Do you like bread? Crusty, handcrafted loaves with real flavor? If so, then you need to visit Red Hen Bread bakery in Chicago's Bucktown. Operating a small wholesale trade supplying loaves to various specialty food shops around the city, Red Hen has two stores of its own that feature an inventory of artisan loaves to arouse the appetites of all who treasure yeast-leavened magic, plus sandwiches made from those loaves, as well as a big salad bar (summer) and soup bar (winter).
The location on Milwaukee Avenue is small, but the moment you walk in the door and look at the shelves behind the counter, you know this is a bakery that takes bread seriously. There before your awestruck eyes (and beyond the handsome scones), you see an array of country peasant breads, rugged sourdoughs, great circular loaves topped with caramelized onions, wreath-shaped loaves made with olive tapenade, a glorious walnut/currant baton, and pumpkin /sweet corn / multi-grain bread that makes toast to die for. On weekends, there is bittersweet chocolate chunk bread and a sweet potato pecan, either of which are a virtually complete breakfast.
Now, look to the left. There are the muffins – big, beautiful muffins with broad tops, including dark banana/date, mocha/bittersweet, cinnamon/chocolate muffin, cranberry/wheat, lemon/poppy seed, and a cock-a-doodle carrot.
We make it our business to visit Red Hen whenever we are on our way out of town; it is a great opportunity to stock up on bags full of loaves and sweet pastries to last at least a full day on the road.