Denver-based fast-casual chain Teriyaki Madness opened its first Chicago location Wednesday in South Loop, offering rice or noodle teriyaki bowls and stir-fried noodle dishes for patio service, takeout, and delivery. The franchise is the first entrepreneurial venture from longtime best friends, South Side natives, and Chicago Department of Water Management colleagues Tony Underwood and Phil Courtney. They plan to open two more Chicago locations. A different franchisee opened an outpost in 2019 in suburban Lombard.
Teriyaki Madness — or “TMad” to fans — features a menu that’s known primarily for customizable dishes that are made to order: customers can choose a bowl base (white rice, brown rice, or noodles), stir-fried vegetables, proteins (chicken, steak, salmon, tofu, and more), plus eight sauce options. Diners can also order from a selection of appetizers and sides including chicken egg rolls and edamame.
The chain includes 116 restaurants. Most look identical to one another, but Underwood and Courtney’s new location at 829 S. Wabash Avenue is unusual. It’s on DePaul University property between 8th and 9th streets, below the Flats at East-West University. The space is shaped differently than other locations, with the greeting and cashier area completely separated from the kitchen. Chicago restaurants aren’t yet allowed to serve customers inside, but when that ban is lifted Teriyaki Madness will seat around 18. The location does have some outdoor seating, which the franchisees want to keep limited. For now, there are eight spots.
The restaurant’s location on college grounds also means that Courtney and Underwood won’t be able to serve alcohol. Teriyaki Madness’s company-owned Denver restaurant is offering beer and wine, they said, an approach that may expand to other spots as well. The pair worked together at the Chicago Department of Water Management for two decades until Courtney retired and they began looking for a brand that struck their fancy. Underwood describes them as a dynamic duo that compliment one another’s skills — he’s the talker, while Courtney handles logistics. “People say we’re like an old married couple,” Underwood says, laughing. “We’re like Penn & Teller.”
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What’s better than one bowl? More than one bowl, genius. We’re not mathemagicians, but are pretty sure you can order as many as you want and have leftovers for days! Start by using the TMAD app to customize to your heart’s content. Find our app in your favorite app store! #TMAD #delivery #order #takeout #lunch #dinner #openforbusiness #stockedup #orderonline #herewecome
Courtney and Underwood haven’t settled on sites for their next two restaurants, but they’re considering placing their second spot in River North or Lincoln Park. Chicago doesn’t have a storied teriyaki culture like that of Seattle or Hawai’i. Still, local diners have shown an aptitude for the Japanese-American dish at restaurants like Lakeview’s Glazed Teriyaki, which opened in 2015.
Teriyaki Madness was founded in Las Vegas in 2003 and expanded into franchised locations two years later. Customers can now place orders for the South Loop restaurant via smartphone app.
Teriyaki Madness, 829 S. Wabash Avenue, Open 11 am. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Sunday.