Editor's Note: Over 100 years after Upton Sinclair muckraked Chicago's stockyards and frightened the world, and in spite of the general wisdom that "laws are like sausages; you never want to see one made," Chicago is a city proud of its sausages. Sausage City is a weekly chronicle of the best encased meats in the Windy City.
So far, this column has been focused more on the Chicago shopper than the Chicago eater. Though I love to cook, even I don't always have time to deal with, say, expertly-made Italian sausage from Bari, or a juniper-flavored smoked link from Kurowski's Sausage Shop. Luckily, when it comes to sausage, there are wonderful experiences this city offers if all you want to do is eat.
With that in mind, this week involves nothing but sidling up to a broad, sturdy table in the cozy environs of Owen & Engine and experiencing what is, for my money, one of the best brunches in Chicago. I think it deserves the distinction for its deliciousness, the sheer pleasure of the room's British pub decor, and because I'm particularly nostalgic and fond of something known round the British isles variously as the Full English Fry-Up ($15) or another combination of those terms—the centerpiece of which is two kinds of fantastic sausage.
For anyone who has traveled to England and stayed in a bed and breakfast, the ubiquitous morning meal is probably familiar: Bangers, black pudding, eggs, bacon, tinned beans, tomato, and slices of bread, all fried up together and laid out on the plate to be enjoyed in its hefty, fatty glory.
Outside of England, though, it's not easy to find—done well anyway. And experiencing it properly is the only way it makes any sense. That's when the balance of fat from the sausage and acidity from the tomato are in unison, the bread is crisped and not soggy, and the yolk is just runny enough to provide a little sauce. The most common mistake is greasiness, as too much will quickly deaden everything and ruin the flavors.
Owen & Engine does the fry-up one better by making the "tinned beans" from scratch (getting the flavors right is no easy feat), served in a white cup made to look like a can. The bangers are superb, as is the black pudding (a.k.a. blood sausage), which is creamy and rich and has far less barley or oat filler than what I've commonly found in England. The rest of the items on the plate, like most things at Owen & Engine, are all flawlessly executed.
Brunch is served at Owen & Engine on Sundays, beginning at 11 a.m.