I'm headed to Chicago this weekend. Where should I grab a few loaves from?
Good luck with that. We've looked and looked and tasted and tasted. Best we know of is Labriola out in Lombard. They've been Corner Bakery's (and others') wholesale baked goods supplier for years and recently opened their first retail joint. Wood fired oven right in the middle of the restaurant, mostly used for pizza. Best loaves in Chicago area we've found.
But I'm ALL EARS to hear what others have found in Chicago. There are more arguably "artisanal" (go head TFLoafers - argue away on that :-) bakeshops (4) in our flyspot of a rural burg than in all of Chicagoland, from what we've found. As I've said here before, WFM is invariably disappointing.
[nb: Our 4 local "artisanals" do hand-make their breads but unfortunately none is particularly good nor at all consistent :-( Mid-west bread standards are abyssmal in general, Madison and Ann Arbor being notable exceptions]
Head to Publican Quality Meats and try their bread. The bread is excellent and the sandwiches are amazing. If they have the "Ham & Rye" available, be sure to order that. There's also a Publican restaurant (sit down affair) that's worth visiting for dinner or lunch if you want something more fancy.
Other places on my short list:
Recently named one of "The 10 Best Baguettes in America" by Bon Appetit magazine. (I tried posting a link, but it would not allow me to do so. Google for "bon appetit 10 best baguettes" for the rest of the list.)
Floriole Cafe & Bakery 1220 W. Webster Ave., Chicago; 773-883-1313; floriole.com
I was in Chicago recently and ate at a PotBelly sandwich shop. If you stop there, be sure to grab a jar of the hot peppers!
We second Nate's recommendations. We can also recommend the handmade bread, baked in a clay oven, at Argo Georgian Bakery. Tiny little place. We consider it the best in Chicago (next to the loaves we taste at meetings of Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers :-).
tubaguy63, if you'll be still be in Chicago on May 20th, we'll be having a meeting that afternoon, and you're most welcome to join us.
Great to hear about Floriole. We've tried to get in there twice but keep missing their opening hours. Next pass through Lincoln Pk for sure.
Argo? La Boulargerie? Hendrickx? Publican? Man, this is great. Lots of new options!
Lucky to have organized amateur bakers. Jealous about that. I don't think all three in our burg could ever find each other :-)
And if you want cheese to adorn those slices -- Marion Street Cheese in Oak Park. Hard not to connect with a good one there.
we loved floriole when we were last in chicago, some stupendous pastries and a very nice space as well. i don't think we got any bread there, however. is the red hen still around, in lincoln park? i remember being pretty fond of their baguettes, but haven't had them in years now.
We were in Chicago last week and made a point of sampling city breads - not just Labriola's in Lombard (still recommended). We bought loaves at Floriole (Lincoln Park), Hendrickx (Gold Coast) and m.henry (Andersonville). We also saw some nice looking loaves at a bakery on the top floor of the 900 N Michigan Ave shops, but didn't buy any there (breaded out by then). Whole Foods' (Evanston) breads also looked pretty good for once. We were there early in the morning, earlier than we usually hit a WFM. They now have a couple of trendy 'Ancient Grains' breads in the lineup.
Floriole had a Miche, a Batard and a Sourdough. We bought the former two, planning to return the next day for the Sourdough, but didn't. The batard, below, was -- how shall I say -- an intense, serious loaf. Baked beyond chesnut, very dark. Reminded me of Peter Reinhart's prop in his Ted talk. Dark. Fairly stiff crumb with nice flavor.
The Floriole miche (left, below) didn't fit my impression of a miche. I thought miche's were, above all, low and wide -- big loaves. Floriole's isn't. It's less than a pound, I'd guess, a funny little shape and not very 'more-ish' in flavor, for us at least. Has an unmistakable other grain note, maybe spelt. Disappointing. On the other hand, Hendrickx famous monster loaf (right, below) was a kick, and truly a festive loaf (as opposed to Floriole's serious batard). An entire (4 kg?) loaf sells for $37, but they sell halves and quarters. We bought a half. They wrap in orange paper. It's light, indulgent and thoroughly enjoyable. Surprised to see some streaks of unincorporated flour - from shaping on bench probably. Hamelman would ding 'em for that. I won't. Highly recommended.
Finally, we were pleased to discover a bustling upscale breakfast/lunch spot, m.henry, at the north end of Andersonville when we were looking for a cuppa before pillaging investigating Gethsemane (Chicago's best nursery, a block north). m.henry offers a small variety of breads and we bought a sourdough boule, below. It was terrific in both crust and crumb. Mild sourness. Great discovery. Don't know if they bake on site or outsource. Regardless - first rate loaf.
So I retract my previous claim that good bread is hard to find in Chicago. It isn't everywhere to be found, but it is to be found, and enjoyed.