The Run Down

This guide is part of our Good Bites series, and we're venturing out to pick up fresh ingredients to make a classic BLT -- our summer sandwich of choice. While you can head to Mariano's to get ingredients for a decent BLT, we're looking for greatness, and greatness starts with a quality tomato and fresh bread. We're headed to Logan Square on our quest for these items. We begin with a trip to a French cafe to grab bread and to have a morning coffee on the cafe's tree-shaded, side yard patio. Afterwards, we make our way down the block to a Sunday farmers market to get the rest of our BLT provisions.  Here are the details.

1. Coffee and Bread @ La Boulangerie

2. BLT provisions @ LS Farmers Market

1. La Boulangerie

It’s Sunday morning in Logan Square and the scent of fresh coffee and buttery pastries attracts a crowd. They are lined up and waiting to enter a French cafe and bakery called La Boulangerie. This is where you start on your quest to make the most incredible BLT you’ve ever had.

La Boulangerie has an interesting history, one that spoke to the cutthroat nature of the food business. The bakery started as a humble shop back in 2010, but a spat with their landlord, who also happened to own a rival coffee shop and was trying to limit the number of croissants La Boulangerie could sell, forced them to leave in 2014.

But instead of leaving the neighborhood for good, La Boulangerie returned a few years later, setting up shop across the street from their original location.

To enter, you’ll step into their side yard where you’re enveloped in a serene oasis that seems to transport you to a quaint garden in the countryside. The sun dapples through the leaves of the surrounding trees, casting a warm glow upon the homey and relaxed summer-time patio.

But you’re not here for the ambiance alone, you’re here for the bread. Specifically, you need a sourdough boule for your BLT sandwich later in the day. It’s soft, just the right density, and baked fresh every day.

While you’re here, you can’t resist the temptation of a cup of coffee and a few pastries. The cream puff is particularly tempting. Instead of the usual whipped cream filling, this variation comes with a creamy custard in a crispy, powdered sugar-dusted casing. It’s magnifique. 

As you indulge in your treats, you can’t help but notice the cozy corner table near the back. It’s definitely the best seat in the house.

And if you’re looking to revisit, there are even a few outlets outside – perfect for those taking advantage of their remote work situation and looking for a temporary outdoor office.

But as much as you want to stay, it’s time to move on to the next stop in this guide.

2. Logan Square Farmers Market

Just across the street from La Boulangerie is the site of the Logan Square Farmers Market.  Nearly 40 different farmers’ markets operate in the city, but Logan Square is one of the few that operate year-round.

Come mid-May, the outdoor season begins, and the market comes alive. It makes Chicago feel like a small town but with big-city energy.

While navigating through the maze of vendors, remember that we’re here for BLT sandwich provisions.

First up are the tomatoes. A great tomato is at the heart of any good BLT sandwich, and the summer season is when heirloom tomatoes finally make their appearance.

For you foodies out there, this isn’t news to you, but for those scarred from eating those mealy, slimy, plastic-looking tomatoes you get at chain grocery stores, these heirloom tomatoes will change your perspective on how a tomato should taste.  It’s supposed to be hearty, fresh, and have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity.

Here’s an excellent article to dive into this subject further. A word of caution — this may lead you down a rabbit hole where you feel compelled to research the ins and outs of the Big Tomato industry. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you what you need to know — we’re being duped.

Now that my tinfoil hat is back in the drawer let’s get back to this guide.

Heirloom tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Unless you know exactly what you want, ask the folks working the stalls what works best with BLT sandwiches. We ended up at the Piedt Farms stand, and they picked out a few dark purple heirloom tomatoes and some lettuce that was great for our sandwiches.

On the bread side, La Boulangerie sometimes has a stall at the farmers market. You can get all your sandwich provisions in one trip if they’re on location that day.

Keep exploring for any other goodies that catch your eye. There are always a few butchers that have stands there as well. You can pick up bacon from any of those stands, but I wouldn’t dwell on that decision too heavily. Any thick-cut bacon will do for your BLT.

With all of the ingredients assembled, take it all home and feast. For tips on preparing your ultimate BLT, here’s a video with some helpful pointers.