When I read about Bangers & Lace (B&L) in the RedEye, I was initially intrigued by the name. Is it a British pub with high quality food? Do pubs with scrumptious, gourmet grub even exist? Yes, it definitely sounded like an upscale bar. The word “lace” alone elevates and makes it sound sexier— less common than meat and potatoes. But, I couldn’t quite figure out if my impressions were correct from the article. Then, our friends invited us to meet them there one night and told us that it was in Wicker Park.
If you’ve never been to the Wicker Park/Bucktown area, let me enlighten you: it is the hipster capital of Chicagoland. It is what Silverlake, Los Feliz and Echo Park are to Los Angeles. It’s the Mission District of San Francisco… the Portland of Illinois. Young, fashionable Apple-users with incredible haircuts live there. They all manage to imitate an “I don’t care how I look” style with ugly eyewear and/or with purposefully mismatched garments. Ironic t-shirt and loud scarves abound. Thus, when I found out that Bangers & Lace was in Wicker Park, all the pieces came together: I knew it would try to live up to its name. This was going to be fun. Bring it on, hipsters.
Unlike the Damen and Milwaukee intersection, the corner of Division and Milwaukee was not as infested with Ray Bays. Less Williamsburg and more like a passé East Hollywood dive-bar neighborhood, the milieu on our way over was calm except for a few scattered pockets of indoor activity. B&L was one of those pockets. It was surprisingly empty on the outdoor patio yet filled to the brim from the doorway to the back alley. Seating is up to you, which takes a combination of audacity and keen intuition when finding the right people to hover over. I have practiced this skill well holding tables at Father’s Office in Culver City. The crocheted curtains in the windows of B&L reinforced the classiness with which I found my table. I sat down in mere minutes and held chairs for four people.
The Father’s Office parallels became more pronounced when we ordered fries. It comes with Taleggio cheese dip, not ketchup. I made a comment about how this dish cannot possibly live up to the sweet potato frites at FO. The next time I opened my mouth, it was to let a chip down my pie-hole. At first taste, it was enough to make me embarrassed. FO has some competition. It was FREAKING DELICIOUS. Who would have thought that fried stuff with melted cheese would taste so good? As I look down at the menu again, I am in awe that this tasty and generously portioned plate of potato heaven is only $4. Cheese-stuffed tater tots at Umami Burger, you have officially lost my kudos.
After drinking my cider, my pals showed up. I was excited and encouraged to order another dish off of the menu. With my diet, I am limited. There were a lot of sausage items including vegetarian dogs, which reminded me of Wurstküche. I did not fail at bringing this up in conversation. On the first sip of my second cider, I agreed to stop name-dropping and pointing out analogous restaurants in L.A. My eyes then focused on the chopped salad. I asked the waitress to modify it to omit the turkey sausage and smiled when she agreed to honor my wishes. I didn’t get a headdress decoration made of beets atop lettuce. Instead, I got exactly what I imagined. I ate it happily.
Side note: the bathrooms here are unisex and fabulous. They are cedar-lined and the floor creeps up onto the wall to meet a photographic mural of a deciduous forest. These bathrooms are clean and spacious. They are quite the experience for sitting on the ol’ John. You will be transported out of hipster-land, I promise.