What comes to mind when I say “Hot Sauce?” Sriracha and Cholula? What about when I say “Bread?” That moldy loaf that’s sitting on top of your fridge? Yeah right, push those clowns aside because I’m talking about the real deal. Sauce and Bread Kitchen (SBK) is located at 6338 N. Clark St. — a very quick bus ride from campus taking the 36, 151 or 155 CTA bus line — has hot sauce and baked goods made locally in Rogers Park. Local Midwestern ingredients, superb craftsmanship and collaborating with other small Chicago businesses all make SBK a Rogers Park must-try.
Mike Bancroft and Anne Kostroski are the owners of SBK, a collaboration of Mike’s hot sauce company Co-Op Sauce and Anne’s baking business Crumb Bread. Both chefs started out selling their products at farmers markets in Chicago. When Mike and Anne began dating, they realized they could join their businesses into one, thus planting the seed for what is now SBK.
Upon entering the open and sun-lit space, I was immediately drawn to the gigantic chalkboard menu. Descriptions written under every menu item highlighted the accoutrements that make each dish shine. A dozen or so tables occupied the floor on the other side of the room. The front windows allowed the sun to shine through and illuminate the exposed brick walls and the hot sauces along the shelf.
The three of us nuzzled up at the corner end of the bar and began chatting.
Mike has been making hot sauce since 2003 through his company Co-Op Sauce. At the same time, Anne was baking and selling bread and pastries at farmers markets around Chicago. They were working out of the back of a bar where they would build and refine their craft. Mike and Anne soon realized they needed a bigger kitchen space. That’s when SBK was born.
Mike said that their menu was inspired by the supper clubs at their old space behind the bar. Mike and Anne got local ingredients from farmers markets and experimented with their baked goods and hot sauces. When they moved to Rogers Park, the surplus of space and kitchen area made it possible to add a cafe. Mike said the business from the cafe helps them connect with local farmers and collaborate with small business owners.
I can wholeheartedly say the food doesn’t disappoint. I devoured the daily special — mushrooms, cold-cured sausage, corn and pepper relish, tomatoes and cucamelon served on sourdough bread with a sunny-side-up egg submerged in-house gravy. The dish was bursting with flavor. The cucamelon — a small grape-sized fruit that tastes like a cucumber — added a slight tart note that complimented the smoked sausage and gravy. The corn and tomato popped with each bite and gave the dish a wave of freshness. The mushrooms and sausage gravy gave a rich and deep savory background to the fresh produce and crunchy bread.
The availability of seasonal produce and one-off concoctions is what gives the standard menu such variety.
“What gets us moving [with our dishes] is what we can find at the farmer’s market,” Mike said when he was explaining the addition of cucamelons in the daily special dish.
Mike recommended I splash some “Jack-o’-lantern” hot sauce on the dish. Made with chocolate habanero peppers and roasted pumpkin, it added smokiness and heat to a wonderful breakfast dish. The bread served as a fantastic vessel to soak up the gravy and hot sauce. This could be a universal cure for a hangover or a bad breakup.
I asked Mike and Anne if they were at all interested in opening up another brick-and-mortar location. Anne said, without hesitation, “No!” and the three of us burst out laughing. The restaurant business is cutthroat and Mike and Anne know it best.
Anne explained staffing has been an industry issue for the past few years.
“We have a friend we spoke to the other day at The Publican. … They’ve had ads up for three months and they’ve got nothing.” Whenever you go bigger, you need money from investors — some wiggle room for a rainy day. It just doesn’t make sense to open another location and they seem very content with their current space.
When asked where they see themselves in five years, they both jokingly said they’d be retired. Mike and Anne are also interested in exploring the cannabis market after legalization is concrete in Chicago. Anne makes a bar called the Munchie Bar which at the moment is with honey, butter and oats. Both Mike and Anne expressed interest in exploring the possibilities of developing a cannabis line of their pastries when legalization occurs. Due to the legality of cannabis edibles in Chicago not yet being recreational, they have put that plan on hold until legalization becomes official. I hope they succeed because I’m craving some gourmet edibles.
SBK was created by two passionate and kind individuals. It’s evident they wear their hearts on their sleeves. I could taste in their food the love they have put into their craft.
My meal was $15 with the daily special and an iced coffee. All of their hot sauces are available at SBK or any Whole Foods in the Midwest. Their website is www.sauceandbread.com. Check out their monthly events at the restaurant that supports local charity groups in Chicago and their ever-changing seasonal menu on their website.