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Smack Dab stirs lip-smacking biscuits, heart-healthy meals with social justice

Twice a month, Smack Dab in Rogers Park hosts community dinners, where all are welcome to eat regardless of their ability to pay.

Smack Dab stands out for its healthy, organic handmade food along with the owners’ passion for social justice and community outreach.

And, then there are the delicious biscuits. Those addictive cheesy herb biscuits that stand out from the lesser breaded side dishes.

The biscuits at the Rogers Park cafe are made with yellow and smoked white cheese from Wisconsin, premium European butter, buttermilk, non-GMO flour, local honey and herbs —parsley, sage and rosemary. Cut into squares, the baked crust gives way to an interior that’s a hybrid of a scone and biscuit — not too dense or overly flaky but resilient yet springy.

The elevated yet casual menu at Smack Dab features “Life Changing” breakfast sandwiches including “The Best Seller”— butter scrambled egg, pork sausage, shredded cheese, Nueske’s house-made bacon jam and chive mayo on the signature biscuit.

Other house-made bread selections include a vegan focaccia or gluten-free cornbread. Breakfast sandwiches are customizable and the variety of scrambles and hashes can be made-to-order with additions or substitutions of tofu, egg whites, vegan cheese, ham, chicken or pork sausage. One of the crowd-pleasers is a “healthy-ish” cashew-based gluten-free mac and cheese.

Veg out scramble, served at Smack Dab restaurant, is made with two cage free eggs, vegetables, butter and spices. Sub in tofu for a vegan option.
Veg out scramble, served at Smack Dab restaurant, is made with two cage free eggs, vegetables, butter and spices. Sub in tofu for a vegan option.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“It’s fabulous because items can be modified to fit your dietary needs — you can cheese it up, ham it up or be entirely gluten free or vegan,” said co-owner Christine Forster, a former social worker.

Smack Dab, at 6730 N. Clark St., was founded by Forster and her partner, head baker and chef Axel Erkenswick.

Various breakfast and lunch dishes served at Smack Dab restaurant.
Various breakfast and lunch dishes served at Smack Dab restaurant.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

After starting as a pop up in the hallway of a bar with just $5,000 and a 20-quart mixer the pair opened Smack Dab in April 2017.

Open for breakfast and lunch every day except Mondays, it offers a lunch menu of hot sandwiches, customizable pastas and salads. BBQ chicken, Italian sausage, a vegan Beyond Meat burger patty, Beyond Meat sausage or extra roasted veggies are some of the favorite add-ons.

The grilled cheese sandwich and sweet potatoes served at Smack Dab restaurant. 
The grilled cheese sandwich and sweet potatoes served at Smack Dab restaurant.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The popular vegan cake doughnuts, which are fried in rice bran oil, are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and drizzled with glaze. While cinnamon sugar cake donuts are available daily, rotating natural flavors include black currant, cold brew coffee, chai and Valrhona chocolate.

Doughnuts made at Smack Dab restaurant in Rogers Park. 
Doughnuts made at Smack Dab restaurant in Rogers Park.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Homemade pizza is served from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. when Smack Dab is open for dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“I thought I had given up on pizza in this city, but then we decided to make our own,” said Erkenswick. “I found inspiration from places like [Philadelphia-based] Pizzeria Beddia and Great Lakes Pizza [acclaimed Andersonville pizzeria that closed in 2013]. We treat our dough as if it were artisan bread to get a very unique crust.”

The counter at Smack Dab restaurant in Rogers Park.
The counter at Smack Dab restaurant in Rogers Park.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

While the food is thoughtfully sourced and prepared, Foster and Erkenswick are also committed to giving back to the community through their support of social causes and their employees.

Twice a month, Smack Dab hosts community dinners, where all are welcomed regardless of their ability to pay. [Check social media for dates.]

“It’s totally free or pay what you can. No one is turned away,” said Forster. “There’s no judgment....We’re here to serve you.”

Smack Dab, which offers full-time employees health care, has also diverted 29,000 pounds of compostable material from a landfill through a partnership with Urban Canopy and donated $30,000 to various nonprofits including Girl Forward [empowering refugee girls], Black Lives Matter and organizations working to combat the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, to name a few.

Christine Forster is the co-owner of Smack Dab restaurant in Rogers Park.
Christine Forster is the co-owner of Smack Dab restaurant in Rogers Park.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Forster said her goal is to sustain the safe, welcoming place for all that she and Erkenswick have created.

“The way we’re trying to run Smack Dab is a more holistic and feminist approach,” Forster said. “We’re thinking about co-creating with the community. … It’s not about what you can give me or taking from me but how can we support each other.

Visit www.smackdabchicago.com or call (872) 241-9111. Open for breakfast and lunch until 3 p.m. every day except Mondays. Only open for dinner from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Smack Dab restaurant is located at 6730 N Clark St. in Rogers Park.
Smack Dab restaurant is located at 6730 N Clark St. in Rogers Park.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times