517 South State Street
Restaurant Profile by Maria Santonato
â€˜People know more about the gas they put in their cars than what they eat,â€™ says David Friedman, â€˜and that seems wrong.â€™ Friedman is founder of “Epic Burger”:http://www.epicburger.com/â€”an all-natural burger concept in Chicagoâ€”and he’s on a mission to make each burger he serves an invitation to better nutrition and terrific taste.
The idea for Epic Burger came to him on one of his business trips as a quick-serve industry consultant. While driving along, he experienced an overwhelming craving for a really Ã¢â‚¬Ëœgood’ hamburger and couldn’t find one restaurant that could satisfy his idea of what that burger would be. As he began to research his Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdream’ burger and work on the business plan for what was originally an organic concept, he realized that with all organic ingredients, he would wind up with a $10 burgerâ€”and not a lot of customers. So with a strategic shift to all-natural beef, chicken and turkey, he opened Epic Burger in May, 2008, serving his idea of a healthier, better tasting burger at the reasonable menu price of $6.
By starting with great all-natural protein, Friedman can control the quality and nutritional value of each burger. And when it comes to burger toppings, less is more at Epic Burger. Friedman believes in the 80/20 rule: 80% of menu orders come from 20% of menu. So while other emerging burger concepts seem to be falling all over themselves to offer an extensive list of add-ons, Epic Burger keeps it classic and simple: fresh leaf lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes, tasty onions (either grilled or raw) and a succulent pickle.
â€˜There’s a big difference between simple and easy,â€™ Friedman said. â€˜It takes a lot of discipline to do Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsimple’ really well.â€™
Other toppings on the menu include nitrate-free bacon, process-free cheese and mushrooms. All produce is sourced from Cross Valley FarmsÂ® and arrives at Epic Burger’s backdoor fresh and whole, with his staff doing the cleaning and prep chopping. Friedman also specs Cross Valley Farms whole russet potatoes for hand-cut fries, and whole fruits that are blended into the fantastic smoothies on his beverage menu. Friedman worked with U.S. Foodservice to select the freshest and most natural products to deliver on his mission.
True to its healthful eating mantra, there are no salt shakers on the tables
Sea salt in shakers is available atop two stations holding extra napkins and flatware. If you really want some extra salt on your fries, Friedman makes you work for it. He gets special requests for additional items he doesn’t approve of and he’s trained himself to just say â€˜no.â€™ For instance, when people ask for yellow mustard, his response is, â€˜No, we only serve the good kind.â€™ As a result, Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard sits on each table alongside squeeze bottles of Heinz Organic Ketchup.
The large and growing clientele at Epic Burger is diverse; not exactly the crunchy granola types you would expect to frequent a â€˜healthier,â€™ eco-friendly burger stop
Epic Burger is located on State Street in Chicago at Congress Parkway, in a Loop campus building of Robert Morris College. College students may be seated next to a group of employees from a nearby federal office building. Its big city urban atmosphere is bright and engaging with 3 flat-screen TVs showing news or movies, and a third one for Tweet posts â€“ a website running Twitter feeds and posts from customers. People there like the eco-friendly environment complete with conspicuous recycling and Monogram Sustainâ„¢ clamshells for all the takeout burgers and other food items to go.
It’s a popular place, and a second location is set to open in Chicago’s Lincoln Park at North and Sheffield in May, 2010â€”all because each burger isn’t just good, it’s better, more wholesome, and just the way David Friedman wants it to be.