TGI Fry-Day: Paulie's Homemade Mozzarella Sticks from Pint Bar
I doubt it would offend anyone to say that Wicker Park's Pint Bar isn't exactly known for its food. It's standard bar fare—wings, burgers, chicken Caesar salads, and wraps—served amidst the din of various sports-tuned TVs and wall ads for Guiness and Harp. But after glancing at the menu when I stopped in for a pre Violet Hour drink drink a few months back, I knew my Serious Eating duties would compel my return. For you see, Pint advertises homemade mozzarella sticks.
My love affair with mozzarella sticks is longstanding and torrid. Growing up, I pined for the annual city festival each year in Fort Wayne, where scads of fried fair food purveyors would set up shop in a downtown corridor known as "Junk Food Alley." It's since been rebranded the more health-conscious "Food Alley," but the best offering remains the same: freshly battered, gooey, crunchy, salty, glisten-y mozzarella cheese sticks. And since then, I've been hooked. I'll eat the good, the bad, and in college, I even made my own. Which is why Paulie's Homemade Mozzarella Sticks ($7.00) demanded my fried food investigatory attention.
Legend has it (according to my server) that upstairs neighbor Paulie showed up to the bar one night, "whipped up this concoction," and they've been doing it his way ever since. Logs of mozzarella (or if I had to guess, string cheese) are breaded in a Panko/dried Italian spices mix and fried to order. These sticks are solid: they're structurally sound, with the cheese staying put inside the breading, while still maintaining sufficient pull. The marinara sauce is hardly revelatory, but it was flavorful and clung to the sticks, which is more than you can say about most sides of marinara.
More than anything, these sticks demonstrate just how damn easy it is to make your own, something all restaurants should aspire to.