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Eco-friendly fare on South State
First impressions: With a couple of friends tagging along, I checked out this relatively new burger joint, which sits along South State Street near the Congress Parkway. Buttressed by a bookstore and a 7-Eleven, Epic Burger didn't look like much from the outside. But inside? The inside takes its cue from "The Partridge Family's" opening credits, minus the little birds, an odd melding of painted-solid shapes -- circles and stripes and polygons. Oh, My! -- streaming along the wall in an almost random succession. We followed these odd shapes down a long, open hallway that takes up nearly one side of the restaurant, leading to the order counter, which displays the menu on hanging LCD monitors, and the cashier station. After ordering, we sat down in a cavernous dining area easily capable of seating more than 100 people.
On the plate: Epic Burger gets its name from its commitment to organic dining. Is it still a fast-food burger joint? Yup, just one that knows what "eco-friendly" means. Burgers come with a choice of whole wheat or toasted egg bun. Eggs are cage-free. Fries are cooked in trans-fat-free oil and seasoned with sea salt. Shakes and malts are made with all natural ice cream or fat-free yogurt. Cups and utensils are all biodegradable. Even the Heinz ketchup on the tables is organic. Menu-wise, Epic Burger sticks to the basics. Burgers come in the all-chuck or turkey variety. They also have a grilled chicken breast sandwich, and portobello mushroom or egg sandwiches for vegetarians. An assortment of smoothies (made with real fruit, of course) round out this preservative-free menu.Second helpings: The Epic Burger is as good as its name suggests. The burger came with all the fixings -- lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled or raw onion and a mayonnaise-based "Epic" sauce -- but it really didn't need all that. It was juicy enough. Ditto the turkey burger. Both wheat and white buns did a great job of keeping everything together while compressing and conforming to the grip. The fries were well-seasoned and came without too much grease. And Epic Burger's chocolate shake should make some restaurant chains nervous; it's creamy but not thick. But my favorite had to be the restaurant's take on a pepper-and-egg sandwich, available either fried or scrambled. I tried the latter, topped with aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese and marinated hot peppers. Although fluffy and light, the sandwich paid off with a slow-rising kick at the end.
Take a pass: I wanted to like the chicken breast sandwich. But it was so bland not even Epic sauce -- buttermilk blue cheese and a dollop of Grey Poupon -- could save the sandwich. My vegetarian friend tried the portobello mushroom sandwich and found it flavorless (a little marinade, guys?). But that wasn't the worst of it. Slathered in Epic sauce, the sandwich was a mess, dripping grilled onions all over the tray. At least it's biodegradable, right? Our group was ambivalent about the Apple A Day smoothie, noting that for all the real fruit in the smoothies, the fat-free yogurt flavor dominated.
Thirst quenchers: Along with shakes and smoothies, Epic Burger sells malts, energy drinks, bottled teas, soda and fountain drinks.
Extras: For $10, you can get a burger, fries and your choice of a shake, malt or smoothie. Not a bad deal.
Price range: Burgers and sandwiches, $3.99-$7.99; extras, 49 cents-99 cents; fries, $1.99; beverages, $1.59-$4.89.
517 S. State St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon-Fri., 11 a.m.-midnight Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Credit cards: DS, M, V
Noise: Conversation friendly
Other: No delivery available. Smaller "junior" burgers available for $4.99
Ratings key: 4 forks, don't miss it; 3 forks, one of the best; 2 forks, very good; 1 fork, good
Cheap Eats reviews restaurants where entrees are $13 or less. Reviews are based on anonymous visits by Tribune staff members; meals are paid for by the Tribune.