bacon & egg biscuit from Sweet Maple Cafe (photo: Joseph Storch)
Has it jumped the shark yet? Is bacon as ubiquitous as tiramisu on Taylor Street? Some would argue yes, but many in the food community say bring it on. While the back/side of the hog - the source of bacon - continues to show up on nearly every menu, right alongside beet-and-goat-cheese salads, if you love it salted and dried (or smoked), here's your pocket guide:
1. The Publican (brunch only), 837 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9555
2. Sweet Maple Cafe, 1339 W. Taylor Street, 312-243-8908
3. Bobak's, 5275 S. Archer Avenue, 773-735-5334
4. Butcher & Larder, 1026 North Milwaukee Avenue, 773-687-8280
5. Paddy Long's, 1028 West Diversey, 773-290-6988
Honorable mention: City Provisions Deli
Bacon fans will probably debate my top 5, and they're also going to descend on the UIC pavilion Saturday, part of Chicago’s 2nd Annual Baconfest, which has been sold out for weeks. Although a festival celebrating the glory of bacon seems obvious, it was actually inspired by a love of beer. After Michael Griggs and Andre Vonbaconvitch attended a musical about the awesomeness of craft beer, they were inspired to think of a way to celebrate bacon. With the avid support of their friend and partner Seth Zurer, the first bacon event took place in October 2009 with a ten-chef cook-off at the Publican. That event evolved into Baconfest, which took place last April at the Stan Mansion in Logan Square.
“People loved the dishes, they loved the cocktails, they loved the feeling that they were part of a bacon community,” Zurer said.
During the fest, local chefs make their own, innovative dish with the only rule being it must contain bacon. Everything from salads, entrée-style samples, pizzas and pastries are served to guests in small portions. Although the menu for this Saturday’s Fest hasn’t been released, it’s doubtful it'll disappoint the 1,500 bacon fans that already have tickets.
“It’s amazing how versatile bacon is and how ingenious our chefs are,” Zurer said.
The number of chefs will double this year, to nearly 60, including Atwood Café’s Derek Simcik, Chizakaya’s Harold Jurado, Heaven on Seven’s Jimmy Bannos Sr. and Girl & The Goat’s Stephanie Izard. In addition to unlimited samples of food, guests can also visit the Bacon Vendor Expo where 30 artisan bacon-makers and bacon entrepreneurs will display, sample and sell their bacon-related products.
Not only will the Fest feed people cured pork belly, the creators are also helping those who are less fortunate, by making a cash donation of $25,000 to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Any guest that brings a food donation will be entered to win prizes donated by the sponsors and vendors. Even better, the Illinois Pork Producers Association will donate one pound of pork for every pound of food guests donate. If you didn’t score tickets to the event Saturday, we’ll be there taking notes and share what happened on next Monday’s post.