Where everyone now eats.
Almost a year ago, Chicago, was blessed with yet another eating establishment that was sure to be in your regular rotation once you ate there. Even better than this was the fact 'The Pleasant House Bakery' didn't open up downtown, in River North or Lincoln Park but rather Bridgeport. A neighborhood that's known more so for being the home to the southsides pride and joy, the now Ozzie-less White Sox rather than hot food spots. Well the White Sox will suck this year as will baseball in Chicago. But that doesn't mean you cant get something good out of going to 35th and Shields when you go see the Sox play. You get to eat at Pleasant House.
Already a locals favorite at 31st and Keely
Actually you don't need a reason, like an invite to a White Sox game, to go to Bridgeport and try the pie place that's taking this neighborhood into the next millennium. Where it sits on 31st street at the corner is right next door to another great local stop, Maria's Community Bar. Here you can find some top notch American micro brews you wont find many other places and bring them in with you to Pleasant House. Better yet you can also order food from the Bakery and bring it with you into the bar at Maria's. There hasn't been a eat-drink side by side punch like this since Glascott's and the Athenian Room allowed one another customers to by the other.
Pleasant House is ran by a wonderful team including the owners, both husband and wife. This is their take "British blue collar food" However these are classically trained chefs so lets not assume this is how amazing it is at your average pub in the Borough of Brent. Everything is here is taken to another level and made with the love and passion to have for what it is you day that makes places like these so special. It's not just the food they take to that level but also the housemade sodas and the bath and body products like lip balm and salts. In fact the owner/chef and some friends have their own urban garden where many of the produce used for the dishes at the restaurant come from. Inside it's small but the tables turnover quick and as mentioned you can always order to eat at Maria's Bar next door.
The main attraction at PHB are the 'Royal Pies' and they live up to the hype, all you gotta do is ask around. I don't remember a place that was agreed upon as great by as many people in a while. They make three different pies regularly and each is available until they run out that day. The first one we'll take a peak at is the Chicken Balti. This is a classic English take of a chicken pot pie in which they include curry powder. According to another article I read on PHB this particular type of curry is specific to Birmingham England and was brought over by Pakistani immigrants. Along with the chicken and curry it has additional spices including cumin and cardomon and also tomatoes added in. This English version of chicken pot pie does not include cream but the side of chutney that it comes with might be better than cream anyways.
Chicken Balti Pie
Possibly my favorite thing on the menu is the "Pleasant Poutine" as I call it. Described on the menu board as "Deluxe Gravy Chips" this is a mighty bowl of many eats. The twice fried potato wedges get covered with real housemade gravy, chopped tender bits of skirt steak and then shreds of real cheddar are dropped on and allowed to melt which makes this one of the best potato based dishes anywhere. They don't do it like this in Canada, not when I was there anyway. What would piss the Canucks off more, not winning the gold in hockey or not having the best poutine in North America?
Not only wouldn't you expect to find a place like PHB in Bridgeport but you would think that if you did, they would be meat-centric based. Maybe a sausage shop in the mold of Hot Doug's? But that's not the case as they continue to push the norm. I haven't had the pleasure of trying one of their fresh green salads for the day but they get the same raves that the kale and mushroom pie (veggie friendly) does and some people, even the meat eaters, claim this one as their favorite. Let's just put it this way, if I ever became a Veg-Head, PHB would be an option. Let me just say this too, it always will be an option and those options will always include cold pork pot pie, Steak & Ale pies and sausage rolls too.
Inside the Kale-Mushroom Pie (Pic by: Ronnie_Suburban @LTHforum)
The regular menu pie for the beef lover is their Steak & Ale offering. Inside goes all natural beef, ale, carrots and herbs. As far as my favorite it just depends which one I feel like. The crust on all of the pies is as good as it gets when it comes to flaky greatness and as KennyZ from Fuckerberg on Food said over at LTH "Not much to add to what's already been written, but Pleasant House makes what is to me the platonic ideal of a pie crust. They make it difficult to eat pie from anywhere else." Thursday and Saturday of each week is 'Special Pie Day' where a pie filled with other great flavor combinations (not on the regular menu) is featured. I'm waiting for a classic American Chicken Pot Pie 'Pleasant House Style' to be offered on Pie Day (wink, wink).
Steak & Ale Pie with Buttered mint peas
Oh yes it's the pies that shine especially when your an English 'bakery' serving dinner style pies but that's not all they do here folks. Each night they're open (Tues-Sun.) they have a specials night on the menu. Tuesday is burger day and as anyone who's a regular reader on here knows...I am the Burger King. It took me quite a few Tuesdays to pass by before I could finally get over there for what many people were calling "one of the cities best" When I did make it over to try the burger special it was excellent. One of the more desirable burgers over $10 I've had from anywhere and it was only a buck or so above that. House ground chuck is served on an English muffin with housemade bacon, cheddar cheese and a fried egg as well as greens from the garden.
Tuesday Burger Special
Then there's also the Scotch egg's which are magnificent. These too are the best variation of this dish that I have seen and that's due to their cooking process. They manage to make them so that the egg yolk inside the hard boiled egg with sausage wrapped around it is still runny. I've never had one served this way before but I now believe all places should make Scotch Eggs like these.
A Pleasant House Scotch Egg
I cant decide what night is my favorite specials night but I can tell you their Friday night fish fry is among the best in town. You see a trend here? I'm always on the prowl for a good offering of Fish n' Chips and when I heard about PHB and how good theirs was it was what finally got me in. I was there for the fry before I ate a pie and it was then and there I realized how good the rest of the menu must be. It took me back to Bayfield WI as I was surprised to find my expertly fried piece of fish, sitting atop a mound of potatoes for which you can say the same, was Lake Superior whitefish. Top it all off with homemade tarter sauce and it's a reason to go to every Friday night White Sox home game going on this year if your a season ticket holder. Just know the fish is as good as it will get. Yes I know, no need to comment, Cubs suck too. Agreed.
Friday Night Fish Fry Special
Where's the Pie truck? @PHbakery
Then there's Sunday's. 'Carvery day' starts at 3p right after high tea begins. That's served around 2p with reservations required for tea but not to eat the weeks house roasted meat selection which comes served alongside house sides. On a Sunday I stumbled in they happened to be doing a take on 'Porchetta' and it was phenomenal. The carvery dinner costs a almost double what most other menu items do but this was a huge piece of pork cooked until tender enough to not fall apart. Inside it was stuffed with herbs and seasonings but this was not boneless and came cut from the loin bone in. You can see it but cant taste. Cheers to Pleasant House and a long, long southside run.
Sunday Carvery Day (A take on Porchetta)
Pleasant House Bakery
964 West 31st St
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 523-7437 (PIES)