My mom was in town last week, and usually when she visits, we go to The Dining Room at Kendall College, but it wasn’t open. So, we decided to try a new restaurant: Pleasant House Bakery. A co-worker had just given me an article about the opening, and I was keen to try it for two reasons. First, the restaurant has its own urban farm scattered on several lots throughout the city. Second, it specializes in savory, British-style pies, and G. and I ate a lot of those when we were in New Zealand last year.
The bakery is in Bridgeport, which is south of the city center. Mom and I took the bus and then walked about a third of mile. We could have easily missed it, the building is so tiny and nondescript. It looks like a little gray shack. But right next to the door was a chalkboard with the day’s special pie, chicken in red wine with mushroom. Someone had drawn a couple of chickens to illustrate it, and Mom thought that was adorable. She ordered the special pie.
I ordered the chicken curry pie, and we decided to share a salad with greens, radishes, carrots and other items from the restaurant’s farm. We ordered an ice tea soda _ which was a homemade soda flavored with tea. Owner Art Jackson makes his own syrups for his sodas.
We sat down, and our sodas arrived. Then we got excited, and Mom went back and ordered the minted peas and a bowl of British “chips,” or fries in the U.S.
If you go, order the peas. You must order the peas. They are the best ever. I have mint in my garden, and I need to learn to make them that way.
Anyway, we ended up with a pile of food, and we ate it all except for a few chips I just couldn’t finish. We had planned to have dessert — the toffee bread pudding looked awesome — but we were way too full. I’m going to try to exercise some restraint and forego the chips when I take G. so that we can have dessert.
The pies were fabulous. They are high, rather than wide as in New Zealand. I loved the curry, but I think the special pie with red wine and mushrooms was even better. I was hoping Mom would trade me half of hers for half of mine, but she didn’t offer and she wolfed that pie right down. I had just a touch of food envy.
Since we were the only ones there in the late afternoon, we got to meet Art. He told us about the garden plots that make up the farm. One is in raised beds in a parking lot in front of a commercial building the owner wanted to beautify. Another is in what was an empty, overgrown weed patch. A third is a kind of community garden. The nice thing about the farm is not only does it supply fresh produce, but the mere existence of the gardens improves the neighborhoods around them.
The restaurant is inexpensive — by Chicago standards, very inexpensive. It’s only been open a month and a half, so there are no lines. I predict that doesn’t last. I have a feeling this place is going to catch on, and soon we’ll have to carry out because we won’t be able to get a seat. Luckily, they do take out. You should go. Go now. You won’t regret it.