The Ultimate Bacon Guide
Talk about pigs: Americans ate 1.1 billion bacon servings during the 12-month period ending April 2014, about 6 percent more than the previous year, according to market research firm the NPD Group.
We’re not just eating more bacon, we’re also making better bacon (consider the proliferation of artisanal bacons and chefs curing their own bacon in house) and finding creative ways to enjoy it. There’s bacon butter, bacon soda, bacon-infused booze, and bacon ice cream, to name a few inspired iterations.
New York’s BarBacon is entirely devoted to porky provisions, especially the country’s best bacons, which can be paired with flights of craft beer or bourbon. You can get your bacon to go, as at Bacon Bacon, a popular food truck that roams the San Francisco Bay Area delivering bacon-fried chicken, bacon burgers, and bacon, belly, and butt tacos.
There are dedicated bacon brunches and bacon happy hours, and even a bacon challenge. At Paddy Long’s in Chicago, many have tried (and most have failed) to consume the famous five-pound bacon-wrapped bomb in 45 minutes or less.
Eating bacon doesn’t have to be a sport though. Bacon goes haute at Nashville’s Bound’ry, where it is dehydrated, pulverized, and used as a faux breadcrumb for a fried tomato salad. And it joins forces with another, if improbable, food trend—toast—when paired with puréed peas, mint, and olive oil at Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia.
In short, if you’ve thought of a way to consume bacon, we guarantee you someone else has, too. Here, an ode to America’s bacon mania.
All-Bacon Meal: Sage General Store, Queens, NY
Bacon is always on the menu at this new American café in Long Island City, but diehards show up for the three-course bacon brunch. It kicks off with a trio of bacons: Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, Dewig’s slab bacon, and Ham I Am! peppered bacon. Diners have their choice of mains like grilled bacon-and-cheese, mac-and-cheese-and-bacon casserole, and Wisconsin breakfast pizza with caramelized onions, ricotta cheese, crème fraîche, and (naturally) bacon. A sweet-and-savory bacon brownie finishes the meal off.
Bacon Happy Hour: Bad Decisions, Baltimore
Chef-owner John Reusing describes his Fells Point spot as a bar with a bacon addiction. The low-key neighborhood joint is known for its monthly bacon nights, when offerings might include bacon-wrapped Vidalia onions with bacon onion dip, bacon satays, and bacon Bloody Marys. Even the non-bacon drinks are quirky; the Bee Sting is mixed with mead and cider.
Bacon on Wheels: Bacon Bacon, San Francisco
This food truck doles out bacon-accented comfort foods like bacon burgers; bacon fried chicken; and bacon, belly, and butt tacos, plus sweet treats like chocolate-covered bacon and bacon caramel corn. No wonder its Bay Area–wide reach stretches as far north as Larkspur and as far south as Sunnyvale.
Bacon Challenge: Paddy Long’s, Chicago
Five pounds of ground sausage, pork, and beef wrapped in brown sugar bacon and slow cooked, the bomb is intended to serve a table of six to eight—unless you’re after bragging rights. If you can eat the entire thing in 45 minutes or less, the glory of a Paddy Long’s T-shirt, a place on the wall of fame, and a free meal (the bomb) are yours. Warning: many (89) have tried; only six have succeeded.
Bacon Cocktail: Grange Restaurant & Bar, Sacramento, CA
Ryan Seng, the adventurous barman at the Citizen Hotel’s Grange, loves to get crafty with his seasonally driven cocktail menu. A crowd favorite? Tusk, a twist on a Boulevardier that pairs bacon-infused vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Buffalo Trace bourbon with a garnish of candied bacon.
Bacon-Wrapped Anything: The Gorbals, Los Angeles
There’s something so wrong and yet so right about the bacon-wrapped matzoh balls (also made with rendered bacon fat instead of vegetable oil) at Ilan Hall’s restaurant in downtown L.A. The menu, inspired by the Top Chef winner’s Scottish-Jewish heritage, includes a variety of other cultural mash-ups, like latke and pork belly hash, gefilte fish and chips, and Manischewitz-braised pork belly.
Bacon Breakfast Sandwich: Mike & Patty’s, Boston
In Boston’s Bay Village, Mike & Patty’s quickly became a neighborhood institution after opening in 2008. A go-to for breakfast and sandwiches, the joint puts a California-style spin on the classic breakfast sandwich: thick-cut bacon, eggs, and cheddar with avocado, red onion, and spicy house mayo on multigrain bread.
Bacon Burger: Slows Bar B Q, Detroit
This Corktown destination does just about everything well, from paprika-and-ancho-chile-rubbed baby back ribs to cheddar-smothered chili cheese fries and gooey mac-and-cheese. Its patty-melt-style burger, served on white toast, with smoked Gouda, house-made barbecue sauce, onions, and thick-cut bacon, is no exception.
