by Kate Schmidt
What Schultz is peddling are delicious and unique "stuffed buns," heaps of meaty fillings served on puffy Chinese buns custom baked by Red Hen. There's a daily special based on about 20 rotating options, among them Cuban roast pork, cumin-spiced lamb, jerk chicken, and hickory-smoked turkey with cranberry-jalapeño jam. On my last visit I had the unparalled (in Chicago, anyway) pulled pork with pickled red onion, the moist meat barbecued low and slow.
That's just one reason to return. Schultz offers a regular complement of hot and cold sides: mac 'n' cheese, root-beer-baked beans, a vegetable of the day, and healthy, hearty salads including barley pesto, orzo with feta, and edamame-chickpea. You can also buy the sausages and house-cured bacon that made his name at area farmers' markets.
Formerly head chef with Ringling Bros. (and a graduate of Washburne Culinary Institute), Schultz and his wife, Xin Yuan-Schultz, had been catering and making the rounds of the markets until January of this year, when he opened the front of his Bridgeport facility for business—"I'm here all the time anyway," he says. The shop's name derives from his childhood, when he was nicknamed Spanky after the Little Rascals character. Its specialty comes from an epiphany of Schultz's, to wit, "Every time I eat a Chinese bun the bread's great, the filling's terrible." He set out to change that, preparing most things in-house and using locally raised heritage pork and lamb. To drink there are sodas from Bridgeport's own Filbert's and a ginger beer crafted to the specifications of the Bridgeport watering hole Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar.
Schultz says pastrami and corned beef seem to be Mr. Spanky's "greatest hits" so far, but his own favorite bun is the "Bad-Ass B.L.T.," made with his applewood-smoked bacon, fresh spinach, and a sun-dried tomato aioli: "That's the one where you stop and say, 'Wow, that's a good sandwich.'"
Mr. Spanky's, 335 W. 31st, 312-450-3069, mrspankys.com; Wed-Sat 10:30 AM to 9 PM