The Bakery at Fat Rice is a hidden gem of Chicago food, a surprise annex to one of Chicago’s best restaurants where diners can find authentic Portuguese and Macanese treats — hello, egg tarts! — along with delightful bites like the Chicago-style hot dog bun.
The Bakery is about to up its game, becoming The Bakery and Café at Fat Rice, adding more savory items, serving cocktails, and expanding its hours (open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday).
One reason for the expansion: Chef Abe Conlon wanted to give more people a Fat Rice experience, and the main restaurant is often booked far in advance.
“If you came from out of town or if you are on your way to the airport and didn’t get to eat at Fat Rice, you can pop in and grab a mega maki or a cookie for the road, or egg tarts to take home to your family,” Conlon explains. “We want to say yes to more people — I hate turning people away, it’s such a bummer.”
The Bakery and Café has also brought on a new head chef, Ashley Robinson (formerly of Spiaggia), who has helped to retool the menu. Robinson’s task has been to diversify the menu, with a move away from a focus on sweets. “You could eat a donut every day, but you can’t really do that,” Conlon jokes.
The new savory dishes are, as you would expect from Fat Rice, a unique taste of Asian flavors in combinations you’ve probably not had before. The mega nori roll is a version of a sushi roll without the fish, inspired by Conlon’s time in Nagasaki researching the roots of Portuguese cuisine in Asia, as well as the café’s massive surplus of egg whites. (The yolks are used to make egg tarts.) Conlon describes it as “essentially an egg white and scallion frittata,” which is then rolled up inside sushi rice and topped with smoked shiitake mushrooms, pickled ginger, radishes, and sweet egg threads.
“The base is savory, the eggs are sweet, the mushrooms are umami,” Conlon says.
The popular everything bun is now served with smoked salmon and pickles for a take on a bagel and lox. Zigi toast is a combo of a soft egg, a sweet buttered bun made with condensed milk, chili sambal, and soy, and is great for people who love to dip their breakfast toast in egg yolk.
There are new pastries on the menu, including some gluten-free options. The palm sugar sea salt cookie is served plain or with a “party on top” — right now, it’s topped with white chocolate, cashews, apricots, and candied ginger, but toppings will rotate. And the Ceylon snickerdoodle filled with salted egg yolk (which I called the best cookie in Chicago) is thankfully still on the menu.
Another exciting addition is the ability to order Fat Rice baked goods online. If you want to order two dozen egg tarts for a party, you can now do that through their website.
All the changes to Fat Rice Bakery and Café are shifting into place, and the new menu should be fully rolled out by next week.
“We have taken some things off the menu that were beloved, but we like to think we can bring new beloved things,” Conlon says. “That’s what me and my team are always trying to do.”