Food trends come and go, but fatty pork belly, meaty chops, and most especially, sizzling slices of bacon are riding an unheard of wave of popularity. What the culinary world has exposed, and why we probably won’t see a wane in adoration any time soon, is bacon’s versatility. Chowders are richer with lardon, vegetables sing with bacon fat, and meat retains moisture wrapped in a slice of sow. It’s a veritable salt and pepper shaker that improves most any edible.
Recently, I went around Boston searching for the most mouth-watering bacon dishes. Here are 14 creative examples of chefs and restaurants who seamlessly incorporated the salt and fat of America’s favorite breakfast meat into one outstanding dish.
B.L.T. with Lobster
“Make no mistake, we want the lobster to be the star on the BLT,’’ says sous chef Josh Turka. At B&G Oysters, Barbara Lynch’s outstanding seafood venture, nothing could distract from the ocean-sweet chunks of the Maine crustacean, mixed with celery and a lemon pepper aioli. But the makings of a great sandwich are often in the details. Topped with snappy romaine, house-made bread and butter pickles, Roma tomato confit, and Niman Ranch bacon, B&G’s twist on the classic lobster roll is downright hedonistic.
The mingled juices from the garlicky tomatoes, tangy pickles, and citrusy lobster salad create a savory elixir you won’t mind dribbling down your chin. Fortunately, the toasted Ciabatta, delivered daily by Hi Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, contains most of it. Balancing it all out is the Niman Ranch bacon, one of the more subtly smoky options from the artisanal market. The crispy bacon just adds that final touch of meatiness, spice, and texture that makes B&G’s lobster BLT a damn near perfect sandwich.
550 Tremont St., Boston
The Ron Swanson
Sometimes fries just beg for good ole’ Heinz ketchup. Hot dogs, more often than not, thirst for a helping of yellow mustard and relish. And every once in a while, bacon just wants to dance with it’s yolky, umami partner: the egg.
Named after Nick Offerman’s mustachioed, irritable sage on “Parks and Recreation,’’ Lord Hobo answers Ron Swanson’s surly appeal for “all the bacon and eggs you have.’’ Served with five farm eggs and seven strips of bacon, The Ron Swanson might be a ticking cholesterol bomb, but it’s a worthy extravagance with the dry cured applewood smoked bacon from Zoe’s Meats. Chef Nicholas Gardner describes their choice of breakfast charcuterie as a “deliberate and conscious choice’’ dictated by flavor as well as Zoe’s “principle of making responsibly sourced products.’’
As of now, Chef Gardner doesn’t cure or smoke any of the bacon served at Lord Hobo, but he says it’s “actually a large part of my plans for expansion in the next year. I hope to bring a stronger focus to house cured meats.’’ With Gardner now at the helm, Lord Hobo might be more than the best craft beer bar in Boston, it could be your go-to weekend brunch spot.
92 Hampshire St., Cambridge
Even in great pizza joints, “white’’ pizzas are typically a losing proposition. What often emerges from the kitchen is a bland, cracker-crisp pie, something akin to a communion wafer topped with mozzarella. But Picco’s Alsatian is a brash testament to the quality of their crust, which goes through a cold, slow fermentation, the same process used to make good sourdough bread.
On top is a base of crème fraiche that adds a layer of richness; an actual sauce that prevents it from becoming a glorified bread stick. Inspired by a French tarte flambé, it’s then topped with sautéed onion and shallot, herbs, Gruyere, and two types of bacon. Manager Mark Tikonoff explains, “The first is from North Country Smoke House, which was chosen for its smokiness and the second, from Schaller and Weber, was chosen for its ‘porky’ flavor.’’
Earlier this year, “Travel and Leisure’’ called Boston one of the top five cities for pizza anywhere in the United States. Even against all that stiff competition dripping with red sauce and bubbly, Neapolitan crust, Picco’s Alsatian just might be the best of the bunch.
Price: $23.50 for a large
513 Tremont St., Boston
Park Restaurant & Bar
Cambridge’s Park Restaurant & Bar has the feel of an upscale hunting lodge and with Chef Mark Goldberg’s meat-laden menu you can imagine Ernest Hemingway dining on game hens in the corner. Despite a profusion of meat pies, lamb, and brisket, Goldberg has a delicate touch that incorporates acid and balance. This holds especially true for the popular Bacon 3-way, a rotating cast of small bites made with thick cut bacon from Old Country Smokehouse and Goldberg’s occasional house-made lamb variety. Currently on the bacon board are a pork belly with crispy brussels sprouts, sourdough flapjacks with bacon and housemade apple butter, and chocolate covered maple bacon.
