Mr. Spanky's offers artisan Bridgeport food

March 6, 2013 9:38:57 AM PST
Finding an Italian beef or a hot dog in Bridgeport isn't that difficult. But what about edamame-garbanzo salads, or slow-roasted pastrami?

A new shop with the tiniest dining room is trying to put creative, artisanal Bridgeport food on the map. After attending culinary school then cooking for the circus, traveling around the country, it was time to settle down. But unlike a lot of his colleagues, John Schultz put down roots in Bridgeport, where they practically worship anyone named Daley, always show respect for corned beef and drink just about any soda that comes from the Filbert's plant.

John Schultz's nickname as a kid was Spanky, due to his resemblance to the Little Rascals character. But Schultz has turned it into a positive, opening Mr. Spanky's Farm Fresh Artisan Foods in Bridgeport, where he already makes and sells his own applewood-smoked bacon.

"I also do catering for the University of Chicago, so I have essentially two businesses; I thought, I'm here on the corner of 31st and Shields, I love the neighborhood, why not bring Bridgeport the goods," said Schultz.

The goods include massive cured-and-roasted pork belly, which is glazed in a combination of star anise, soy and Szechuan peppercorn. He slices it up, then uses the bacon on a unique BLT, which starts with sun-dried tomato aioli spread on a Chinese bun, then the bacon, and finally, fresh spinach.

Corned beef is also piled high on a bun, topped with braised cabbage and a fresh carrot salad. It's a three week process to make the corned beef, beginning with the brine.

"I braise that for about five or six hours, low temp, 'til it falls apart. Once it falls apart it's ready for my sandwich," said Schultz.

The same briskets are used for his housemade pastrami as well.

"As opposed to braising it, it's rubbed in coriander seeds, black pepper, a little onion powder and then that's smoked for about 8-10 hours," he said.

It's not all pork and beef. Schultz offers a rotating list of about 10 vegetarian-friendly salads.

"We do a black bean, bulgur mango, a lentil salad, edamame-garbanzo salad; do balsamic orzo, feta, couple different dried cranberries, raisins," he said.

Cheddar corn muffins do just fine alongside. Schultz takes a very Bridgeport-centric view of the culinary world, and hopes to grow his customer base from the neighborhood first.

"This is our home, this is where we live, this is where I do business and these are the people I want to cater to all of the time. I'm here for the neighborhood, in addition to the city of Chicago," said Schultz.

Schultz does catering as well, and during the farmer's market season, will travel around town selling his applewood-smoked bacon.

Mr. Spanky's
335 W. 31st St.