Bacon, Bacon, Bacon …

Chicago area restaurants compete for the best BLTs

It’s tomato season, folks, and you know what that means: the best BLTs of the year.

Various Chicago chefs are bying for top-BLT honors during The 2009 Old School BLT Bonanza.

But picking out which BLT – or “bacon, lettuce and tomato” sandwich – deserves top honors will be tricky. There are too many to choose from.

Plus, building the best sandwich isn't as easy as bread, mayo, tomato, lettuce -- and what else? oh yeah BACON -- because there's a catch to competing.

Chefs are required to use only locally grown heirloom tomatoes and locally grown pork. Any other culinary variations are up to the chef, but with competition at restaurants like The Signature Room, Blackbird and Socca, creativity is a must.

Chef Phillip Foss of Lockwood in the Loop has a more elegant variety of the standard BLT, creating a cylindrical roll stuffed with spigarello leaves and served over a spicy sauce made of Leaning Shed heirloom tomatoes.

“I have a hard time calling it a BLT on the menu as I’m not sure our guests will ‘get it,’” Foss said. “I’m not sure if I even do.”

As long as there’s bacon, we definitely “get it.”

The incorporation of locally grown food items is a mutually beneficial dining experience: our tastebuds are satisfied with bacon-y goodness and local restaurants like, Pizzeria Via, increase their BLT sales 830%. Seriously.

Eaters of the bacon sandwiches could even win a free bottle of wine if they tweet a picture of a BLT sandwich at a participating restaurant before the end of Friday.

The BLT Bonanza is a part of the Chicago TomatoFest  2009. The festival started at the end of May and encourages the sale of locally grown tomatoes during summertime -- the prime growing season of the featured fruit (or vegetable?).

TomatoFest Chicago gives away heirloom tomato seedlings during the festival and has donated about $1000 to Slow Food Chicago and The Garfield Park Conservatory.

The festival ends in September right when the tomato-growing season wraps up.

So get on it, Chicagoans; bacon's a'calling our names this month.

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