If you hate lines, best to avoid The Swedish Bakery on weekends, when “take a number” is the sad, but inevitable reality. A lot of Swedes make the trip in the from ‘burbs to get their rye bread or pick up a Princess Torte, but I’m guessing most of the regulars are there to also pick up an Andersonville coffeecake. The cardamom and cinnamon-filled cake is best warm – preferably saddled with a cup of coffee – and makes a perfect brunch gift, if you’re so inclined. They sell them not only whole, but by the half as well, so even if it’s just for you and a friend, you can have a few pieces, and still have enough leftover for the next day.
Ever since I tweeted from Smalls about their brisket bibimbop, I’ve been having dreams about it (I know, I’m sick). It’s so obvious and yet, no one in Chicago has dared combine the rich, earthy, smokiness of slow-cooked brisket with the bold, assertive Korean chili paste (gojujang) and crisp, blanched vegetables and rice that are endemic in Korean restaurants. It’s not served in a giant stone bowl, but rather, a simple, aluminum sheet tray. One recommendation: rather than get the standard white rice, ask for the Filipino-inspired garlic rice; you’ll thank me later. (Videography courtesy Todd Rosenberg Photography – @toddrphoto).
Smalls Smoke Shack & More
4009 N. Albany
Over the past few years, Nick Spencer has been showing up at places like Dose Market or the Logan Square Farmer’s Market, cooking up his homemade British-style bangers (sausage) and back bacon, and turning them into tasty sandwiches. But over the course of the last year, he’s opened a brick-and-mortar store along Irving Park Road, selling imported grocery items, those bangers and back bacon, as well as some mighty tasty scones. Now, he’s turning the space into more of a cafe, creating several sandwiches. One his most recent creations is the Coronation Chicken Salad, which obviously nods to the Queen, but also integrates his country’s penchant for zesty Indian flavors; in this case, cumin and mango chutney. Pull up a chair with a pot of English tea, and you’ll be transported back to Marylebone in no time. (Videography courtesy: Todd Rosenberg Photography – @toddrphoto)
Not all PB & Js are created equal. In fact, sometimes, that “PB” doesn’t even mean peanut butter. In the case of this week’s SYSE, the folks at Elaine’s Coffee Call – the tiny cafe inside the Hotel Lincoln – have substituted pecan butter, and are combining it with seasonal preserves, then pressing it in a panini press, to give the outer edge of the La Fournette bread a bit of crunch. It’s devastatingly simple, and yet, somehow taps into everyone’s inner kid. (As always, thanks to Todd Rosenberg Photography – @toddrphoto – for the fine videography).
Elaine’s Coffee Call
1816 N. Lincoln Ave.
At this rate, there will be more fried chicken in Chicago than Italian beef. With Honey Butter Fried Chicken now open, Parson’s Chicken & Fish still chugging along and Leghorn about to open, are we that crazy for fried bird? Apparently so. Endgrain has been offering one of the best versions in town (I’m due for at Top 5 on this subject) but I couldn’t mention this plate, served at dinner, without also giving a nod to their fantastic biscuits. (videography by Todd Rosenberg Photography, @toddrphoto)
1851 W. Addison
There are only a handful of gelato producers in Chicago, and most of the time, they have brick-and-mortar stores set up from which they can sell their product. Sometimes, they start out just doing wholesale work, as Jesse Oloroso did with Black Dog Gelato after she left Stephanie Izard’s employ at Scylla. Other times, they remain far below the media radar, like the well-regarded Angelo Gelato in Bensenville, which supplies many stores and restaurants in the region you’ve probably eaten at, but is rarely publicized. Ben Roche’s gelato falls into the latter camp, since only about a half dozen flavors are made available each week, and they’re only being sold at one place: J.P. Graziano’s in the West Loop. (videography: Todd Rosenberg, @toddrphoto)