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Epic restaurant offers cool decor and imaginative food

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Today just walking in can make you feel like you’re one of the in crowd. Epic restaurant, 112 W. Hubbard, opened originally in 2010 as French-American fine dining, but the focus today is more approachable – a casual modern American feel that appeals to younger diners.

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Enter the cool industrial-chic bar at street level, then climb the wide open staircase or ride the dark, sexy, deep-purple-lit elevator to the main dining area on the second floor. Take in the beautiful bi-color textured wall hangings that grace the two-story brick interior. Get a table next to the floor-to-ceiling wall of glass that opens onto a busy Chicago streetscape and a lovely skyline view of a couple of the city’s architectural gems (too numerous to count anymore).

Choose from the extensive wine and cocktail list and relax while you peruse the menu. Notable starters include Curried Pork Belly ($14) and Seared Foie Gras with buttermilk donut holes, balsamic, and strawberry-rhubarb jam ($16). The nicely cooked heads-on Butter Poached Prawns ($15) were served atop a very creamy version of grits. Our server brought out slices of a crusty bread with a small dish of softened butter, and we enjoyed every bite.

Salads further express Executive Chef Matthew Pollock’s unique take on menu items. Picture Buffalo Carpaccio and Arugula with charred poblano pepper, Manchego cheese and Meyer lemon. Or Beets and Apricots with Feta, red onion, and cucumber dressing. We opted to split the Romaine-Radicchio Caesar salad with Italian grana hard cheese and white anchovy. We were a little surprised when the salad was brought to us without having been split, so we divided it ourselves and used our bread plates. It was very tasty.

The Raw Bar Shellfish Platter – lobster, king crab, oyster, shrimp, squid and mussels – was calling our name so, on the advice of our server, we ordered the half size. Out came a huge platter – and I mean huge – full of crushed ice and topped with ice-cold pieces of the aforementioned varieties of seafood. Alongside it were four small cups of different dipping sauces, none of which appealed to us, so we stuck to squeezing ours with fresh lemon. The freshly shucked oysters were especially refreshing.

Entrees again show the chef’s creative side. Duck 3 Ways ($34) includes seared duck breast with (duck) confit dirty rice and a foie gras corn emulsion. The Hanger Steak ($32) comes with grilled avocado, bacon hash, and chili chimichurri. We ended up agreeing to split the Seared U-10 Scallops ($33) and were extremely happy we did. The scallops (our server explained that U-10 refers to number per pound) were beautifully browned and perfectly done, so that was a joy, but the Pearl Pasta Risotto it came with was absolutely mouth-watering. Studded with grapefruit sections and seasoned with basil, it had a cheesy creaminess that was hard to stop eating.

Sides that looked intriguing included Marble Potatoes and Asparagus Tips ($12) with gremolata, smoked salt and grana cheese, Charred Broccoli ($9) with sunflower seeds, caramelized shallots and tarragon butter, and a very rich-sounding Mac & Cheese ($11) with Manchego, Triple-Cream Brie, and goat cheeses.

One off note was that our server was not particularly attentive despite the fact that the place wasn't busy when we arrived. As more diners arrived, we felt quite neglected a few times when we wanted another drink or needed a course cleared. And we had to ask a second time for our desserts. Hopefully, he was just having an off night.

The couple next to us eagerly shared their enthusiasm for Epic, saying it’s one of their favorite places in town. They said they come often using a Groupon and told us about Epic’s Monday special of half-off on bottles of wine. The restaurant also offers $10 credit for joining its rewards program for frequent diners.

We weren’t able to check out the third-floor rooftop lounge as there was a private party that night, but it undoubtedly offers the same Epic signatures – cool décor and imaginative food.

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