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Twisted Treats

Don't read this article if you're watching your sodium intake.
Wednesday Oct 22, 2008.     By Stacy Warden
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Chocolate #1 Hot Chocolate's Chocolate #1 puts a sweet spin on pretzels.

Pretzels may have looped and knotted their roots in German culture-but, over time, Americans have taken quite a liking to the things. In fact, we like pretzels so much that we've devoted an entire month to 'em (October). Here's a list of where to find Chicago's most perfected doughy treats.

Pretzel Buns at Kuma's Corner
The hardcore crowd at this metal bar has found its soft spot with Kuma's signature pretzel rolls. Used as a replacement for bland, boring old buns, the thick pretzel dough holds up well to Kuma's 10-ounce burgers. Finally, you don't have to worry about your bread getting all soppy before finishing these massive, all-beef patties. And if you shun the red stuff, Kuma's will replace it with your choice of chicken breast, chicken tenders or a veggie burger. We recommend sticking with Kuma's famous burgers, but whatever you wedge between this pretzel bread is bound to be a hit. All burgers come with fries or chips. Try the Pig Destroyer, a slow-cooked pork sandwich with barbecue sauce or go for the Hate Beak buffalo chicken with spicy sauce, Monterey jack, and veggies, $10 each.

Ball Park Pretzels at Rock Bottom Brewery
Rock Bottom's food menu was clearly designed to support its extensive selection of handcrafted ales and lagers. And if there's one thing that screams beer-pairing perfection at this downtown pub, it's pretzels. The restaurant bakes its as-big-as-your-face pretzels twice, but not before brushing them with Rock Bottom's Brown Ale (and a dash of fresh garlic and kosher salt). The app also comes with spicy cheese sauce, for all you dippers.

Swabian Bretzel at Hannah's Bretzel
The pretzel-or bretzel, as its called in Germany-gets in touch with its roots at this local organic eatery. Hannah's serves two kinds of bretzel. The first is a traditional Swabian, a staple in Germany since the late 1400s. The staff recommends slathering it with organic butter or Nutella spread, for a sweet kick. If you're more in the mood for savory, slap on a hunk of Gruyere Swiss, pile it high with veggies and make it a meal. Simple types will be pleased with Hannah's whole grain bretzel, which pairs exceptionally well with Hannah's Bionaturae preserves or olive oil and Parma ham. It's a tough call to say which of Hannah's bretzels is better, especially when the two variations are already at war with themselves. The battle comes through in the texture: thick, chewy, thin and crunchy-all at once!

Homemade Pretzels at Old Oak Tap
The pretzels at this Ukrainian Village restaurant could double as bagels with their shape and texture. But rather than a thick hunk of cream cheese-slathered bread, the lighter consistency of these rounds give way to a light crunch and taste even better when dipped in the restaurant's horseradish-cheddar fondue or Guinness mustard sauce, $9.

Chocolate #1 at Hot Chocolate
You can start and finish your meal with pretzels at this sweet spot. Hot Chocolate's pretzel appetizer gets smoked and poached with beer, and served with melted taleggio cheese and house-made cider mustard, $11. You may want to skip the sauces, as they've been known to cause pretzel-dipping addictions, and the thing is quite fine on its own. Once you've finished your appetizer, it would only seem logical to order up an entree. Resist this urge; it would be a near crime to visit Hot Chocolate without saving room for dessert. The restaurant is, after all, fueled by sugar. After steering clear of entrees and settling for the dessert menu, check out the Chocolate #1, a warm souffle tart, served with salted caramel ice cream and topped with thin, crispy housemade pretzels.


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