I joined forces with an expert, ABC7's Jerry Taft, this week to discover yet another local menu, loaded with all kinds of encased meats.
We've tried the polish - while standing - at Jim's Original, but also the wild boar at Hot Doug's, and even the spicy Thai sausage at Sticky Rice.
But this week, we tackled a new restaurant in a hip neighborhood where the menu features several varieties of artfully-topped encased meats. It's time again for "sausage quest," with yours truly.
At first glance, the vibe at Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park reads more bar than restaurant, albeit one with a Northwoods lodge vibe. The stars of the menu are all sausages, sourced elsewhere, but dressed up with unique combinations. Our first assignment, a "corn dog."
"I don't see a stick going through it," said Jerry.
"There's no stick," I said. "You can see on the side here it's brioche cornbread. They've battered it and fried it, and they've got the garlic sausage inside. There's a little orange marmalade in here for some sweetness."
"Alright, you talk, I'll eat," said Jerry. "Little sip of beer. Good thing this is after work."
"Yeah, it is after work. Cheers! Nothing like a beer and a brat. How 'bout a brat? There's a brat right there! Sheboygan brat," I said.
"Just like you get on State Street up in Madison," said Jerry.
"Right! So this is a veal brat, melted Gouda cheese, sauerkraut, black currants," I said.
The brat is served with a house-made beer mustard, which echoes the impressive list of beers on tap and in bottles. One of the more interesting combos: a smoked venison on an eggy challah roll.
"It's very pretty, it's the prettiest one here I think," I said."I just want to open it up," said Jerry.
"It's a venison, smoked venison sausage, whiskey apple jam, beet, bacon, smoked pecans. Pickled onions, jalepenos, sour cream, wow, there's more on top than there is to the sausage, but let's see what the venison is like. It's smoked, which we both love smoked sausage," I said. "The thing I noticed here, again with the fruit, the marmalade, the jam, giving you sweetness to go with the smokiness."
Speaking of smoked sausage, there's a kielbasa appetizer we both enjoyed.
"This is interesting, this is a little kielbasa, but it's got bacon around it," Jerry said.
"Got a little bacon, yeah. So instead of bacon-wrapped scallops it's a bacon-wrapped kielbasa, which is of course a smoked Polish sausage," I said.
"What's the dip here?" Jerry asked.
"It's a malt vinegar dip. So, instead of dipping fries in vinegar, you're dipping your little kielbasa and your bacon," I said.
"I like that, the combination of the bacon and the dip," said Jerry. "I think all of the sausages have some different combination you usually wouldn't have. It's kind of like a hot dog joint - like a Hot Doug's - as opposed to just goin' to a hot dog stand."
"Well said. Thank you again. I appreciate it," I said.
"Back to work!" Jerry said with a laugh.
Bangers and Lace is open for dinner only but serves brunch on weekends. And with the exception of the foie corn dog, nothing on the menu tops $9.
Bangers & Lace
1670 W. Division St.