Middle Brow Bungalow Review: Carb and Social Justice Heaven

Neighborhood: Logan Square

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

Menu:

  • Bread and Cultural Butter
  • Turmeric Toast
  • Ful
  • Mushroom Pizza

Middle Brow Bungalow is the jack of all trades but the master of all things yeast.  I am not a beer drinker so I haven’t had their beer but I am a huge fan of all things carbs so I have had their pizza and bread.  I first went there for dinner on a quiet Sunday night the week they opened and found myself absolutely delighted with everything about this place.  First of all, the space is open and framed with cheerful-looking plants and has beautiful natural daylight.  They have an area, which is more café-like for doing work and sipping on coffee, a bar area for when you want to voyeuristically watch the mastery of their bread and pizza production, and then a larger sit-down area for a slower meal with friends or some long-needed alone time. 

There’s a mixture of modern-antiqueness to the aesthetic of Middle Brow, which is reflective of their uniforms.  Everyone who works there is donning a retro-chic, blue shorecoat, which harkens back to what French and Spanish artists had worn according to the owner, Pete Ternes.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Ternes for my piece in the LoganSquarist and I was able to learn a lot about the concept behind this lovely brewpub. 

I find it so refreshing how conscious the team is about the gentrification problem in Logan Square displacing families that have lived there for 20-30 years.  Not only are they aware of the problem, but they’re doing things to actually help the community with their free monthly breakfasts for CPS students, families, and teachers along with their social worker program for “at risk” individuals.  I also appreciate their class consciousness, which fed into the title of their brewery, “middle-brow”, which Virginia Woolf had apparently coined years ago and is now known as the “aspirational class” (a term that was recently discussed in a recent Hidden Brain episode).

While their food isn’t cheap, it is high-quality and affordable relative to the other restaurants in the area.  Their fancy, succulent toasts are around $6 and their pizza is around $15.  I also appreciate that they have a vegan pizza and a few gluten-free options illustrating their dietary inclusiveness.  Most of their food is vegetarian, which is extremely refreshing for a brewpub.  As a vegetarian, I found it quite easy to find something to eat because there were so many wonderful options offered. 

Bread and Cultural Butter

Yeah, okay this all sounds great, but you’re probably waiting for the food, so let’s get to the food. The first time I came here, we ordered some bread and cultural butter ($5) and it was divine.  It was a sourdough bread that was oozing with freshness served with a salty, whipped butter.  Something so simple can be so delicious and it was definitely a highlight of the meal.  We also ordered the ful – stewed fava beans served with crudités (basically raw vegetables drizzled with olive oil).  I was excited to see ful on the menu because it is quite rare especially at a brewpub and it added to the eclectic nature of the menu.  It was served with a an adorable, pink hard-boiled egg, which added some heartiness to the dish.  This dish is an aesthetic wonderland for the eyes.  But the ful could have been more flavorful, yet I am critical of this given how I make this at home frequently.  I think adding some more cumin would’ve tied it together nicely. 

Ful

I was impressed with the Mushroom pizza. It was a savory delight with its sweet caramelized onions and gooey fontina cheese.  While pizza crust can be quite heavy, this pizza crust was tasty and very manageable to eat.  I wanted to eat the crust and I usually don’t! The crust was a perfect balance of airy and doughy.

Mushroom Pizza

I also came there for breakfast another day and was equally pleased.  I sipped on their lovely Gaslight coffee and tried their Turmeric toast.  Their turmeric toast was a thick piece of whole grain bread topped with a turmeric jam mixed with cream cheese.  I am not a huge fan of plain cream cheese but the turmeric jam made it super flavorful and I adored the dual sweet and savory notes of this toast. It was unique and very well-executed.  I also tried more of their toast at Sleeping Village’s Deep Breakfast – a monthly brunch event with ambient music.  Their toast was divine along with all of their spreads. Who doesn’t love eating delicious bread while listening to droning, experimental music!?

I am happy to see a new neighborhood spot that is equally delicious as it is socially conscious and run by fellow lefties.  I appreciate that it’s also a café where you can do work while basking in their natural daylight and not feeling rushed. I cannot wait to come here in the summer when they have their outdoor space ready.

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