While we all celebrate Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s 2nd birthday during these two current weeks -- today, September 14th, is HBFC's actual birthday. Two years ago today, we opened the doors and the rest, as always, is history.
Today was also the first day in the clear after a marathon six or so weeks of work for me, my co-chef Josh, and our hard working staff. It was the first day that I can remember in recent months that I felt like I could… just breathe. I had nothing on my agenda other than buy new chef shoes. (That, and an afternoon appointment to see if Heather, massage therapist extraordinaire and mender of damaged bodies, could mend my damaged chef hip. TBD on how that works out.)
My former chef shoes were damaged in a basement flood at HBFC last week, on my own birthday no less, so I headed up to Andersonville’s Alamo Shoes to replace them. It’s funny, but it seems that I only get up to Andersonville when I need new chef shoes. And I realized, as I got into my car, the last time I went there was right after the HBFC opening. New chef shoes -- solid bookends to the last two years.
Heading north from Logan Square, I got an unexpected drive up memory lane. The park where I took my dog to play many years ago. The office/warehouse where I worked as a wine sales rep before going to culinary school. Neighborhoods I used to live in. Restaurants I used to eat at. Bars I used to drink at. The people I spent time with in those places. Twenty years in Chicago, seen in flashes as my car passed them by, playing out unexpectedly on a golden sunny fall morning. The Milk Carton Kids streaming, providing the unexpectedly perfect soundtrack. The timing could not have been more meaningful. On the 2nd birthday of my restaurant, arguably the thing that changed everything the most, all the memories of the last two years flooding my mind as well. What thing to behold -- the passage of so much time, revisited in a thirty minute drive.
Armed (footed?) with new shoes and a head full of memories, and finding myself conveniently uptown, I decided to buy myself breakfast at Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club. It’s a new place for me, as I’ve only known about it for a few months, but I felt the pull to go there today. It's the place my friend Nora took me when she was in the midst of dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the awfulness of going through chemo, and we laughed a lot and talked about so many hard things. It’s also the place where our friends gathered to celebrate when she was done with treatment. It’s a place where life is lived and also honored.
As sentimental as the attachment is, there are other good reasons I like to eat there. Namely, they have INCREDIBLE chilaquiles. Served with roasted plantains, rice and beans, and eggs, the chilaquiles come wrapped in a banana leaf, smothered in salsa verde and with a healthy handful of cotija cheese. And the bread pudding french toast -- indulgent, doused with powdered sugar and orange coulis, but so worth it, even if you don’t typically go for sweets.
The place is quaint but not kitschy, bright but with soft light, comfortable but not homely. It reminds me of one of my favorite breakfast places in the world, but much closer to my house. The vibe is of a small, unpretentious neighborhood joint. Seating is half wooden chairs, half church basementy-type folding chairs. There seems to be a loose deer theme in the wall decor, which I’m curious about. There are flowers and creamers and sugars on the tables, and I like that. I didn’t notice any of the details on previous visits. It’s not often that I take the time to soak a place in, but I’m glad I did today.
I sat quietly and I wrote. I ate delicious chilaquiles. I was grateful for the good food and service, the day free of commitments, the new shoes -- and two year old HBFC, the little restaurant that could that I couldn’t be more proud of.
As it turns out, HBFC gave me a birthday present today. A lovely memory at Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club, made on a day full of memories.