Saucy sandwiches at Sauce and Bread Kitchen | Bleader

Saucy sandwiches at Sauce and Bread Kitchen


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grilled cheese, Sauce and Bread Kitchen
  • Mike Sula
  • Grilled cheese at Sauce and Bread Kitchen

When I last checked in with Mike Bancroft, he was pushing a line of three excellent hot sauces in order to fund Co-op Image, the youth arts-education center he founded on the west side. Since then the sauce business has been very good to him—and to the arts center. Today Co-op Sauce is an independent business, with a full line of ten sauces (plus short-run seasonal and collaborative ones), as well as vinegars, salsa, barbecue sauces, and pickles, all produced with a bounty of locally grown produce. And Bancroft has moved operations out of the cramped west-side arts center and into a dedicated kitchen in Rogers Park that he shares with baker (and girlfriend) Anne Kostrowski of Crumb Chicago. He still steers half the proceeds to the kids and employs a number of them in sauce production, monthly Stew Supper Club dinners, and operation of the cafe, which runs out of the front of the space four days a week. It has a tightly focused menu, featuring a handful of sandwiches, a salad, coffee, sodas, and a selection of Kostrowki's baked goods, including the "bread board," a choose-your-own sampler of breads and spreads.

smoked turkey sandwich, Sauce and Bread Kitchen
  • Smoked turkey sandwich on demi baguettes at Sauce and Bread Kitchen

As far as the rotating sandwiches go, it's Kostrowki's breads that advance them into destination worthiness. "Hoagies" are built on demi baguettes that might sandwich thick slices of smoked turkey, house-made bacon, feta, and chowchow, the last brightened by guajillo and tamarind, or roasted eggplant with pimento cheese, pickled fennel, and radicchio marmalade. The thick, buttered slabs of semolina boule that clad the grilled cheese—made with pimento spread, Chihuahua cheese, and mint-walnut pesto—haunt my dreams.
vinegar experiments in Mike Bancrofts laboratory
  • Mike Sula
  • Vinegar experiments in Mike Bancroft's laboratory

Naturally, you can accent them with any number of Bancoft's sauces. He's become a mad scientist of the hot-sauce arts, experimenting with fermentation and barrel aging (he incorporates house-made shio kogi in the barbecue sauce). I'm particularly keen on the newer Brass Monkey, a homage to banana ketchup spiked with chocolate habaneros and red jalapeños, and the Green Mash-Ine, a tart potion of aged serrano and Melrose chile mash, fermented poblanos, green pumpkin seeds, and house pickle brine, activated by Belgian beer yeast. It reminds me a lot of Yuzu-it, even though Bancroft says there's relatively little citrus in it. "That's gotta be the fermentation," he told me. "The beer yeast colliding with the lactobacillus."

Here's a recipe for steamed artichokes with Green Mash-Ine, developed by Mario Maldonado, one of the kids who work with Bancroft.

Green Mash-Ine Artichoke

4 medium artichokes
1/2 cup butter melted
3 T Co-op Green Mash-Ine Hot Sauce
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs


1. Trim the stems from the artichokes, and remove the small leaves from the bottoms (the choke).
2. Slice about an inch off the top so that it is flat.
3. Pour 2 cups or an inch of water in a large pot, and insert a steamer, cover and bring to a boil.
4. Allow them to steam for about 15 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the stem.
5. In a cup or a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and Co-op Green Mash-ine Hot Sauce.
6. Drizzle the mixture over upright artichokes, being sure to dribble into all crevices. Then sprinkle bread crumbs across the tops and steam.

Sauce and Bread Kitchen, 6338-40 N. Clark, 773-942-6384,

Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.