Standing Room Only: The Meatloaf Bakery

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Not what they appear to be. [Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

The Meatloaf Bakery

2464 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614 (map)
773-698-6667
themeatloafbakery.com‎
The Short Order:Meatloaf shaped like a cupcake.
Want Fries with That?Very good mashed potatoes are scooped on top.
Seats?Some stools, but mostly to-go orders.

Meatloaf is not cool. Never has been, and, hopefully, never will be. Satisfying and filling? Sure. But cupcakes... Well, that's a different story. So what happens when you combine cutest/most overblown dessert trend of the millennium with a very unsexy diner stalwart?

The results of this marriage are on display at The Meatloaf Bakery, a tiny shop in Lincoln Park. But don't worry, the meatloaf isn't topped with icing or sprinkles. Rachel Green had no hand in this. Instead, this is meatloaf that merely looks like a cupcake. In the most basic iteration, meat is cooked in a cupcake mold and topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes—mashed potatoes, I might add, that look eerily like icing. Regardless of how the creation tastes, it is cute.

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Luckily, The Mother Loaf ($8.95), the restaurant's most traditional offering, is moist and intricately flavored—beef, pork, and veal are all used—and topped with some particularly creamy mashed potatoes. Pour some rich demi-glace on top and you have a totally solid interpretation that manages to rise above the kitsch.

My only problem has nothing to do with the actual taste. Thing is, you can't eat this like a cupcake. After admiring it, you'll inevitably break the cupcake/meatloaf down with a fork until it is all messed up anyway. So why does this need to be all dolled up in the first place? Sure, it looks cool, but is that it? Should anyone care? Should I care?! I digress...

Don't care much for regular meatloaf? There are options. The Omega-3 Loaf ($9.95) mixes Alaskan salmon with dill, parsley, and lemon, and is topped with wasabi mashed potatoes. Thanks to the tart lemon-dill yogurt sauce, it feels lighter and more manageable.

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As you can tell, these aren't exactly cheap. Luckily, they are filling, and one is more than enough for dinner. But if you'd like to sample the different flavors without plonking down ten bucks, you can go for the Loafies, which are bite-sized versions. (Alternatively, you can also order Layer Cakes, which claim to serve four to six.) The Yentil Lentil Loaf ($2.00) has a crunchy coating, making it ideal in small form. The gorgeous Loaf-a-Roma ($2.00) features beef and Italian sausage, and is topped angel hair pasta. I would have liked to try this one as a cupcake.

One note, though the creations are in the case ready to go, each takes about 15 minutes to warm up. Most people get these to go, which explains why there are only couple high tables with some stools. Still, there is something deeply pleasurable about digging into meatloaf in such a brightly colored and feminine shop on N. Clark St.