Mole Pork Rinds at Owen & Engine ($5)
Best known as an English pub, Owen & Engine isn't afraid to incorporate other flavors into its menu. That explains why I didn't worry too much about the success of the mole pork rind. Instead of a mole sauce, the kitchen uses a complex chile powder, which certainly has some heat, but unlike The Publican's spicy pork rinds, the heat is darker, building up over time. As for rinds, I loved the variety of textures, which ranged from ultra crackly to soft and light.
Pig Ears Malt Vinegared with Cornichon Aioli at Billy Sunday
I hate to bring up junk food again, but I find it impossible to discuss the pig ears from this Logan Square cocktail spot without mentioning another one. Each crispy sheet of airy fried pig is dusted with a malty powder that, when dipped in the creamy cornichon aioli, results in bite eerily familiar of Cool Ranch Doritos.
White Cheddar Chicharrones at Trenchermen ($5)
"Is it wrong to compare something favorably to cheesy puffs? That's the position I'm in trying to describe the awesomeness of the white cheddar chicharrones ($5) at Trenchermen. In fact, they're more delicate than any puff I've ever encountered, with only a slight trace of pork coming through. The white cheddar is distinct but lightly applied, so that you get the shot of salt and funk, but without all that excess gunk left on your fingers. Basically, this is bar food par excellence, and I can't imagine ever stepping foot in the Trenchermen without an order of these." Read more here >>
Spicy Pork Rinds at The Publican ($5)
"The only word to describe the spicy pork rinds is crackly. Okay, there are some other words, sure, but crackly is just fun to say. Crackly. Pork rinds are not something I generally go for, but when you're in the porcine palace of The Publican, it just seems like the thing to do. Obviously not your 7-11 pork skins, they arrive like an ear of corn fresh off the grill, all pop and crackle. Painted with an orange Cajun spice blend, they are salt and savory forward, with just a hint of sweetness about half-way through. There's really no graceful way to eat these fist-sized monsters; best to just close your eyes and dive in." Read more here >>
Crispy Pig Ears at Nightwood ($6)
The title of this Nightwood classic is right on: each one of these suckers is teeth-shatteringly crispy. But there's more to this dish than just texture. They are also slightly sweet, which helps balance out the salty, meaty aspects of the pork. Still, it's impossible to properly explain why I polished of a whole order of these before the main course arrived.
Pork Rinds with Pimento Cheese Powder at Lillie's Q ($4)
There's really no reason to add more order more pork here. I mean, you already need to get the best pulled pork sandwich in Chicago, and the ribs aren't too shabby (I won't even get into the glory of the beefy tri-tip sandwich). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't order these, either. The airy and crispy rinds are dusted with a pimento cheese powder, which sounds kind of crazy, until you realize that you're basically eating fancy Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
Bacon Candy at Honky Tonk BBQ ($8)
Like Bang Bang Pie Co.'s own version, these sweetened strips are aptly titled. But unlike that pie shop, these are less like bacon and more like roasted pork belly. Instead of thin and crispy, these are thick and substantial, making it easy to appreciate the full flavored fat and slight haminess of the pork.
Pork Belly and Kimchi Sliders from GT Fish & Oyster ($4)
"Pork belly and kimchi ≣ peanut butter and jelly. I can't tell you how many times I've seen chefs combine pork belly and kimchi--not that I blame them. What better than the sharpness of the kimchi to cut through the fattiness of the pork belly? At GT Fish & Oyster, they sandwich this delectable duo between a buttery slider bun and finish it with crushed peanuts. For something so small to taste so good, it's no surprise that they goes through upwards of 3000 Pork Belly and Kimchi Sliders ($4) a month. On top of that, if you happen swing by the restaurant in the evening, they also prepare fried oyster sliders, too." Read more here >>
Bacon Fat Popcorn at Revolution Brewing ($5.00)
Everyone knows that salty bar snacks go great with beer, but most of the time you don't even need to know what it's in the bowl before you reach in. But Revolution Brewing changed all that with the bacon fat popcorn, which works as a satisfying prelude to the rest of the menu.