BLAST at The Brown Sack ($10.00)
Adding another ingredient (and a letter) to a BLT is kind of like bringing your hilarious new friend to a class reunion: sure, he injects a needed shot of spontaneity and excitement to the proceedings, but the group dynamics will seem slightly off. But the BLAST at The Brown Sack is as incisive as its name implies. Cold and juicy shrimp and creamy mashed avocado manage to integrate themselves into the unit, creating a fascinating spin on the original.
APMD at Kuma's Corner ($12.00)
Named after hardcore punk band, APMD (All Pigs Must Die) is easily the craziest, most out of control BLT out there. Hell, I can't even think of another sandwich that comes close. Even Silver Palm's over-sized Three Little Piggy sandwich has nothing on this monster, which contains 10 ounces of crisp and salty applewood smoked bacon piled high on a buttery brioche bun. Obviously, the lettuce and tomato get a little lost here, but the spicy sriracha aioli admirably fights through. Don't even joke about trying to finish it, but also don't feel bad if you eat far more than you planned.
Crispy Pork Belly B.L.T's at Sable ($9 for two)
Sable wasn't the first restaurant to replace thin slices of bacon with luscious roasted pork belly, but it's certainly my favorite. Part of its success is due to its diminutive nature. Each little handheld sandwich (you get two with each order) contains a thin rectangle of crispy pork belly, which each is just enough to provide a greedy shot of salty pork without completely smothering you in fat. The acidic, and beautifully bright red, tomato further helps lighten the bite.
Knife & Fork Open-Faced BLT at Hub 51 ($10)
I don't usually trust restaurants that serve sushi, tacos, and ribs, but there's no doubt that Hub 51 brings its A-game to its BLT. Actually, its called a knife & fork open-faced BLT, which tells you just about everything you need to know. All that I can add is that the bacon is thick, yet still crisp, and that there is also some funky blue cheese hidden in the mix, which adds an unexpected salty punch.
Green Tomato BLT at Inspiration Kitchens ($9)
It's easy to love the story behind Inspiration Kitchens—the two restaurants provide job training and other services to people affected by homeless and poverty (click here to learn more)—but don't forget about the food. The Southern-influenced menu is satisfying and remarkably affordable. That includes this hearty fried green tomato BLT served on fluffy challah bread. It's topped off with crunchy bacon, bitter dandelion greens, and some very creamy pimento cheese.
Inspiration Kitchens, 3504 West Lake Street, Chicago, IL 60624 (map); 773-801-1110; inspirationkitchens.org
Bacon, dandelion greens, pimento cheese, toasted Challah
Salmon BLT at 2 Sparrows
"BLTs are usually about the harmonious combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato—that's why all the components are given equal billing. But nothing about the Salmon BLT ($13) at 2 Sparrows is in balance... So, could you please explain to me why does none of this matters? The salmon is light and flaky, while the bacon is thick, salty, and crunchy. The house-made potato roll is particularly great--soft on the inside and well toasted on the cut sides. Don't call it balanced, but it's a hell of a sandwich." Read more here >>
The Badass B.L.T. at Mr. Spanky's ($3.50)
"The soft bun also allows you to focus more of your attention on the house-made bacon, which is thick-cut and smoky. It's more than capable of carrying the sandwich, but the other ingredients hold their own. Instead of watery pieces of lettuce, baby spinach is layered on. A sun-dried tomato aioli takes the place of the usual mealy tomato. The result is sandwich of contrasts: salty and sweet, soft and crunchy, meaty and vegetable-y (that's a word, right?)." Read more here >>
BLT at The Old Oak Tap ($10.00)
"What is the Old Oak Tap doing serving a BLT in the winter? 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. They all combine to make a satisfying and salty sandwich." Read more here >>
Green BLT Sandwich at Honky Tonk BBQ
"The sheriff of this here town is the clearly the perfectly crunchy fried green tomatoes, which flash the badge of requisite texture, but also dig their spurs in with just the right amount of tang. They are nestled above just enough spring mix to notice but not impede. The thick, pungent, Ranch-like garlic mayo comes on the side. And the bacon? Perhaps sensing the shift in power, it is content to play the complementary role here. More like the new sheriff's horse, riding off into the flavor sunset together." Read more here >>
B.A.L.T. at The Green Door Tavern ($8.25)
"The bread is the light kind of wheat that isn't dense but still gives a good crunch when grilled. There's a good balance of ingredients all around, but the one that made me the happiest was that they didn't skimp on the avocado. Not only that, but they didn't just slap it on top in slices that fall out the second you bite into it. It's lightly smashed in there with the bacon, lettuce, and tomato. The bacon is crispy enough but not crumbly, as it should be when it needs to hold a sandwich together as the meaty backbone." Read more here >>
Double Decker BLT at Austrian Bakery ($7.49)
"Austrian Bakery's double-decker BLT ironically boasts American-sized proportions. The expected lettuce and tomato join copious amounts of mayo coating three slices of hearty white bread with crispy and chewy bacon in amounts you might be embarrassed to indulge in at home, much in the same way you might be embarrassed to admit you enjoyed another kind of Bacon." Read more here >>
BLTA at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine ($6.38)
"The BLTA ($6.38) is a BLT plus avocado (hence the A). Pastoral's version uses housemade prosciutto bacon, and bitter greens instead of the usual iceberg lettuce. The bacon makes the sandwich sing; it's crispy and salty, and not overly smoky. The avocado adds a velvety feel, and the chewy bun stretches out the experience just a bit longer as you chew. It's the cheapest item on the gourmet sandwich menu, and it's a great value for lunch." Read more here >>