The Brunch Dish: Carnivorous Excess Excels at Links Taproom
Links Taproom is the most carnivorous addition to the Chicago food scene since The Jungle. Fortunately, unlike Upton Sinclair's tale of meaty mayhem, the only horror at Links Taproom is the tension on your waistband after a few forkfuls of pork- and goat cheese-slathered french fries. This new entrant to the Milwaukee Avenue barstaurant scene is unabashedly gluttonous, a trait that comes in handy at weekend brunch, when Wicker Parkers can barely muster the strength to roll out of their PBR-induced hangovers.
At Links, even the pastries are meaty and savory. Start with the Taproom Pop Tarts ($7), a duo of bacon-saturated pastries filled with bacon-apple butter and topped with candied bacon niblets and pillowy meringue. Unlike many breakfast pastries, these guys are mercifully lax on the sweetness, balancing out the saccharine dough and apple butter with an ample dosage of smoked hog. The tarts themselves have a nice texture and chew, similar to a sugar cookie, although the meringues on top are pretty random and bland.
Fat Man in a Bathtub ($7) is worth ordering for the name alone, and the fact that it's essentially a riff on a corn dog. And any opportunity to eat corn dogs for breakfast is an opportunity that should never be allowed to slip by. Slices of breakfast sausage are ensconced in waffle batter and fried, resulting in crispy corn dog nuggets with a light, albeit slightly greasy crust akin to tempura. My only quibble is that the sausages tend to slip out of the crust entirely upon biting, but I am not above eating nothing but fried batter dipped in maple syrup.
The kingpin of heinous brunch behemoths at Links is some Jabba the Hutt-sized platter called Brunch You in the Fry ($8). It sounds a little like a threat, and it arrives looking like one, as french fries are strewn across a tray and heaped with porcine gravy. It looks a bit intimidating, like something one would expect to find at a carnival eating contest, but like most things obscenely indulgent, it's delicious. The fries are pretty dreamy in and of themselves, a wanton pigpile of crispy shoestring fries absolutely doused with tarragon-scented pork morsels, goat cheesy gravy, mushrooms, and roasted peppers. The whole thing tastes oddly cheesesteak-like, as if the city of Philadelphia exploded over a platter of french fries. Although wildly overwrought, this thing is basically made for curing hangovers, and it's almost worth going out of your way to get hungover for.
From bacon-infused pop tarts to brunch corn dogs and a poutine-like embarrassment of riches, Links Taproom knows a thing or two about brunch gluttony. Considering its affinity for beer and sausages at night, I would expect nothing less on weekend mornings.