Pleasant House Bakery, 964 W. 31st St., (773) 523-PIES, pleasanthousebakery.com
We don’t really understand the Red Coats, so we took a trip down to Chicago’s Ol’ Wee Britain (Bridgeport, for the uninitiated) to figure out what all the fuss was about. Confusion hit us like a Poppins to the face. Pleasant House Bakery, our asses. Where were the pies this country was founded on? Apple, peach, cherry and the rest of our favorite gas station Hostess Fruit Pie flavors were all absent. Instead they had concoctions like Steak and Ale, Chicken Balti and Root Vegetable. But because the Golden Girls at Maria’s next door don’t serve arbitrarily-priced food, we had no choice but to go all Benedict Arnold.
Luckily, as far as we can tell, British food is just dry-humored American food with a jacked-up grill that drives on the other side of the road.
They’ve got what they call a “premium pasty”, not so different (in concept) from the ubiquitous hand pies in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The execution is a whole different story, as the soggy dough and minced mystery meat of our past gets replaced with a buttery crust and juicy hunks of steak. Rather than douse it in ketchup, the Brits use something simply and euphemistically titled “Brown Sauce.”
Those monarchical bastards also have “royal pies,” four inbred menu mainstays and a weekly special every Thursday. However, a Root Vegetable Royal Pie is nothing more than a Vegetarian Chicken Pot Pie. Culinary colonialism if you ask us, but a damn good one at that. They’re flaky. They’re brightly flavored and fully savory. They’re nothing like anything you could buy from Stouffer’s. Spend the extra 50 cents to get the coriander chutney and you’re good to go. Just do us a favor and wash it down with an American brewski.
We’ll excuse their parliamentary procedure and insistence on the metric system as long as we can get meat pies like these and watch Karl Pilkington. If you’re a real self proclaimed f-word, you can even welcome these Brits to Chicago by supporting them over at LTHForum’s Great Neighborhood Restaurants nomination. But don’t get it twisted: Vegemite still tastes like shit.