With the exception of pubs, it has been fairly hard to find restaurants serving up English Welsh and Scottish inspired cuisine in Chicago. That is, up until recently. Popping up on the restaurant and food truck scene are mobile meat pies and pasties, both representing a long tradition that hasn't been well represented here in the US.
Pleasant House Bakery is taking on that vacuum head on. Repeatedly dealing with questions regarding their "Royal Pies" and their relationship to their American cousin the "Pot-pie" they always are willing to inform and share informations about both their wares and their preparation to any willing to listen.
"It is kind of like a pot pie, except its crust is the pot," explains Art Jackson, co-owner and chef of Pleasant House Bakery.
Likewise his excitement and pride also show in the way he talks about their ingredients. "We have several gardens located throughout the community, to ensure our ingredients are as fresh as is possible," he continues. His wife and co-owner of Pleasant House, Chelsea, also showcases their homemade sodas they serve: ginger-ale and hibiscus, also made with natural and fresh ingredients.
The pride the two of them share in their establishment is clear, and it certainly shows in their work. We ordered a butternut squash and pine nut Royal Pie, along with a premium steak pasty. For a side we got a bowl of UK styled "chips". Finally we decided to take up Chelsea on her offer to try their homemade ginger-ale.
The royal pie was delicious. As a fan of all things meat related, I tend to have high standards for dishes that do not include any. However, this pie was perfect. It was flavorful, fresh and cooked to perfection. The squash was rich and buttery, sweet and smooth. The pine nuts added a nice crunch, in addition to a nuttiness which fleshed out the flavor palate well. Binding the flavors together and providing just the right amount of tanginess we small bits of goat's cheese mixed in to the filling.
And the crust was perfect. Stiff enough to hold the pie together, but not overly so, it would flake apart and had just the right amount of chewiness.
The same could be said for the crust of the pasty. Less stiff and thinner than the crust of the royal pie, it held together enough to carry its filling well and allow one to eat it without mess, but tasted delicious and delicate.
The filling of the pasty was delicious as well, and it was very noticable how much the owners desire freshness out of their ingredients. The vegetables and meat were all cooked to perfection with the delicious flavors of a fine beef stew mingling in my mouth.
The chips were perfect, much like our understanding of large "home-fries." They were cooked perfectly. Crisp on the outermost shell, and the inside of each one was tender and creamy.
Finally, our ginger-ale was easily the best we had ever had. Even though the ginger was very strong, its quality and freshness kept it from being overpowering, even for Celia who normally doesn't care for the taste of ginger. It was delicious and refreshing, and I have craved one ever since we left.
This is a restaurant that is easily worth my recommendation. It is quaint and intimate, yet with enough room for families to sit down. The staff is helpful, and overall this restaurant is one that truly lives up to it's name.