For the past month, this site has been bringing you reports about where to eat breakfast in Chicago, from doughnuts and waffles to chilaquiles and muffins. But it wasn't until halfway through the month that I realized I had been ignoring the king of American breakfast foods, the one, the only, bacon. Of course, you can consume bacon at any meal of the day (doesn't it make everything better?), but breakfast is where it feels the most at home. Actually, I think bacon is best when it is actually cooked at home, which led me to this expedition.
All bacon is not created equal. I knew that. Some slabs are simply better better than others—meatier, smokier, more, um, bacon-y. It became my job to find them. Of course, to try all the bacon sold in Chicago would have certainly killed me. I had to narrow the list down.
As "hog butcher for the world," Chicago has more butcher shops than I could ever hope to visit. To help narrow the search down, I first called a bunch of places to check and see if they made bacon in-house. This helped to condense the list somewhat, since numerous places just source high quality bacon and focus on other kinds of charcuterie. While I'm more than happy with the shops that made the cut, I wasn't able to call every respected butcher in town, so I inevitably left a few gems off. If you know of any that I need to try, definitely let me know in the comments.
- Publican Quality Meats
- Butcher & Larder
- Paulina Market
- Gene's Sausage Shop & Delicatessen
- Spencer's Jolly Posh Foods
- Lincoln Quality Meats
- Mr. Spanky's
Bacon tastes great because it's always cooked in bacon fat. That's my hypothesis, anyway. Normally I just cook bacon in an iron skillet, but I wanted a way to cook them all at the same time while keep all the bacon from pooling together and basically deep frying them (though that does sound delicious). I decided that I should cook them all on a sheet pan in an oven set at 400°F. While this leveled the playing field, I had to continuously check in, because some cooked faster than others. Also, two of the bacons needed to be cooked in very specific ways, so they were cooked separately.
A Bacon for Every Occasion
While I expected to find some differences between the offerings, I wasn't prepared for the incredible variety and range. When most of us think of bacon, we tend to have a very fixed idea. But most of these both look and taste completely unique, making the idea of picking a "best" kind of ridiculous. All of these are worth devouring, though some may hit a flavor profile that best fits you. Some taste better on their own, while others seem destined to enhance a dish.
As for me, I have enough bacon in my fridge to stock this year's Baconfest Chicago (okay, not really). But don't even think about asking for some. All this bacon is mine.
Check out our guide to where to buy bacon in Chicago by clicking on the slideshow.
- Slab Bacon at Publican Quality Meats
- Pub Bacon at Publican Quality Meats
- Bacon at Butcher & Larder
- Danish Bacon at Gene's Sausage Shop
- Bacon at Lincoln Quality Meats
- Bacon at Paulina Market
- Back Bacon at Spencer's Jolly Posh Foods
- Bacon at Mr. Spanky's
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