Celebrate International Bacon Day at Chicago’s Best Restaurants
Remember the Carl Sandburg line about Chicago being the “hog butcher for the world”? Well, those words were written in the days of the great Union Stockyards in Chicago, out of operation since the early 70s. But even though we don’t do that much hog butchering within the city limits anymore, we do a lot of pork cooking – and eating – and the piece of pig that most people will admit to loving is bacon. Sure, ham has its adherents, and so do ribs, but bacon is in a class by itself.
International Bacon Day is coming up on August 31. Here are some of Chicago’s best restaurants serving some of the best bacon you’ll find anywhere.
The Publican. Some say Chef Paul Kahan invented pork belly. Though that is clearly an overstatement, Kahan has done more than most for pork belly – and bacon – than just about any other chef, living or dead. At places like Blackbird and The Publican, Kahan serves up some of the finest bacon dishes the world has ever seen. If you’re a bacon fan, order the Pork Belly sourced from Rotterdam, Holland (weren’t expecting that, were you?), served with wax beans, chrysanthemums (!?), blueberries and hazelnuts. Mind-blowing.
The Florentine. At Chicago’s Best Restaurants, we don’t usually talk about breakfast or side dishes, but man oh man, you definitely want to try The Florentine’s Cobb Smoked Bacon (the meat is smoked over corn cobbs, because in the South, they don’t waste a thing) and the Pecan Smoked Shoulder Bacon (marrying two food items they know a lot about south of the Mason-Dixon line: pecans and pigs). If you’re there for dinner, and you talk nice to Chef Zachary Walrath, he might serve you either one or both of these breakfast items for dinner – so talk real nice. You want to eat this bacon.
North Pond. At North Pond, for a long time, Chef Bruce Sherman has been doing amazing things with simple ingredients, like bacon. For the dish called simply Ham, Egg, Pepper, Sherman masterfully combines a perfectly soft-boiled egg, piperade-raisin jam, pimento cheese (another Southern fav), piquillo coulis, cucumber, peach, cheddar crisp and…bacon guanciale. This magnificent composition of textures and flavors, highlighted by that fantastic bacon, will linger on your taste buds long after dinner is over.
Texas de Brazil. How do you make a chicken breast delicious? You wrap it in bacon, of course, and that’s what they do at Texas de Brazil. And although you can expect Texas de Brazil to serve up some extraordinarily delicious meat, grilled over an open fire by the gauchos who serve you, you might just want to take the plunge and ask for some of that chicken. Or, turn your table disc to green and have the gaucho bring you some filet, also wrapped in bacon, the most delicious of all meats. You know it is.
Virtue Restaurant & Bar. Okay, let’s say you like bacon just fine, a lot, in fact, but you don’t really want it for your main course, the entrée, the main event. We get it. You’re maybe trying to eat less animal fat and more vegetable foods. Cool, fine, to each his own, so just go to Virtue Restaurant & Bar, Eric Williams’ breakthrough fine dining yet casual place on Hyde Park, and get a side of bacon with your Sunday brunch. It might be the best rasher you’ve ever had.