Hold the Beef: Epic Burger’s Portabella Isn’t Quite

By John DiGilio in Food on Dec 9, 2010 7:40PM

2010_11_DiGilio_EpicBurger.jpgHold the Beef is a monthly series exploring Chicago’s vegetarian burger scene. If you know any veggie burger joints that we should check out, post them in the comments!

What’s in a name? When an establishment’s moniker sets expectations high, it automatically raises the bar on the food. So it was with Epic Burger. The name alone provided us with grand hopes for an awesome meat-free burger experience. Every restaurant and its brother offers a veggie alternative to the standard beef patty. For vegetarians, this is either a blessing or a curse, depending on the burger. In the case of Epic Burger’s Portabella Mushroom Sandwich, it was disappointingly somewhere in between.

Epic Burger’s motto is “a more mindful burger”. For eco-conscious eaters, this means fresh, all-natural ingredients that are not processed and that come from local farms. This is the Epic Burger promise and it was what drew this localvore in the door. To be fair, the meat eaters around us were dining on some pretty tasty-looking sandwiches. However, we were delighted to see that, instead of a veggie patty or a black bean burger, Epic had something a little different on its menu - a portabella mushroom sandwich. The description was enough to make our mouths water. The actual burger, however, had some water (and grease) issues of its own.

The sandwich featured a single, large portabella mushroom cap instead of a meat patty. We ordered ours with raw onions, lettuce, tomato and Wisconsin cheddar on a whole wheat bun. Though we enjoy portabellas, we had never had one served in this manner before. We were optimistic. Unfortunately, the first couple of bites left our hands and our fries soaked with a mixture of water from the mushroom and grease from its preparation. Though flavorful, it was very messy. It was not long before both the bun and our shirt cuffs were soggy. Some parts of the portabello were actually hard to bite through. We eventually abandoned the burger for what turned out to be some seriously delicious fries.

In the end, these hand-cut fries were the highlight of our meal. However, they were not why we walked in the door. Epic Burger is certainly on to something with its meatless offering, but its portabella mushroom sandwich has a ways to go before it lives up to the restaurant’s name. Vegetarians may not expect something that looks and tastes just like a real meaty burger. However, they do want something satisfying and delicious that captures the "burger experience." This sandwich was not quite it.

Epic Burger is located at 517 South State Street.