59 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge
Spoke Wine Bar
At Spoke, the best way to partake in Felisha Foster’s carefully curated list of esoteric wines is to pair those euro-centric goodies with Chef John DaSilva’s upscale bar bites and seasonal delicacies. The former sous chef at No. 9 Park has recently added his take on porchetta, the traditional Italian roast, typically made with pork loin wrapped in herbs and pork belly. Spoke’s rabbit porchetta is a lean, deboned hare, stuffed with a rabbit sausage and wrapped in strips of bacon. Rabbit can often be tough and stringy, but Chef DaSilva’s slow-roasted rabbit is succulent and sweet and accented beautifully by the saltiness of the bacon and the herbaceousness of the fennel-studded sausage. The porchetta is served with an airy puck of seared roman gnocchi, olives, mustard jus, and a delicious pecorino aioli that you’ll want to bring home by the industrial-sized tub.
89 Holland St., Somerville
Roxy’s Grilled Cheese
Green Muenster Melt
At this point, along with Clover Food Lab and Bon Me, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese are Boston food truck veterans. After competing on the second season of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,’’ James DiSabatino and his brother Mark came home to much fanfair and excitement. But the only menu item that still remains from those early days is the Green Muenster Melt. Made with a hefty dose of oozing muenster cheese, homemade guacamole, and crunchy applewood smoked bacon on top of Iggy’s organic pan de mie bread, James DiSabatino isn’t far off when his calls it “the perfect storm of deliciousness.’’
Check the website for locations
The Angel Gabriel
In this trend for all things pig-indulgent, smoke and pork fat have even crept into the laboratories of adventurous mixologists. But too often these misguided concoctions go down like a greasy oil slick or a saturation of liquid smoke in perfectly good bourbon. But Church’s Angel Gabriel is a hearty libation built for battling Hollandaise sauce and the lingering miasma of Saturday night debauchery. The secret ingredient in this brunch-only bloody mary is the bacon-infused vodka, a house-made spirit macerated with bacon, rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaves. Instead of a gratuitous helping of smoke and pork, Church’s infused vodka is a savory goulash that enhances their signature bloody mary mix, a balanced blend of fresh tomatoes and spices. In a playful final flourish, The Angel Gabriel is garnished with a celery stick and a “fried baby Jesus,’’ a deep-fried cherry tomato wrapped in bacon. When you’re at Church, put down those sugary flutes of mimosas and enjoy a truly great bloody mary.
69 Kilmarnock St., Boston
Union Square Donuts
Maple Bacon Donut
Union Square donuts co-owner Heather Schmidt is quick to remind you, “I’ve never worked in the back of a commercial donut shop, so I have no idea how they produce what they do. Here we’re using whole milk and really good eggs and butter. I look at what we’re doing as making pastry. That’s my background.’’
The Clear Flour alum’s yeasted donuts certainly attest to that, with fluffy, croissant-like interiors and glazes like sea salt bourbon caramel and stuffed varieties like nectarine almond jam. What put Union Square donuts on the map, though, is their maple bacon donut, the perfect combination of salty and sweet that Schmidt calls “a pancake breakfast in one convenient location.’’
Made with maple syrup from Bobo’s Mountain Sugar in Vermont and thick-cut Leidy’s bacon — “none of that thin, wimpy bacon,’’ says Schmidt — these addictive treats have inspired countless minions. Union Square makes up to 150 maple bacon donuts everyday and they sell out well before noon. To put that in perspective, that’s over 700 donuts or enough for Union Square to go through 120 pounds of Leidy’s bacon per week.
Union Square Donuts
16 Bow St., Somerville
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Colorado Angus Burger
It might seem blasphemous to recommend anything other than chowder, lobster rolls, or briny bivalves at Island Creek Oyster Bar, but owners Jeremy Sewall and Skip Bennett have secretly been harboring one of the best burgers in Boston. “The burger is amazing here,’’ says chef Nikki Hobson. “It’s honestly what I order when I’m not in the kitchen.’’
Made with a flat top cooked Colorado Angus, sharp Grafton cheddar, a freshly baked brioche bun spangled with sesame seeds, and house-cured maple bacon, you’ll be leaning more toward the landlocked side of surf and turf next time you visit ICOB. You can’t go wrong adding the optional horseradish mayo and fried oysters, but what really pushes this into the pantheon of great burgers is the fresh, hammy flavor of the bacon, cured for 4 days in garlic, rosemary, thyme, and Vermont maple syrup and oven-smoked over applewood chips.
