Epic Burger"Epic Burger (with cheese, egg, bacon)", $8.56
Epic Burger has primo real estate--not only is it close to Loop-area businesses, it's on the ground floor of the ginormous student dorm of Roosevelt, DePaul and Columbia College Chicago. Students stream in during lunch, campus newspapers in hand, iPods on full blast--hipsters on parade.
But it wouldn't matter if the 1-year-old Epic Burger didn't have street cred, because most college kids talk about this place as if it's the latest Animal Collective LP. And it begins with the namesake Epic Burger, one of the most aesthetically pleasing, vibrantly colorful renditions I've eaten.
The Labriola Bakery rolls are hemispheres, buttered and toasted golden. The 1/3-pound ground chuck beef patty (chuck has a higher fat content than, say, sirloin) has been griddled to a crispy exterior, lightly seasoned. Bacon came thick, streaky and a dark red. Lettuce is AstroTurf green. The ballyhooed "Epic Sauce" looks like Thousand Island dressing and really tasted like Thousand Island dressing. The best decision all day, though, was when I asked for horseradish Havarti cheese, which imparted a bite and buttery notes. It hung onto the beef, bits of bacon and grilled onions like Spider-Man's web.
This is a knife-and-fork burger of the first order. Even though lunchtime is when the restaurant is busiest, I can't imagine an office worker finishing one and not dropping on the asphalt asleep while crossing Congress Parkway. So it is indeed good news that this place is open till midnight Fridays and Saturdays. 517 S. State St.; 312-913-1373.
"Guinness Glazed Bacon Cheeseburger," $8.79
Last July, in rather dramatic fashion, Bennigan's restaurants were shuttered across Chicago en masse. Managers received late-night phone calls to immediately lock up their restaurants, and employees arrived the next day to discover they had joined the ranks of the unemployed. We thought that was the end of that.
But in recent weeks, media outlets around town have received press releases about the Bennigan's on Michigan Avenue, the only one left standing in Chicago, rising from the ashes. With such high foot traffic (right across from the Art Institute) and nice weather forthcoming, this was a good time to revisit this Irishthemed family restaurant, and its Guinness Glazed Bacon Cheeseburger.
Could glaze come in Guinness Stout form? Apparently so, as it has the color and viscosity of the refuse barrel at Jiffy Lube. As one dining companion noted, "it tasted like alcoholic hoisin sauce." The syrupy sweet glaze masked a rubbery beef patty that tasted as if it had come in bulk from the Costco freezer.
I did enjoy the textural contrast--crispy, pliable, fatty lengths of bacon that worked with the Guinness glaze, an eggy sesame seed bun toasted on the rims and golden straw onions. It's also enormous: one burger easily fills up two guests. Still the beef, boy, you can masquerade it with epoxy, but discerning diners will taste through it. I like the Monte Cristo better. 150 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-427-0570.