There's more to the menu at the new Belly Shack in Logan Square than meets the eye. Beyond the obvious Latin-Asian fusion going on, at the restaurants heart, there's a Korean chef and his Puerto Rican wife, who have turned to an Iraqi bakery in Rogers Park to make some one-of-a-kind sandwiches.
Throughout the day, the smells of warm, baked dough fill the tiny Eastern Breadstone Bakery in West Rogers Park. They mainly focus on two types of Iraqi bread: frisbee-sized tandoor, bubbly and soft, and diamond-shaped samoons, which take just a few minutes to bake in the gas-fired, brick oven.
The bread is used for all sorts of purposes, and you can see that on the inside, riddled with pockets of air, they would make outstanding sandwiches or pouches for savory fillings.
That's where Bill Kim comes in. The chef and owner of Urban Belly has made that bread the centerpiece of his new restaurant, Belly Shack, tucked under the Western Avenue stop on the Blue Line in Logan Square.
"Kind of take the things that I grew up with that were street food related, and what Yvonne my wife grew up with, and marry the two together," said Kim.
Kim's Korean side comes out in the form of thinly-sliced, marinated beef short rib that's grilled, topped with scallions, fried onions and chili paste, then served with wedges of the tandoor bread, which turn into vehicles for adding the beef and making your own snack.
Other times he'll briefly grill the bread, then dress it with curry mayo, sundried tomatoes and Chinese black beans, then stack it with filets of grilled tilapia.
"The flavor, just really tasty seasoned well, and its something that's soft and not a lot of people are doing his breads," Kim said.
The samoon is put to good use in an Asian "meatball" sandwich. First, balls of ground pork are topped with fresh mint and cilantro; the samoon is stuffed with rice noodles, dressed in Vietnamese fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar, as well as a bit of mint. The pork meatballs go on top, then Kim sprinkles on a few fried onions for crunch, and a little more fresh cilantro and mint.
Kim says he tested a lot of breads for his menu, and the ones from West Rogers Park easily stood out.
"It didn't matter to me what it was, as long as the taste was there. That's what mattered to me the most," said Kim.
The menu isn't all sandwiches, there are soups and some Puerto Rican touches like garlicky tostones.
For dessert there is highly-addictive soft serve ice cream, with toppings ranging from huckleberry lime to chocolate chip cookie pieces embedded with bacon.
Eastern Breadstone Bakery
2818 W. Devon Ave.
1912 N. Western Ave.