We call it our "First Friday with Fries," a chance to check in with people seriously committed to making a better burger and fry experience. There's been a wave of new options recently, including a casual spot in downtown Evanston, where the owner decided the best way to build a better burger was to grind up everything himself.
From all appearances, it looks like just another hot dog or burger joint, feeding hungry Northwestern University students. But the mantra behind the glass windows at Edzo's Burger Shop in downtown Evanston is closer aligned to that of a big-time chef. Owner Eddie Lakin has worked in some higher-end restaurants in the past, but for his new place, he decided to tackle an American icon.
"We wanted to do a good version of a Vienna hot dog stand, and then as it evolved, we focused in on the burgers," said Lakin.
He certainly did, beginning with fresh chuck, which has a beef-to-fat ratio of 80 to 20 percent. He grinds it on site everyday and does it twice to fully incorporate the fat. You can choose to have your freshly made, hand-formed patty char-grilled or cooked on a griddle, smashed thin. Toppings include pretty much anything you can think of, including the now ubiquitous fried egg and bacon.
"It's kind of like the tribute to beef," Lakin said. "You come in, and you can have it, whatever way you personally prefer."
Fries are, of course, part of any serious burger combo, and Lakin takes his seriously - to a point. Yes, he hand-cuts and fries them to order, to keep them crispy. But he also offers nine different styles, including cheese fries (that's Merkt's cheddar spread, obviously) and also Taylor Street fries drenched in Italian beef gravy, sweet peppers and giardiniera.
The "loaded" arrive as advertised: cheese, bacon, green onions and sour cream. Be sure to take your Lipitor.
Shakes come in a half dozen flavors, but the most interesting - the nutella - has that wonderful hint of hazelnut and chocolate that is spread evenly throughout the shake.
Lakin says he's not reinventing anything, but rather, just trying to improve upon a classic American sandwich. He thinks diners will notice an instant difference between his burgers, and the national chains.
"The difference is the freshness of the meat. It just tastes so fresh. The texture is looser and a little more crumblier, more tender," said Lakin.
There are 10 types of fries at Edzo's, plus Vienna beef dogs, Maxwell Street polishes and Sheboygan brats. But it's the burgers that dominate the menu.
A quarter-pound single starts at $2.99.
Edzo's Burger Shop
1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston
Previously featured on "First Friday with Fries"
1449 Indianapolis Blvd.
2555 W. 75th St., Naperville
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
1115 Lake St., Oak Park
2140 N. Clybourn
15100 LaGrange Rd., Orland Park
517 S. State St.
666 W. Diversey Pkwy.