EatDrinkJax.com interviews Korey Konopasek, Chef/Owner of Epik Burger.
Namesake Epik Burger
11. What's the Epik Burger?
It's my take on the bacon cheeseburger. It has pancetta, which is an Italian bacon that is cured but not smoked. To that I add brie cheese, because I think brie cheese tastes good with bacon. Then there's lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cornichons and a balsamic mayonnaise. Cornichons are small French gerkin pickle. For the mayonnaise the balsamic vinegar adds a sweetness, which is delicious.
12. What's the Epikurean Burger? And why did you add foie gras to a burger?
A lot of burger restaurants choose foie gras for their higher end burger because foie gras is pretty decadent. It's typically a bit of a novelty - "look at the over-priced burger with foie gras on it!" For every burger I try to make it a dish. I wanted to do the same thing with the foie gras, so I put blackberry jam on it. A lot of times when you get foie gras at a restaurant it's served as an appetizer and it tends to have some component on it that's sweet and rich. That's why I added the blackberry jam. Then, truffle oil adds really nice flavor and makes it even richer. The blackberry jam is something new I added from when the burger was first on the menu. I think that since I've changed the recipe people have been really, really pleased with it because now it's something different. Nobody's putting blackberry jam on a burger that I've seen.
Hawaiian Local's Burger
13. What's the Hawaiian Local Burger?
Every time you see a Hawaiian burger its always got teriyaki sauce and a pineapple ring. If you've ever gone to Hawaii you'll know that it's a horrible representation of what people eat in Hawaii. I wanted to do something that's different. When we go on vacation we tend to have our restaurant reservations thought out before we leave. We like to tackle a lot of places that are popular with the locals. When we went to Hawaii Spam was everywhere. It was served with rice for breakfast and it was served for lunch. You didn't ever get away from Spam, so I thought that had to be on the burger. Hawaii is very Asian, hence the soy sauce. The green onions was to add something green to it while giving it a nice taste and texture. The thing I saw the most in Hawaii was rice, Spam and fried eggs for breakfast, so I added the fried egg to the burger to finish it off. I have an employee who eats almost every time he works and he won't eat anything but the Hawaiian Local Burger. He said he doesn't like Spam, but he keeps ordering it and likes it on a burger.
Deep South Burger
14. For your Deep South Burger you advertise it as having bacon fat sautéed collard greens. Can you tell us what a Deep South Burger is and what's been the reaction to using bacon fat?
A Deep South Burger comes with sautéed collard greens, bacon and mustard seeds. The collard greens are sautéed in bacon fat to give them more flavor, but they're not drenched in bacon fat, it's there just to add flavor. I put it on the menu on purpose. If people don't eat pork it's important for them to know it's there. I was trying to do something more local and Southern and collard greens are pretty Southern. Collard greens are often cooked with pork in some way and I wanted to stay true to that. To me it sounds good to hear there's bacon fat in there because it means there's going to be more flavor - I know I'm not getting a bunch of steamed greens on a bun.
Epik Tuna Burger
15. What's an Epik Tuna Sandwich?
It's a burger made with ground ahi tuna. I try to stay true to things being a burger. I don't add anything to the tuna at all, it's pure tuna. The Epik Tuna comes with a fried won ton, pickled vegetables and mango-jalapeño relish.
Maguro Bucho Tuna Burger
16. What's a Maguro Bocho Burger?
Maguro Bocho means "sushi knife" as far as I can tell from translating things. I tried to do a burger that would reflect the condiments that go along with sushi. It has wasabi mayonnaise, pickled ginger, soy sauce and sesame seeds. If you're eating sushi that's what would come with it - but now it's on a burger.
Tex Mex Tuna Burger
17. What's a Tex Mex Tuna Burger?
I was looking for more tuna ideas. Tuna has a mild flavor and to have it hold up and taste like something when a bun is involved was actually a bit of a challenge. The Tex Mex idea came when I tried it with guacamole, cilantro and tomato. It tasted good so I went with it. It doesn't make much sense, which is why I put a question mark near it on the menu. But it tastes good and that's what counts.
18. Can you tell us about your vegan, vegetarian and gluten free offerings?
We make our veggie burgers in-house. They're vegan and they're gluten free. When I wrote the menu I tried to do things that left options open for various customers because it's not easy for people to find a restaurant with a good amount of gluten free things and the people who have to eat gluten free don't have a lot of flexibility. They can't really go somewhere that kind of does it. They have to trust someone who knows enough about it and can be straightforward about what they're doing to avoid cross contamination. When it was possible to make an item gluten free I used that option, which makes it safer for the customer and easier for me. Same with vegan - if I was going to do a vegetarian burger, I decided I might as well make it vegan. The toppings can then differentiate the burgers. We have the Divine Vegetarian which isn't vegan at all because it comes with brie, caramelized onions, and balsamic mayonnaise. The toppings make it a richer tasting burger for a vegetarian. We have a Guac Vegan Burger that's served on a wheat bun instead of a brioche, so the bun is also vegan.
19. Are you getting a lot of requests for gluten free options?
It's been really big. I've had people post things on apps and travel websites for me. When people visit Jacksonville or are passing through I've had them search us out and drive specifically to our place to stop and eat gluten free burgers. The onion rings are gluten free and have been incredibly popular. I've had adults who've not been able to eat onion rings for years or kids who've never eaten them. I did it so the option would be there because I thought that with a few adjustments I could accommodate a lot of choices. And I wanted to have a place where people could eat regularly and not just for a special treat. I wanted to be the healthy option, not the decadent, but unhealthy, treat.
20. How do you get a gluten free batter on your onion rings?
I use gluten free flour and gluten free beer.