Long before the fast-food chains brought us mass-produced breakfast flatbreads and biscuits filled with freeze-dried, processed, Bac-Os-like substances, Bridgeport’s Bruno’s Bakery was serving up Bacon Rolls. A soft dinner roll fresh-stuffed with generous portions of real bacon—fat, grease and all—they come roaring out of the hot oven every morning, and the day’s batch is usually gone by ten. It is the type of food that Jurgis Rudkus, the Lithuanian main character of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” would have scarfed down in the pre-dawn hours on the way to his shift at The Stockyards. In fact, Bruno’s is located about four blocks away from Chicago’s last slaughterhouse, Chiappetti Lamb and Veal. In business for over fifty years, Bruno’s was around during the final days of Chicago’s “Killing Floor.” Located on an almost unknown street, Lituanica, (one block west of Halsted), Bruno’s is nestled into a building located in the middle of the block. Bruno’s is a reminder of the era when, from Little Italy on Taylor Street, to the Greek’s in Greektown, to the Jews along Devon, to the Swedes in Andersonville, to the Germans on North Lincoln Avenue, dawn in Chicago meant hot ovens and the wonderful smells of an ethnic neighborhood bakery on almost every block. Bruno’s old wooden shelves are stocked not only with bacon rolls, but their special recipe for Lithuanian sour rye bread. Thick, hearty and full of grains, it is darker, heavier and has much more flavor and texture than its anemic, albino cousin Polish Rye (also sold at Bruno’s), and it’s much more dense and unique than high-end bakery sourdoughs. With the 2009 closing of Healthy Foods, Bruno’s also represents the final vestiges of Lithuanian culture and heritage in Bridgeport.
3341 South Lituanica
Best of Chicago 2011