“You’re the Baconfest dude! Where should I go for bacon?”
I get that alot.
I am the Baconfest dude – my co-founders and I turned our love of bacon into a two-day festival that draws 4,500 ticketed guests to see 150+ incredible chefs use 8,000 lbs of Nueske’s bacon (among others) in wildly creative ways.
But not every day can be a Baconfest day, so between Baconfests, I have a regular circuit of porky stops in Chicago. And I’m happy to share them with you. Many are Baconfest participants, but several are just bacon treasures of the middle west. This is hardly a comprehensive list, but each and every stop on this bacon itinerary is close to my heart. I hope you enjoy them.
Montrose Deli (5411 W. Montrose) – This is an old-school Polish deli & grocery store on the Northwest side with a remarkable selection of smoked pork of all forms, including sliced and slab bacon, with and without rind, at a variety of smoke levels. This is the place I go if I’m looking to elbow past old Polish ladies for some smoky bacon or hocks to drop in a pot of beans.
Paulina Market (3501 N Lincoln) – Hardly unknown, this is ground zero for Chicago meat-lovers. Their house-smoked bacon is impeccable; sometimes they have interesting bacon collaborations with local distillers like Koval. It’s where I go to load up on bratwursts for summer BBQs plus a little snacking-bacon for the road.
Gogi (5240 N California) and San Soo Gab San (5247 N Western) – Aside from short ribs and bulgogi, one of my favorite Korean BBQ options is pork belly. You cook it yourself on a gas-fired griddle or hardwood charcoal fired brazier. At San Soo Gab San, they pair thin-sliced slabs of belly with raw oysters and scallions – wrap it up with a lettuce leaf and some sesame oil and you’re golden. At Gogi, they serve a he-man 1/2-inch thick slab of belly that you can grill along with your other meats or fry up on a dome-shaped griddle with kimchi and beansprouts.
Primehouse (616 N Rush)- David Burke’s dry-aged beef-a-palooza also has a way with the pig. From their house-cured bacon on the cheeseburger, to their pork belly appetizer and their history with bacon on a stick and bacon-scented candles, they’re a reliable source for a porky fix. Bonus – I ate lunch there with Peter Sagal and made a podcast!
Big Jones (5247 N Clark) – No Chicago bacon itinerary can be complete without a visit to Paul Fehribach’s restaurant-sized paean to the Southern kitchen, and no Southern brunch is complete without the house-cured bacon omelette at Big Jones. This kitchen has a way with all the parts of the hog, using the whole animal across the menu for charcuterie, sausage and lard.
Saigon Sisters (567 W Lake) / Nhu Lan (2612 W Lawrence) – Pork belly plays a starring role in my favorite Chicago banh mis – Whether it’s the brilliant red-tinted luscious meat rolled up in Nhu Lan’s #5 or braised in pho-spices in Saigon Sister’s “The Porky”, it makes for an amazing sandwich.
Charlatan (1329 West Chicago) – I’ve been a fan of Matt Troost’s pizzette carbonara, studded with house-cured bacon, since even before he won two Golden Rasher awards for his achievements in the Bacon Arts. Go there! Tell Matt I sent you and carb-load on his house-made pasta- either the smoked bucatini carbonara or the clams chitarra will show you how bacon lays down a flavor foundation in his Italian kitchen.
Still hungry for more bacon? You can’t go wrong with any of the spots on our extensive restaurant roster. Come to Baconfest (tickets here) to meet the chefs and sample their goods - you’ll be bacon-buds for life.
What are your favorite stops for America’s favorite cured meats?