[Photograph: Tessa McLean]

There are a few simple elements that make up a great croque madame. Do any of those wrong, and you're going to have a disappointing version of a greasy grilled cheese. Do it right and it's French comfort food at its best. The Croque Madame ($9.50) at Birchwood Kitchen is one of those excellent sandwiches that's rich, tasty, and fit for any time of day.

The foundation is fresh, crusty sourdough bread grilled in a hearty amount of butter. Thick slices of gruyère are salty, slightly sweet, and melted evenly on each side of the bread. Grainy, pungent mustard is hiding under those slices of cheese, through it's spread unevenly so the flavor only appeared in certain bites. A melted, cheesy béchamel sauce lines the underside of the bread. Thin slices of country ham are nestled between the cheese and then the whole sandwich is topped with two very runny sunny side up eggs. They're lightly salted and peppered and drench your sandwich in yolk the moment you poke them. It's obviously not a sandwich you pick up and eat, but the uneasy cutting is worth the decadence of this sandwich, which can only be lovingly described as heavy. If you love this French sandwich, Birchwood is a place worthy of creating it.

Birchwood Kitchen

Birchwood Kitchen

  • Wicker Park

2211 W North Ave btwn Leavitt St. & Bell Ave. Chicago IL 60647 7732762100

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