Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Homey Bourgeois Pig Café Warms a Winter Chill

Bourgeois Pig Café: (Lincoln Park) Chicago
738 W. Fullerton Pkwy.
(773) 883-5282

I'd just locked up my bicycle and ducked into the Bourgeois Pig Café with my pal Oakley for a bite just as the new snow began accumulating. We sat in one of many wood-detailed rooms on the Café's second floor. Inside, this old brownstone looks like it could have been someone's home. It feels like it almost still is. A painting of a jester hangs under a candle-topped fireplace across a sofa from our table. The warm feel, even cosier in the other rooms - they lack southern light coming into this one - lends itself perfectly well to cap an amazingly long day of exhausting work. The counter on the first floor - with espresso machine, tea jars to pick from, and bakery cases below chalkboard menus - takes orders in back of small wooden tables in the front.

Upstairs, someone calls out my name, I answer and my sandwich arrives with a pickle. My Veggie Panini on focaccai is super crisp with cheeseless basil pesto, artichoke hearts, slightly savory black olives, tomatoes, red onions, spinach and cilantro (omit cheese for vegan). Another panini, the Peppernini, with roasted red pepper pesto and roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, garlic, and grilled portobellos mushrooms (hold the goat cheese and ask about this pesto for vegan) reads "Marvelous darling!" on the menu.

East of Eden tastes brilliant on its sundried tomato bread with avocado, alfalfa sprouts, "lots of fresh homemade vegan basil hummus," black olives, tomatoes and spinach (hold the Swiss cheese for vegan). If somehow you could pass up the full mouthfeel that hummus gives a sandwich with avocado, the Secret Garden still has avocado but no hummus, plus alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers on multigrain bread (hold the cream cheese for vegan).

You could forget bread altogether if you'd nix the pita in the plain or basil hummus plate that comes with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, red onion and celery and carrot sticks.

I cycled back past many beautiful brownstones just as the snow started accumulating on the side streets I coasted along. As I turned from one calm street to another, I slowed with a squeeze of the back brake to forget about sliding in the snow. The Cortland Avenue bridge's non-slip bike lane works brilliantly, as does leaning against the angle of the railroad tracks crossing before it. Bicycle fenders kept the snow away from all of me but my boot tips. At Oz Park, I hopped onto the snowy path past smiling snowbound pedestrians and a hill full of happily sledding children as could be in some winter wonderland where small soft flakes forever drop and give all of the townspeople bliss.


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