500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston
Pommes Frites with Bacon Parm dipping sauce
Inspired by the Belgian-style frites shops Saus owners Tanya Kropinicki, Renee Eliah, and Chin Kuo visited in Brussels and Amsterdam, the hand-cut fries at this Faneuil Hall hotspot — served alongside rotating selections from Ommegang, Allagash, and Night Shift — are some of Boston’s best late-night fare. But with dipping sauces like sharp cheddar spiked with Duvel and Samurai Saus (chili paste and mayo), you’ll want to sneak over to Faneuil Hall’s cobblestoned streets whenever possible.
The most popular accompaniment out of a dozen options (and growing) is the Bacon Parm, a viscous gravy made with applewood smoked bacon and heaping amounts of parmesan. You’d swear this decadent concoction was thickened with flour or corn starch, but Kuo swears it’s simply the massive amount of cheese blended with sweet, smoky bacon. One of these days, I’m going to indulge my southern roots and slather it all over Island Creek Oyster Bar’s flaky, buttermilk biscuits, but its ideal mate lies in the salt and starch of Saus’s perfectly cooked frites.
33 Union St., Boston
Curley’s Cracka Jack
Chef Sam Monsour has brought comfort food to the next level. Even the craft cocktails and beer backs take a backseat to snacks like pickled-deviled eggs with tasso ham, a fried chicken dinner served with Doritos Ranch “ranch,’’ or late-night ice cream sundaes tossed in Fruity Pebbles, Goobers, and rainbow Nerds. But what really taps into our insatiable inner child is the Curly Cracka Jacks, a caramel candied popcorn with roasted peanuts and salty bacon bits. Each kernel is coated in a fine layer of brown sugar and bacon dust and holds up remarkably well to jm Curley’s fantastic selection of hops, whiskey, and amaro. Oh, and to maintain authenticity, the Curley’s version of the ballpark classic contains a prize in every pouch.
21 Temple Place, Boston
Union Bar & Grill
Brioche French Toast Stuffed with Fig & Bacon Jam
French toast is a stalwart of the brunch table, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. If prepared properly, it’s essentially a fried bread pudding, crispy around the edges and creamy on the inside. But too often, what shows up on weekend breakfast menus are flaccid, feeble slices of white bread drowning in a pool of egg wash and corn syrup.
Not Union Bar & Grill. Their Brioche French Toast consists of thick slabs of buttery Levalee Brioche fried to a golden brown, slathered with real maple syrup, and stuffed with a filling of chunky fig and bacon jam. The results are decadent, but with the earthiness of the dried figs and the faint smokiness of the bacon balancing it all out, Union’s French toast is a treat that could make a sweet tooth out of all of us.
1357 Washington St., Boston
The Salty Pig
Pate de Campagne
If anyone knows swine, it’s The Salty Pig, who uses every cut to make all manner of salamis, chorizos, headcheeses, and rillettes. Of the many delectable options from their “salty pig parts,’’ none is more impressive than their pate de Campagne, a country pate made from pork shoulder, garlic, fennel, and heavy cream. Wrapped in slow-roasted bacon and served chilled, the effect is like a mild Italian sausage draped in lardo. Dab a wafer-thin slice on top of a crostini with grainy Dijon and you have some of the most satisfying bar food in town.
130 Dartmouth St., Boston
The Bacon Truck
Sam Williams and J.J. Frosk debuted their Bacon Truck at SOWA in September, and these food truck alums (Williams managed Lobsta Love and The Paris Creperie and Frosk managed Grilled Cheese Nation) certainly didn’t skimp on any of the ingredients in their first original project: homemade habanero garlic pickles, whole brined turkeys, slow roasted and basted in bacon fat, and original condiments like their spicy Dijon.
The concept might seem gimmicky, but with a menu that includes something like The Bacon Truck’s tater salad, a riff on a Williams family recipe with bacon drippings in place of butter, it seems that every detail has been well thought out. No doubt, The Bacon Truck’s signature item will prove to be the turkey bacon brie sandwich or their candied bacon dipped in Nutella (the pair said these have been the two most popular items at catering events), but I anticipate hunting down their turkey club, served on Iggy’s sourdough, during the weekday lunch rush.
In lieu of unnecessary sourdough (they consciously leave off the third slice of bread), Frosk and Williams pile on extra arugula, avocado, tomato, Blackstone bacon, a chimichurri aioli, and turkey. Follow these guys on Twitter (@BaconTruckBOS) — that way, you can try their wonderful, ever-expanding menu for yourself.