Baker & Nosh: Uptown's artisanal bread, cheese shop

March 21, 2012 9:48:50 AM PDT
A new wave of bakeries is popping up in Chicago -- one of the best, Baker & Nosh, is in the unlikely neighborhood of Uptown.

East Wilson Avenue is known more for its student traffic, from nearby Truman College. The neighborhood is a little rough around the edges, but two partners decided it was time for a serious bakery in the area.. And they've created a haven for handmade, artisanally-inspired bread that rivals anyone in town.

Few sandwiches have back stories. In the case of the generous, well-made sandwiches at Baker & Nosh, Uptown's first-and-only artisanal bread shop, they're a major part of the menu.

"A neighborhood bakery where customers could purchase handmade breads but also I wanted to bring a cheese aspect into it as well and just a small retail line," said Bill Millholland, co-owner of Baker & Nosh.

Millholland works with seven different kinds of dough there: from delicate ciabattas and handmade baguette, to more sturdy multigrain loaves. The ovens get a serious workout, as the day starts around four a-m. But with respect to those sandwiches, they really start here, on the butcher block, shaped by hand and baked off each day.

"The crust is crusty but the inside of the bread is just so soft, and we think it makes a great texture for a sandwich," he said.

Each crusty-yet-soft loaf yields two sandwiches: choices range from a hearty roast beef with pickled red onions, white cheddar and horseradish mayo to a healthy red pepper hummus with tomatoes and cukes. The generous ham and Swiss with peppery arugula and honey dijon mustard is a definitely a standout. They also make a pair of flatbreads each day.. here it's tomatoes or artichokes.. and the house coffee is strictly La Colombe. Watching Millholland work, you notice immediately how he gingerly works with certain doughs.

"After the dough rises and proofs, there's all of this gas in it and it's very, very delicate, and if you over manipulate the dough then it just deflates," he said.

It's not all savories here.. Millholland also offers a compact list of sweets, such as large (or mini) fruit tarts, usually some type of muffin and always some sticky buns; rolled up with sweet honey-butter and crunchy nuts or raisins, then placed onto a sheet tray with more honey, butter and brown sugar on it.

"Once they're done we take them out and flip them over so the honey butter just sort of melts all over the top," said Millholland.

And later this spring, they'll also be able to open their quaint little patio on the side of the building.

Baker & Nosh
1303 W. Wilson Ave.
(773) 989-7393