This has been the 12 months of “The Bear.” Not as in a Chinese language zodiac animal, however the critically acclaimed kitchen drama a couple of younger chef who leaves the advantageous eating world to reluctantly run his household sandwich store.
Within the case of Loaf Lounge, artwork imitates life.
Cooks Ben Lustbader and Sarah Mispagel additionally left finer eating eating places, to run their very own sandwich store with intention. They opened Loaf Lounge within the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago this summer season.
To additional blur life and artwork, Mispagel labored as a pastry guide on the present. Now you can style what’s referred to as The Bear chocolate cake at Loaf Lounge.
“It’s three layers of chocolate cake stacked with a darkish chocolate mousse,” Mispagel mentioned. She makes use of Valrhona 64% Taïnori single origin chocolate for the ethereal mousse, then finishes with a chocolate American buttercream icing.
The chef mentioned tasters sometimes fall into two camps.
“Should you’re not a lot of a chocolate particular person, you then’ll take one chunk and save the remainder for later. In case you are a chocolate particular person, then it’s breakfast on daily basis,” she mentioned, laughing.
Whereas the cake has turn out to be well-known, Lustbader’s breakfast sandwiches have quietly turn out to be simply as fashionable in their very own proper.
“There are days after we’re neck and neck,” Mispagel mentioned about her husband. “He’ll promote 120 sausage muffins, and I’ll promote 119 slices of the cake.”
Regardless of appearances, it’s no easy sandwich.
“We make the English muffins, griddle them in clarified butter, then smear this herby mayo on,” Lustbader mentioned. “And we sear the sausage, flip over a medium egg and soften on American cheese.”
The chef forgets to say he makes his personal sausage.
“The main flavors there are roasted garlic, chile flake, porcini, fennel seed and maple,” he mentioned.
The veggie breakfast sandwich swaps the sausage with braised kale, flavored deeply with pickled mushrooms and spicy peppers.
But it surely’s their beautiful salmon breakfast sandwich that hints at previous and future tales. I felt totally underdressed for the open-faced canvas organized extravagantly with cured curls and glistening roe.
Lustbader soft-cures the salmon with brown and white sugar, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, Aleppo pepper, orange, lemon, dill, basil and gin.
“Then we make a cream cheese that echoes all these flavors,” he mentioned. They had been garnish ing with melon from Three Sisters when it was in season,however have changed melon with sculptural cucumber ribbons, sliced skinny with radish rounds and slivers of pickled pink onion.
That’s all on the marbled rye, one in every of practically a dozen rotating breads they bake, accessible by the loaf. It’s surprising on their sleepy stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, till you bear in mind from the place they got here.
“He’d executed Malört-cured salmon at Nightwood for brunch specials right here and there,” Mispagel mentioned.
The cooks met and labored collectively on the beloved restaurant in Pilsen, earlier than it closed in 2015.
“We had a cured salmon at Large on one of many early menus,” Lustbader mentioned. He opened the restaurant in Logan Sq. in 2016 with Jason Vincent, who acquired a James Beard nomination for Excellent Chef in 2022.
“Even at Nightwood, Ben mentioned he needed to open a sandwich store sometime,” Mispagel mentioned. “When he and I began courting, then finally obtained married, it turned the factor that we had been all the time working towards.”
Mispagel additionally labored at Large for a bit, however left to turn out to be the pastry chef on the Michelin-starred Sepia and its associated restaurant Proxi subsequent door.
“In my head, I used to be like, that is the final restaurant job I’m going to have earlier than I open a spot with Ben,” she mentioned. “And I deliberately needed to do one thing a bit fancier than I had earlier than. I needed to see if I had it in me to do one thing like this actually fancy restaurant, after which I needed to open the sandwich store.”
They began taking a look at areas in fall 2019.
“After which March 2020 occurred,” Mispagel mentioned. “However after a couple of months, we form of realized that if all of us had been going to reside, we’d nonetheless have to eat sandwiches.”
They started baking at Superkhana Worldwide, the fashionable Indian restaurant additionally in Logan Sq., as a pandemic pop-up, however not making any sandwiches.
Sandwiches appeared like a curious focus, given their expertise, till Lustbader defined.
“The paths of cooking that I’ve actually fallen in love with are sandwich-related,” he mentioned. “Regardless that I’m much less concerned with the bread crew proper now, I like making bread. I like charcuterie. I like brunch cooking like I like egg cookery. All these come collectively on this kind of a restaurant and I simply genuinely adore it.”
That love reveals with the right, runny yolk eggs, cooked to order and hidden throughout the breakfast sandwiches.
After which there’s a complete different assortment of lunch sandwiches, accessible at midday, constructed on their excellent bread.
The BLT layers thick-cut bacon, lettuce, tomato and housemade mayonnaise on an outrageous jalapeño and cheddar studded bread. The California veggie stuffs what should be a month-to-month mortgage fee’s price of avocado with cheddar and sprouts on crackling crusted nation sourdough. The turkey, made by their associates at Serbian sandwich store 016 in Lincoln Sq., will get slathered with roasted garlic ranch on seeded bread.
Baked items on the small pastry counter can be found all through the day, whereas provides final, from traditional chocolate chip cookies to kouign-amann to seasonal danishes, candy and savory. As are espresso drinks, made with 4 Letter Phrase beans, together with an area prepare dinner’s cult favourite referred to as Kyle’s Go Juice, ready with espresso, Angostura bitters and delicately sweetened by honey.
The butter croissants maintain housemade capicola and fig mostarda as a gorgeous breakfast sandwich, however on their very own, they’re a bit bready, fairly than shattering crispy layers.
“It must be structural sufficient for it to carry as much as the sandwich,” Mispagel mentioned. “And I don’t adore it whenever you get a croissant and it simply crumbles into nothing. Prefer it’s actually stunning, however you then don’t really get to eat something.”
So she does one much less flip for this croissant dough.
“It’s related after we speak about bread,” Lustbader mentioned. “Tremendous excessive hydration breads are extremely popular amongst some bakers, and so they’re beautiful. However we’re a sandwich store. So if we had been to start out constructing sandwiches on these breads with huge air holes, it wouldn’t be a sandwich.”
And Loaf Lounge is a cooks’ sandwich store with devoted intention.
2934 N. Milwaukee Ave.
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Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Monday and Tuesday
Costs: $7.50 (The Bear chocolate cake), $9 (sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich), $12 (caramelized onion loaf), $13 (BLT), $14 (salmon breakfast sandwich)
Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible with restroom on single degree
Tribune ranking: Glorious to excellent, 2½ stars
Rankings key: 4 stars, excellent; three stars, glorious; two stars, excellent; one star, good; no stars, unsatisfactory. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.
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