Photo: Bill Hogan / Chicago Tribune
You young whippersnappers may not remember this, but there was a time when it seemed novel to have a shop that sold only cupcakes. So it was only a matter of time before an entire business would be devoted to a food whose popularity rivals the cupcake, pre-doughnut: smoky, fatty, salty, festival-inspiring bacon.
Burke’s Bacon Bar (The James, 610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200) moves into the former J Bar space in late July, selling small sandwiches that all somehow involve bacon. “Not everything has, like, a strip of bacon,” says Rick Gresh, the chef at Burke’s Bacon Bar, as well as the adjacent David Burke's Primehouse (The James, 616 N. Rush St., 312-660-6000). “It could be made into a powder or a dressing or something.” And not all the bacons are made from pork—Gresh cites lamb bacon and a testing-in-progress vegetarian version.
The sandwichlets, which the Burkers are calling “handwiches,” will cost around $10 for three, which will constitute a lunch’s worth, or $3.75 each. From a mix of 25 to 30 recipes, nine or 10 will be available at any given time. You could try the Chilly Willy, a lobster roll riff in which shrimp is mixed with celery, apple, bacon fat, mayonnaise, lemon zest, sriracha, and lemon juice, then served on a mini lobster roll bun with lardo and bacon breadcrumbs.
But what if bacon is just another food fad, albeit an abnormally long-lasting one? “Bacon has been around a long time,” Gresh says. That it has. Longer than even us old folks.