I had high hopes. Not only was the BLT ($10) at The Old Oak Tap on Chicago Magazine's list of The 50 Best Sandwiches in Chicago, it was number one. Now, the BLT is as fine a sandwich as has ever been created, but its success rests completely on the back of exceptional, in-season tomatoes. Without them, the BLT never works. So what is the Old Oak Tap doing serving one in November?
This version gets around that problem by subbing in fried green tomatoes. Coated in cornmeal, the thick slice is slightly crunchy and acidic. Along with extra crunchy strips of maplewood smoked bacon (the B ) and arugula (the L), the sandwich also adds a smear of pimento cheese. The latter is surely untraditional, but I have a genuine soft spot for the spread, so I can't complain.
So is it the best sandwich in Chicago? Drum roll please... Absolutely not! What sandwich is better? How about a BLT made with ripe, red summer tomatoes, sliced thick, and so dripping with juices that they nearly soak the white bread. That's a perfect sandwich experience, and damn you for reminding me of one when it will be ten or so months until I can satisfy my craving. On the other hand, the BLT at the Old Oak Tap is an excellent sandwich—satisfying and salty—that nonetheless is more of an interesting variation than a complete reinvention of the genre.