Bleeding Heart Bakery & Café
1916 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago
It’s so ironic, Fellow FoodBeest. Retro represents many things to different people. And at different times.
In the 1980s the hip new joint in town was Ed Debevic’s, a retro 1950s-style diner in Chicago’s then-hip River North. The whole point of going was to be part of the shtick of a bunch of gum-chewing pink-uniformed cute young out-of-work actresses who wait tables there as they sing on tables, sling burgers your way and insult you while Buddy Holly, Elvis and the Everly Brothers rock-a-billy blast on the overhead speakers.
I figured that was retro. Retro was my first brain pattern to be shattered at brunch. Sweet.
Today the hip new joint in town is the Bleeding Heart Bakery and Cafe, a retro 1980s style diner in Chicago’s now-hip Ukrainian Village. The cute, young black-clad out-of-work actresses who wait tables there assault you with smiles and brightly frosted cake balls as icons of punk rock like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash blast overhead.
Where the Barbie-pink and black and white checkerboard walls are not hung with funky guitar sculptures in Bleeding Heart, they are covered with today’s kitchen aphorisms:
“There’s No Crying in Pastry”
From our table we watched two pastry chefs in the glass-enclosed open kitchen baking box in the front of the place as they cooked, chatted and embraced visiting friends. On shelves over their heads sat Day of the Dead icons interspersed with Star Wars figures like C-3PO and Dungeons and Dragons figures.
The Punk Rock Brunch is my reason to go to Bleeding Heart Bakery. But if you’re someone who prefers to start the sweet stuff in the morning, you might have another reason.
So let’s talk about the food. That’s why you’re here, after all, Fellow FoodBeest.
Bleeding Heart uses mostly organic and locally sourced ingredients – for which I cheer. I happen to be a savory gal, myself, so the sweet stuff does not necessarily hit my sweet spot.
Mr. FB and I have been there several times for brunch and we have enjoyed the Farmer’s skillet: two eggs over seasonal veggies (in this case, red peppers, potatoes and mushrooms) with an astonishing creamy mushroom gravy that I would have lapped up out of the bowl. In a similar mode, we have tried the root vegetable hash.
And then we tried Vinnie’s Mom’s Chilaquiles with ancho refried beans, queso fresco and pico de gallo. Also the Fried Green Tomato Benedict: country ham and bacon hollandaise on a toasted brioche (the truth was I missed having an English muffin, but it wasn’t a deal breaker).
And, in an effort to have not missed much, we also had the omelet with goat cheese and micro green herbs that was served with an apple slaw: perhaps a tad too sweet (you may be noticing a theme developing here).
Mr. FB asked for some jam for his bread and was served a very red gelatinous strawberry concoction.
“Taste this,” he said.
I did. It was very sweet. Very. But not very jam-like. Black-clad waitress told us it was the filling for a pastry.
If you’re thinking about dying young (but happy) there’s even – are you ready? – a deep-fried donut sandwich. They take a vanilla bean yeast doughnut, layer it with ham, bacon, or sausage, add a fried egg and cheese, batter it with tempura – and then deep fry it. I kid you not. Fellow FoodBeest, I was intrigued, but I didn’t have the courage.
The coffee is good and it’s strong.
But if you are someone for whom sweets are THE THING, you want to know that husband and wife owners (and pastry chefs) Michelle and Vinny Garcia have set out to destroy your any existing brain patterns concerning what to expect from cookies, cake balls, scones, and – especially donuts!
You think you know donuts? Hah! Brain patterns-be-gone! And Dunkin and Krispy Kreme, eat your hearts out.
I couldn’t wait to try the perfectly named Death of John Waters: The Divine Donut. It’s a huge doughnut that is deep fried then soaked in syrup made of Jim Beam and maple syrup. Then it is dipped into chopped bits of Nueske’s bacon that has been cooked and then glazed with more maple syrup. If you don’t know who John Waters is, well, google it.
But to my shock, I didn’t love it. It was too sweet for me. Neither did Mr. FB. “It’s intense he said, “like intense sweet.” The bacon helped (oh, Lord, that bacon helped), but I couldn’t really get into the overwhelming sweetness of it. The truth was I couldn’t actually taste the whiskey at all. I figured that the death of John Waters must have been (or would soon be) caused by sudden onset diabetes.
Other amazing types of doughnuts include the Los Angelos espresso fused chocolate donuts – baked in chocolate liqueur, glazed in mocha syrup and topped with a chocolate “cigarette.” And no, I don’t know why a pastry with all that espresso is called the Los Angelos and not the Manhattan.
Chicago Blues yeast donut features fresh opal basil and crushed seedling farms blueberry glaze. No, I don’t know what it has to do with Chicago either.
The Punk Rock Princess is a lemon-filled pink hibiscus donut with strawberry glaze. That I get.
There were more, but I think you get the picture, Fellow FoodBeest. Every brain pattern you already have about pastry gets broken here. I think that’s a good thing.
I know some people crave sweets, but if sweets were a sin, there would need to be a confession box instead of a baking box in Bleeding Heart.
Bleeding Heart also has locations in Chicago’s Roscoe Village, Oak Park, and Elmhurst. If you’re nearby, check it out. Let us know what you think.