Quesabirria burger, Sauce and Bread Kitchen

“I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet,” wrote mycologist Paul Stamets. “A consciousness with which we might be able to communicate.” 

Yeah, that’s also kind of how a figurative fungal network operated when Sauce and Bread Kitchen’s Mike Bancroft infused an Italian-style amaro with shitake mushrooms and gave Drew Fox a taste. Invisible threads stretched through the ether all the way to Hammond, Indiana, where Fox bottles Fernet Fungo—aka the next Chicago Handshake—at his 18th Street Distillery.

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Now that branching network is stretching toward Avondale where Bancroft and partner Anne Kostroksi—along with Fox himself—are popping up like, uhhhhh, mushrooms, at the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at Ludlow Liquors.

I’ve been greedily eyeballing this fungal Foodball since I wrote about Bancroft and Fox’s collaboration last month. Bancroft is bringing a thoroughly lysergic smashburger: a loose-meat-style Jake’s Country Meats tête de porc scrapple patty, incorporated with maitake and oyster mushrooms, bound together by a crispy lattice of chihuahua cheese. That’s on brioche with onions, pickles, and special sauce, served with a side of tonkotsu broth. Of course, there’s a veggie version: roasted mushrooms and Barney-purple ube yam duxelles, cheesed, griddled, and served with a side of roasted mushroom broth.

Meanwhile, both of these patties will be served in competing bowls of yakamein, aka the new New Orleans–style hangover remedy Old Sober, with a sunnyside cackleberry, pickled daikon, and corn nut furikake. Bancroft’s also braising collard greens with smoked mushrooms, and serving them up with Kostroski’s cornbread, while her Grandma Benson’s light, airy Wisconsin-butcher-shop-style salted peanut cake with Italian buttercream is coming in for the finish.

Fox will be on hand with free samples of Fernet Fungo cocktails while dexterous Ludlow barkeeps will measure out full pours starting at 5 PM. Walk-in orders for food start at 5:30 PM, and Bancroft will have a stash of Co-op Sauce hot sauces and other dank ferments for sale. That’s this Monday, December 11, at 2959 N. California in charming Avondale. 

There’s one more Foodball to go before the holiday break: Meze Table is going all Greek on December 18. And an all-new 2024 schedule is coming soon . . .