Edzo's owner Eddie Lakin

“As a kid in the 70s and 80s, my dad used to take me to hot dog places like Irving’s, Big Herm’s Hot Dog Palace and Mustard’s Last Stand,” says Eddie Lakin. “It was like a big weekend fun thing to do. So I set out to do something that would feel like a place that we would have gone back then.”

The result is Edzo’s Burger Shop, a new burger and hot dog restaurant that opened last week at 1571 Sherman Avenue. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., every day except Monday.

Lakin is a professional chef who attended The Cooking and Hospitality Institute in Chicago. “After culinary school I was mostly in fine dining restaurants in Chicago, including Spruce and Tru,” says Lakin. His experience also included a year each in Barcelona and Bologna.

But after his children were born, he looked for something that wouldn’t take up 16 hours every day. That led him to Soprafinna, where he was general manager for three years.

“My last experience was a quick serve operation and I really liked the hands-on customer service aspect of it,” Lakin says. “I was the main contact person. I was on the register. I was running around in the front of the house helping people, as opposed to as a chef being in the back.”

After he was laid off, he started looking for a similar situation and decided to open his own place.

“We’re going to have really high quality, normal food. We’re going to take hot dogs, burgers, milkshakes and do it a really high quality way,” Lakin explains. “We’re not reinventing anything, but we’ll do it really well and give a good value.”

Doing it really well means fresh-cut French fries, hand-dipped corn dogs, and grinding his own beef every day. “The idea is, if you’re a fan of burgers, you’re going to eat this burger and say, ‘Wow, this is a great burger.’” Lakin adds, “The beef is noticeably better tasting when it’s freshly ground. You really notice it.”

Hot dogs, brats, and Polish are in the mix as well. “We’re going to do the traditional Chicago hot dog, which is a Vienna natural casing dog, so it has some snap to it when you bite into it,” he says, “with neon green relish, peppers, celery salt, and the normal stuff.”

Are you going to give people a hard time if they want ketchup on their hot dog? “No. Life’s too hard,” he says. “I voluntarily put ketchup on my kids’ hot dogs three times a week. I’m not a purist.”

“I do Maxwell Street Polish. It’s a great tradition in Chicago food. You score it on both ends then put it in the deep fryer for 45 seconds. It curls all up and then you put it on the char grill and you get these crispy little bits. And eat it with mustard and grilled onion,” he explains. During a training session, the tasters “wanted fresh tomato and ketchup on their Polish. I don’t have energy to say no, you can’t do that.”

Lakin started work on the Fountain Square location in July, when Pita Pete’s closed. An experienced blogger and food critic, Lakin started documenting the process of developing his project online in January, from painting to setting up the griddle to city inspections to the Vienna Hot Dogs sign.

Lakin’s wife is his financial partner and his four-year-old son has been actively involved. “Henry is pretty excited about the whole thing,” Lakin says. “He likes his hot dogs.”

Lakin hired two cooks from Pita Pete’s who were highly recommended by Pete. During the few weeks before opening, Lakin has spent time testing recipes, training his cooks, and practicing everything from writing orders to cutting fries. He has invited friends and colleagues to several tastings.

For Lakin, it’s all about the food. “I want people to be able to come in and get a burger, fries and a drink for $6,” Lakin says. “We’re still bringing some fine dining aspects. Grinding your own beef is a part of it. Just paying attention to each step of the process and make it as really good as you can.”

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12 Comments

  1. Edzo’s
    Rotary staff across the street welcome our newest neighbor! If we can get a great burger meal, right across the street…for $6, you’ll have lots of fans! Best of luck to you!

    1. Let me guess…you would
      Let me guess…you would prefer another coffee/tea house? Because there surely aren’t enough of them! Or maybe another asian place? Perhaps an all natural, ‘earthy’ gluten free diner? Beside the obvious(Burger King)please name another “Greasy Burger Joint” where someone could get a quick, resonably priced meal that serves burgers? I would be willing to bet you would be hard pressed to name more than 1. I say “Welcome Edzo’s” I wish you the best.

