pull a Scrooge McDuck into a bank vault of these.
Well damn. This is a burger that really surprised us – we’d been before over the years, and remembered it being pretty good. But not this good. Looks like there’s a new King of the Mountain. By some distance, too!
Final Score: 4.11
The country of New Zealand can (and has) denied residency to people based on their obesity. We didn’t have any Epic Burger fun facts, so we figured you’d enjoy this one. Plus now you know why Ken and John may never be Kiwis.
Want to follow the rest of our burger adventures? INSERT COIN!