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Openings Wed Nov 10 2010
Another link in the long chain of Chicago beer and sausage joints in Chicago, Bangers & Lace opened at Division and Paulina this week. B&L has a lot to live up to. We are Chicagoans. We know our encased meats and we know our beer. We've been educated by Hot Dougs, Wolfy's, Franks & Dawgs and the Publican to name a few. But B&L is being brought to you by some heavy hitters, which you can see when you walk in the door. The decor feels like a woodsy Bar DeVille, with plenty of taxidermy, lace in the windows and men in plaid shirts serving your suds. With the wisdom of the guys of Lumen and Duchamp (Jason Freiman & Nick Podesta) and from Bar DeVille and Nightwood (Matt Eisler & Kevin Heisner), B&L looks like it will take its place among the greats, a hot link on Division.
Start with Ham Roasted Nuts. I'm a big fan of crispy bacon -- attributed to my mother who on Saturday mornings would be laughing so hard at Click and Clack that she would forget to keep an eye on the sizzling meats. I'd end up with crumbly, carbon-y bits of bacon that I grew to love. Somehow at the taste of these peanuts heard a Boston accent cackling away. The Lamb Flatbread is perfect: lamb sausage sliced thin on crispy flat bread, green harissa for a little tang, fried chickpeas for a little crunch and feta cheese for the salt to balance the whole piece. I appreciate the attempt at a salad, as not everything should be wrapped in intestine, but their Romaine salad doesn't quite hit it. The idea is great: crispy romaine, dill-buttermilk dressing, thinly sliced apples and peppery radish, but somehow it just ended up tasting wet and cold. Not quite the warm-up I'm looking for on a cold Thursday night. The simply named Corn Dog should be at the top of the menu, in bold and underlined. Dipped in brioche batter, deep fried and brought to you fresh and piping hot with their house made mustard reminded me of freshly made donuts at the state fair -- you know, the ones where you stand in line for 10 minutes to get them straight out of the fryer. Thin crispy shell with a smooth buttery batter surrounding a salty Vienna Beef dog as a self-declared connoisseur of corn dogs, this one makes top five ever.
Their venison sausage is topped with jalapeños, whiskey-apple jam, beets, pickled onions, sour cream and sweet bacon on challah. Unfortunately, all I could taste was the heat from jalapeño seeds, but once the seeds are removed, it balances back out again and you get to the gaminess of the meat. All of a sudden, the stuffed deer on the wall was giving me the evil eye.The Sheboygan tastes like real Wisconsin: veal sausage, sauerkraut, smoked Gouda, house made beer mustard and black currents on a flat ciabatta-like bread that perfectly soaks up all the delicious juices that you don't want to miss. Pair it with the Petrus Aged Pale, which gives you just enough sour to pucker your palate.
For dessert, head back to the beer menu. B&L will sell you a $2 taster of beer. And $2 for 2 ounces of Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout is the perfect send-off.
Not a dog is over $10 and all are served in your typical white and red checked paper baskets, lined with parchment. I won't toy with you about the beer list. They got a shoutout on BeerMenus.com -- it's a must read. Apart from the Petrus, I had the Cup O' Kyndness, a Scottish style ale from Omegang and Sublimely Self Righteous, a black IPA from Stone. If the recession has shown us anything, Chicagoans want cheap, good, creative food and will pay up for craft beers. Bangers & Lace is giving Chicago just what it wants.
Bangers & Lace
1670 W. Division