      1. Re: burger joints
        D&D Dogs
        Wild Dogz
        Uber Burger
        Al’s Italian Beef
        Heckey’s
        Gigio’s Pizzaria

        I’m sure there are others that I’m not thinking of, and certainly plenty of regular restaurants that do take-out burgers as well (Chili’s, Bat 17, Nevins, Bar Louie, Merle’s, etc).

        Don’t get me wrong, I hope that this place makes a killing and becomes a new favorite of mine, but the take-out burger market is getting pretty crowded in downtown Evanston.

        1. Burgers in Evanston
          I won’t miss Pita Pete. I hope that the departure of Pita Pete means more business for Pomegranate, which is a better restaurant.

          There certainly are plenty of places to get burgers in Evanston. If that is what the people want, let the market decide.

          But what about people who don’t want burgers? Take a look at the restaurant reviews on yelp.com. Clarke’s in Evanston is getting slammed..I haven’t been there in a long time, but one reviewer says that you are better off going to Le Peep (which closes early) or Golden Olympic.

          For Golden Olympic: “This a great neighborhood greek diner. The options in getting breakfast food for dinner are slim in Evanston, …”

          Exactly…the number of places where one can get delicious pancakes or French toast for dinner is embarrassingly small.

          As I have been saying for years, Evanston’s downtown or North side needs a restaurant that is open late (or 24 hours) and serves a variety of pancakes from around the world, with free refills on coffee. I think that the burger/pizza/chicken market is saturated.

        2. Bit of a stretch…
          Ok, you got me. I never thought of listing every restaurant that serves hamburgers and put them under the title of “Greasy Burger Joint”. P.S. you forgot Whole Foods. They serve burgers too!

  2. Edzo’s is great
    Had lunch there today and while I had to wait pretty long for my order because they were really busy, the burger and fries were great when they finally did arrive at my table.

    This guy really knows his stuff, and the burgers are fantastic.

  3. burger woes in E-Town
    To say there’s an over abundance of “greasy spoon” burger joints in Downtown Evanston is laughable…I have to strongly side side with Anonymous here—“you would prefer another coffee/tea house? Because there surely aren’t enough of them! Or maybe another asian place? Perhaps an all natural, ‘earthy’ gluten free diner?”—well stated–:D

    What some might call greasy burger joints or fast food is way off—one writer here lists some–my opinions follow

    D&D Dogs—(its on Dempster but must be noted–4 star joint)
    Wild Dogz—(downtown but a forgetable eating experience)
    Uber Burger–(huh?–this aint no greasy burger joint)
    Al’s Italian Beef—(overrated)
    Heckey’s–(also not downtown and definately not a burget joint)
    Gigio’s Pizzaria—(sort of a burger joint but not realy–and quality has slumped considerably over the years)

    I look forward to trying Edzos and wish them all the best–Viva La Grease!…final note—the early closing time is a bummer—we need a quality late night chicago style hot dog/burger joint in downtown—so it goes.

    1. Re: burger woes in E-Town
      Thanks for your opinions. I don’t necessarily disagree with your assessment of the various restaurants listed. The point of my post was to respond to Anonymous’s claim that no one was aware of any other burger joints in the downtown area, not that there were too many of them.

      “Burger joint” to me is any place with counter service where you can order a take-out burger. You can get one at Heckey’s, you can get one at Al’s and you can definitely get one at Uber Burger. There are several others (listed), and while they may or may not do burgers well and may or may not be greasy, they are direct competition for Edzo’s.

      Having said all that, Edzo’s is awesome and is in my opinion the best out of the bunch. I think his restaurant is a great addition to our community and I will be a frequent diner.

    2. correction
      I see where I posted D&D Dogs on Dempster—I got it confused with the Wiener & Still Champion…D&D is on Noyes and I dont know a thing about the joint—never been there–but the Wiener on Dempster is extremely good!

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