It seems fitting (or perhaps ironic) that the home state of Mickey D's may also be the birthplace of the next wave of restaurant trends: the "conscious" fast-food eatery. South Loop's Epic Burger is the creation of restaurateur David Friedman, who, according to the Epic Burger website, was inspired during a road trip to create a fast-food restaurant that doesn't skimp on all-natural and locally raised ingredients. The 75-seat restaurant has the look of a hip diner, with its modern, abstract decor. Friendly servers bring meals directly to your table.
The small menu boasts antibiotic-free beef and chicken, fresh-cut french fries prepared in trans fat-free oil and smoothies made with actual fruit. You'd think items with such premium ingredients would come with a high price tag, but Epic Burger is reasonably priced; sandwiches are $5.99, and a burger combo (with fries and a fountain drink) an even $10.
While Epic Burger is a casual dining spot, it's not exactly fast food. Expect a wait of somewhere between eight and 10 minutes for a walk-in order. The extra prep time is worth it, however. The burgers are served on lightly toasted buns—with a choice of whole-wheat or toasted egg—the tomatoes and onions are freshly sliced, the lettuce is crisp and more importantly, green (none of that shredded iceberg stuff is found here).
Vegetarians and red-meat-averse diners have choices here, too: turkey burgers, portobello mushroom and a fried egg sandwich (made with free-range organic eggs, of course.) All of the sandwiches are loaded with flavor, but mercifully for arteries everywhere, significantly lacking in grease.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Keidra Chaney