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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



RESTAURANTS Epic Kitchens Lakeview
By Andrew Pirrotta

This article shared 1924 times since Tue Nov 30, 2021
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In our modern world of instant, online food ordering and delivery, there is really only one problem we encounter: Is there anything we can all agree on?

Let's face it: No one wants to place several orders through multiple apps to receive multiple deliveries. Thanks to Murad Karimi's Epic Kitchens Lakeview, this is now a problem of the past. Epic Kitchens is a one-stop shop at 3332 N. Broadway. Not only does it offer finely curated cuisine from four different chains for contactless delivery or pick-up, but it also offers indoor dining. The days of the mall food court may be fading fast, but Epic Kitchens' quaint dining room and eclectic offerings introduce a modern spin on this classic pastime.

In Lake View, Epic offers four separate restaurants from one kitchen. BurgerFi—a high-quality burger joint that was started a decade ago in Florida—features classic cheeseburgers with quality beef. Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, a booming New York chain, specializes in (you guessed it) everything fried chicken. 800 Degrees Pizza, an international organization partially owned by LGBTQ ally and former NBA star Dwyane Wade, offers classic crust-style pizzas with a myriad of toppings and other options. And, on the lighter, more health-conscious side, there is Pokeworks, which focuses on poke—and is the largest of its kind in the nation, according to Karimi.

When asked how the company decided upon these specific chains, Karimi replied, "These are the kinds of brands that we would like to offer. …We first go by category, and then we scan the environment and pick the ones we feel are the best fit. … These brands each have their traditional brick and mortar locations, but we are asking them to get a little more creative, a little more flexible, and allow us to serve their brand in this non-traditional footprint. It's a combination of the quality of their brand and their willingness to get flexible with us."

And when questioned about the purpose/aim of the dine-in option, Karimi responded, "We felt that dine-in is such an important category in walking neighborhoods in Chicago, we didn't want to forgo the opportunity to invite the guests into our restaurant. For us, this is taking that ghost-kitchen model and slapping a QSR [quick service restaurant]/fast casual storefront on it."

Launching this operation during the pandemic surely brought its fair share of challenges, but Karimi and crew took it in stride, with him referring to the corporate squad as the "Seal Team Six of multiple-branded restaurants."

One might ask what possessed an Atlanta-based team to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic? Karimi (who also plans on opening other spots within the city and possibly the suburbs) said, "We picked Chicago because of the incredible density, coupled with diversity, and this general open-mindedness of the consumer base to try new things. It's just a great city to be in, an awesome town. Over here, there is a lot more creativity in play. A lot of innovation in the food industry happens in Chicago."

After our conversation, I was left with only one tantalizing question: How's the food?

The short answer? Epic Kitchens does not disappoint. Placing your order through the touchscreen kiosk was easy as pie, and the entire meal was placed on our table within ten minutes. I had the pleasure of trying Blue Ribbon's Hot & Sweet Dog (a crispy chicken tender on a split potato bun with chipotle honey, chipotle mayo and pickles), fries, BurgerFi's cheeseburger and 800 Degrees Pizza's Tartufo (with bianca, truffled pecorino, wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella and wild arugula).

Each dish was piping hot, fresh and full of flavor. The Hot & Sweet Dog was not the appetizer I had imagined. Quite the contrary, this was itself a full meal. A massive chicken tender drizzled with sweet and tangy sauces was perfectly paired with the satisfying crunch of dill pickle chips, all absorbed by that pillowy potato bun would have been more than enough to satiate my hunger—but I could not stop there. The French fries were thin and crispy, perfectly salted and full of flavor, serving as the perfect companion to the dog.

BurgerFi's cheeseburger was juicy and fresh, even as my dinner later that evening. The quality of the beef was noticeable, somewhere between Shake Shack and Five Guys, as Karimi had noted. The Tartufo was light and the mushrooms were divine. However, the multiple cloves of garlic were a bit overpowering. And my dining companion reported that his sweet sesame chicken poke was also worth its $13.50 price tag; despite its name, it actually was not too sweet at all, and it was quite substantial.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Epic Kitchens, and I believe it will be a wonderful addition to Lake View, and Chicago, for years to come.

This visit was arranged.

This article shared 1924 times since Tue Nov 30, 2021
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