A hamburger — that Americanest of dishes — can be as ordinary or as extraordinary as the cook decides. Korey Konopasek, owner/chef of Epik Burger, has decided that extraordinary is his preference. Konopasek has spruced up the burger with his versatile menu, though without the fuss of fancy restaurant etiquette. The result is a relaxing atmosphere with — I’ll go ahead and say it — rather epic burgers.
Konopasek, a Jacksonville native who studied at the New England Culinary Institute, wanted his first restaurant to be practical and accessible to a wide range of palates and diets. He didn’t want to kick vegan and gluten-free eaters to the curb, particularly since his mother has celiac disease and can’t eat gluten. Konopasek’s place has crafted recipes that include tuna burgers, veggie burgers, vegan cheese, and gluten-free buns. His ultimate goal is to give customers options. “Your burger can be as healthy as you want it to be,” he says.
The restaurant is small, with a few chairs and tables, plus family-style seating at long, wooden benches. Diners order at the counter, and then await the arrival of their food, patiently (or otherwise). Epik was relatively quiet when I first entered around noon, though it livened up within an hour.
A popular choice at Epik is the Epikurean Burger, which includes bleu cheese truffle mousse, pancetta, and blackberry jam. Konopasek’s personal favorite is the Fruit & Cheese. He says he’d been trying to create a fancier burger that stood out on the menu, adding that the cheddar compliments the Riesling poached apple in this crisp burger.
I confess I’m a fairly-boring-burger-eater, but Epik’s menu was more tempting than my conventional lettuce, pickle, and ketchup de rigueur. I chose the Korean BBQ Burger ($8.99) and after about 10 minutes, it arrived in a metal basket. Within a brioche bun was a one-third pound of beef that had marinated in Korean barbecue sauce. Spilling over the huge patty was a fried egg, kimchi, green onions, and sriracha sauce. The kimchi was sour and crunchy, making up for a lack of pickles. The sriracha gave the burger a great kick, and the fried egg balanced the varying flavors so that the sandwich wasn’t too spicy or intense.
Accompanying this fantastic burger were Epik fries (2.49), long, skinny potato pieces sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic. I often end up dumping half my fries onto the nearest friend’s plate, but I was more than willing to finish these.
A burger is never complete without a shake, and Cinnamon Dolce ($4.49) hit the spot, blending vanilla and caramel with a strong cinnamon flavor. The milkshake added a mellow contrast to the spiciness of the burger. I finished my meal stuffed and content, glad that I’d taken the leap and tried something different.
There’s only one Epik Burger location now, but Konopasek is already scouring around Northeast Florida for a new location. He hopes to take Epik’s foundation and expand it to other spots in the area. He’s confident that another restaurant will be in the works within six months.