Bacon Dessert: Charbar Co., Hilton Head, SC
The most typical bacon pairing when it comes to dessert is chocolate—and the Smokey Bacon Bourbon Pie at this upscale burger joint has that in the form of an Oreo piecrust and a chocolate drizzle. But this souped-up ice cream pie also throws in plenty of other adult pleasures: Buffalo Trace bourbon, a shot of espresso, roasted pecans, and Benton’s bacon all blended with vanilla ice cream. First introduced as a special in spring 2013, the sweet-salty treat is now a menu mainstay.
Haute Bacon: Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
At his eponymous restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, chef Greg Vernick has an entire section of the menu dedicated to toast. “It’s a blank canvas to come up with really cool toppings,” he says, among them, peas and bacon—specifically puréed peas with mint and butter smeared on sourdough, topped with house-made bacon, and finished with fresh chopped mint and olive oil.
Bacon Pancakes: Little Goat, Chicago
Inspired by bánh xèo, a type of Vietnamese pancake that you can get on the street, Stephanie Izard’s Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancake Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing is a mash-up of all of your favorite breakfast foods—bacon, eggs, pancakes—plus kimchi, with balsamic vinegar on the side for drizzling. Little Goat’s anytime-is-the-right-time dish goes just as well with your morning-time cuppa as it does with an after-work beer.
Non-Pork Bacon: Underbelly, Houston
Chris Shepherd is known for his ingredient-driven, Houston-inspired food, especially when it comes to seafood. But the 2014 James Beard Best Chef Southwest is equally savvy when it comes to meat. Case in point: Underbelly’s smoked lamb bacon sausage, which he serves with braised cabbage, on a pretzel bun or over bacon-braised greens.
Chicken-Fried Bacon: Sodolak’s Original Country Inn, Snook, TX
In East Texas, near College Station, the tiny town of Snook (population 511) is on the map thanks to Frank Sodolak’s chicken-fried bacon. It’s debatable whether or not Sodolak invented the dish, but his version—six pieces of thin-sliced bacon, lightly breaded, deep fried à la chicken-fried steak, and served with country gravy—is crispy, flaky, and sublime. 9711 Fm 60 Road East, Snook TX 77878; (979)272-6002
BLT: Big Bad Breakfast in Birmingham, AL
The menu at BBB, a new outpost of John Currence’s Oxford, MS, breakfast and lunch spot, is virtually identical—which means you can (and should) order the Big Bad BLT. His simple, but superior take on the classic sandwich combines mash-and-brown-sugar-cured bacon with lettuce, tomato, and house-made Tabasco aioli on thick-cut white or wheat bread from a Portuguese bakery in New Jersey.
Non-BLT Bacon Sandwich: Cochon, New Orleans
Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, the co-owners of this pig-centric spot, know a thing or two about porky products. Their house bacon—made from Berkshire-Duroc hogs, cured in brown and white sugar and salt for 10 days, dried for two days, smoked for eight hours, and then dried for another day—is even better when paired with crispy, corn flour- and cornmeal-dredged oysters on sourdough white bread.
Bacon-Centric Restaurant: BarBacon, New York City
This Hell’s Kitchen newcomer has abattoir-cool décor (exposed brick and concrete, butcher-paper menus) and an intensely porky menu that highlights the best bacons from all over the country. The best way to start: the beer and bacon flight, which pairs four types of artisanal bacon with four five-ounce pours of craft beer. Next up? Montauk corn, lobster, and bacon chowder.
Bourbon-Flavored Bacon: Templeton Rye Duroc Pigs
There’s no shortage of chefs pairing bacon with bourbon or even soaking bacon in bourbon—the salty, fatty pork product is a natural mate for brown liquors, bourbon in particular. But the Templeton Rye Distillery is definitely the first to raise bourbon-flavored pigs by feeding them dry distillery grain.
Creative Bacon: Bound’ry, Nashville
The bacon panko fried tomatoes are both a hammy take on a traditional southern dish and a deconstructed riff on the iconic sandwich. Bound’ry chef Philip Shyatt soaks the bacon in bourbon and dehydrates it to create a breadcrumb. The tomatoes are then dredged, fried, and paired with iceberg, cucumber whipped egg yolks, little gems, snap peas, and Sriracha.
Bacon Salad: Smoke, Dallas
Nearly every item on the menu at Tim Byres’s smoke-centric restaurant is cured or smoked on a mesquite-fueled grill or a vintage Appalachian cold smoker—including the house bacon. Made from pork jowl for its superior marbling, the salty, smoky meat pairs perfectly with the tart acidity of pickled cucumbers, sweet chiles, and mustard in the Pork Jowl Bacon salad.
Bacon-Wrapped Bacon: Fig, Santa Monica, CA
Ray Garcia’s Santa Monica restaurant is so committed to market-driven cooking that his menu categorizes produce under headings “just arrived,” “in peak season,” and “coming soon.” But even the freshest vegetables may not be able to sway diners’ attention from this bacon double-hitter: braised slab bacon wrapped in a layer of bacon, crisped on the griddle, and accompanied by arugula, tomatoes, and avocado.