A Teeny Tiny Bakeshop Is Feeding Perfect Pastries To Rogers Park
The pastries at Smack Dab. Photo by Heather Lalley
Some of the city's most thoughtfully-prepared, least-pretentious breakfast pastries are coming from a teeny-tiny coffee-bakeshop right off the Morse el stop in Rogers Park.
Even in its infancy, four-month-old Smack Dab draws a steady stream of patrons, including a growing number of regulars, for HalfWit Coffee Roasters drinks and baked goods ranging from cheesy biscuits to super-flaky seasonal fruit tarts.
The shop at 6954 N. Glenwood Ave., run by Christine Forster, 28, and Kendall College and French Pastry School grad Axel Erkenswick, 27, takes care in producing just a few things, but doing them all damn well. (Which is even more impressive given Smack Dab's minuscule kitchen and lack of a commercial oven.)
First up is the ridiculously buttery (they're partial to European butter) cheesy biscuit, loaded with chunks of sharp cheddar and local herbs (make that hyper-local herbs; regular customers bring Erkenswick herbs from their neighborhood gardens in exchange for coffee). On weekends, you can get one of these babies loaded with a scrambled egg.
"This biscuit is rocking my face. Thank you!" one regular exclaimed on his way out the door the other day. Smack Dab only makes 20 biscuits at a time, from a recipe developed after hours and hours of testing.
The shop also specializes in what they call "toast" which is actually a concoction that would make your breakfast toast cry with inadequacy. A thick slice of rich, brioche-style milk toast, baked super-dark in a Pullman pan, gets slathered on both sides with butter, cinnamon, sugar and other spices. It is then baked with sliced almonds on top and drizzled with cinnamon syrup. They'll soon be featuring a savory version of the "toast" with house-made bacon jam.
Forster, who is gluten-free, is particularly proud of Smack Dab's commitment to offering vegan and gluten-free pastries that anyone would want to order. (Witness their perfectly crumbly jam bars and light, spongy brown butter teacakes. On weekends, Smack Dab offers vegan doughnuts.)
"How do we find the balance of good-quality food and pretentiousness?" Forster asks. "Where do you meet in the middle? We take the food seriously but we don't take ourselves seriously."
By Heather Lalley