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DISH: SAVOR Maple & Ash brunch; Epic Burger
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Maple & Ash ( 8 W. Maple St.; ) certainly isn't perfect, although there is much over which to fawn.

However, I'll say this much about brunch at the Gold Coast spot: It's one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had at a restaurant on a Sunday morning ( and brunch is strictly on Sunday at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ).

The experience was for several reasons, including my dining companion. However, company aside, Maple & Ash has several aspects that merit mentioning.

Start with the elegant decor itself, which incorporates light and shadows as well as sweeping drapes and seating that allows practically everyone to see and/or be seen. In addition, the guests we saw on this particular Sunday were among the most smartly dressed I've seen at a brunch: attractive women with low-cut maxi dresses, and good-looking men in button-down shirts and conservative shorts. ( People can also sit outside in a lovely setting; however, with the heat beating down that day, we sought the indoors. )

And then there's the food. A line-up of stations and smiling employees awaits to provide such items as fontina cheese market omelets with black truffle; filet mignon with a variety of available toppings, including beef butter and smoked salmon capers.

There's also a sweets table with items like brioche French toast, mini-coconut cakes and slivers of rich brownies. And if all that's not enough, offerings such as housemade agnolotti, succulent fried chicken and a seafood tower ( with the largest shrimp I've seen in recent memory ) are served tableside.

And I have to give shout-outs to the DJ who played a slew of '80s and '90s music from acts like The Jets ( remember them? ); and server captain David, who was extremely helpful—and seemed at several points like he wanted to hit a dance floor himself.

An "Epic" stop

Epic Burger ( various locations; ) doesn't quite live up to its name—but the items are certainly above most fare people will find at fast-casual restaurants.

There's no shortage of options there, as a guest can order everything from a regular burger to a grilled-cheese sandwich to the Beyond Burger, which is a vegetarian-friendly item with a protein-packed, plant-based patty. ( There's also an impressive list of toppings, including avocado and fried egg. )

Get fries ( regular or sweet potato ) and a shake/malt, and you're good to go. By the way, I highly recommend the Skinny Shake, which incorporates frozen yogurt ( resulting in a lot fewer calories ) and is just as tasty as a regular shake.

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