Days 9 and 10: The Battle to Be the In-N-Out Burger of Chicago

1 Aug

Only a week in, and I’m already behind on my posts…but never fear, I haven’t slacked off on the burger consumption. These last two burgers fall into what I would call the “In-N-Out” category for being fast-food burgers that don’t taste like fast food (named for the legendary burger chain on the West Coast). Maybe I should call them “nouveau classic drive-in.” The kind of burger that made America famous.

Thursday was a perfect summer day in Chicago, so I decided to try one of the further places on my list: Edzo’s in Evanston, which is 12 miles by bike, apparently.

Edzo’s offers three kinds of beef: normal, Dietzler’s all-natural, and Tallgrass grass-fed. I opted for the Dietzler’s. I realized after ordering that I should have gotten a char-burger instead of the griddled burger in order to take full advantage of my premium beef.

Still, a darn good burger. (Note the quality bun, crucial for true burger harmony, and the rough edges on the patty, indicating that it’s hand-formed.) More places should offer giardiniera as a topping; it gives a burger the perfect amount of tangy and spicy (and messy, I might add). I also like that Edzo’s has about ten different kinds of fries, including “old fries,” described as the extra-brown ones left in the bottom of the fry basket. Just the way I like it. Unfortunately, these special fries don’t come in the small sizes, and I didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to eat a full order.

Edzo’s also offers a five dollar milkshake…for four dollars. Unless you want the special milkshakes, which cost the full five. I was intrigued by the bacon-and-chocolate, but went for the tamer Mexican chocolate, which really did taste like a frozen Mexican hot chocolate.

They even put a cherry on top! It was a little runnier than I usually like my shakes, but that could also be because I didn’t get to it until after I finished mawing down on that burger. 12 miles of biking makes you pretty hungry.

The next day, I was running errands and ended up in the vicinity of Epic Burger, which is one of my favorites in the city. I was so disappointed that the Lincoln Park outpost didn’t open until after I left my job, although that may have been a blessing, since I would have gone to lunch there a lot.

I mixed it up on this visit with a wheat bun and blue cheese. The “classic” bun does a better job of containing the patty, but it’s nice to have the option, and it was actually pretty good. For some reason they were off their fry game that day; usually they’re crisp and potato-y, but these were a bit limp.

So, which does a better job of being a new-fangled old-school burger joint: Edzo’s or Epic? I’m going to have to give the edge to Edzo’s for a beefier patty and the whiff of authenticity. Actually, if Edzo’s could tell Big & Little’s where to get their buns, that would be about perfect. But I think they’d all be safe even if In-N-Out decided to open a Chicago franchise, which as anyone who’s had In-N-Out can tell you is high praise indeed.

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