Sauce and Bread Kitchen could very well be to Edgewater what Central Perk was to Friends. But where Friends fell short (bickering adults, sociopathic managers, pastries that look tragic and unappreciated), Sauce and Bread excels (charming service, fantastic pastries, quaint brunch). The concept is simple: combine two adjoining businesses (Co-op Hot Sauce and Crumb Bread) to make one harmonious cafe. The resulting menu is more congruous than synchronized swimming, and weekend brunch features an array of saucy sandwiches, breakfast pastries, and nifty dishes that set Sauce and Bread miles apart (figuratively and literally) from Chicago's arsenal of brunch restaurants.
Sauce and Bread is counter service, so you'll have to confront the pastry case when ordering your food. Don't even pretend you don't see the pastries, winking at you from behind their glass sanctum. You'd have to possess the willpower of an America's Next Top Model contestant to resist the peach ricotta toaster tart ($2.49) or the oat cream cookie ($1.99), two items that yank on the nostalgic heartstrings. I have a weakness for "gourmet" pop tarts, and the toaster tart at Sauce and Bread is without a doubt the prettiest pop tart I've seen on a menu to date. It's got a delicately flaky crust, akin to a toaster strudel (wow, I am WAY too familiar with boxed breakfast pastries), filled with jammy peach filling and a schmear of tangy ricotta. The oat cream cookie takes me right back to my diehard Little Debbie days. Unlike the packaged oatmeal cream pies, Sauce and Bread's version has more crunch, probably because it's actually a cookie and not just the Frankensteinian equivalent, with a salty caramel filling. Considering how I recently had a Little Debbie relapse, I can definitively compare the two and say that Sauce and Bread makes Little Debbie taste like packing peanuts.
Now on to the main events. Sandwiches are the focus on the brunch menu, and Sauce and Bread slings a fierce breakfast sandwich ($6.99). As I've mentioned before, I love a good breakfast sandwich, and this rendition may very well be the best I've had in Chicago. It hinges heavily on the crumpet they use as bread, which is spongy and rich, perfectly encapsulating the sandwich innards and anchoring the heft. I am adamantly on board with crumpets. Not only are they luscious and fluffy, but they make me feel downright regal, like it's the kind of thing people snack on after playing croquet. It's layered with an organic egg, pork sausage, and feta spread, providing a zesty jolt to balance the dough and meat.
One unconventional item on the menu is the koshary ($3.99, plus $1,99 with pork), a medley of sesame rice noodles, chickpea salad, roasted fennel, and a crispy noodle topping. It's vegan until you elect to pile on the pork (pro tip: do it). Koshary is actually an Egyptian-inspired dish, traditionally made with rice, lentils, chickpeas, macaroni, and asps (okay not asps). Egyptian food is rare in Chicago to begin with, let alone on a brunch menu, so I was pretty excited about this discovery. The depth of textures and spices in this layered dish, sort of similar to Greek pastitsio but not really, is more of an eye-opener in the a.m. than the boldest cup of coffee. And speaking of coffee, Sauce and Bread offers Stumptown AND Dark Matter. Talk about the Sophie's Choice of coffee.
Sauce and Bread is the type of place you go to feel comforted and relaxed. The people and the atmosphere set the charming pace, but the soulfully inspired food hits it home. The only thing it's missing is a large couch that is mysteriously always occupied by the same group of aimless adults.