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Mr. Spanky's Readies for Carryout

By Casey Cora | December 28, 2012 7:54am | Updated on December 28, 2012 2:56pm

ARMOUR SQUARE— Mr. Spanky loves his bacon.

Likewise for his soups, salads, desserts and sandwiches.

Now, with the opening of Mr. Spanky’s Farm Fresh Artisan Foods at 335 W. 31st St., he’ll have the chance to win the neighborhood over with his style of carryout, which prioritizes farm-fresh quality over mass-produced quantity.

"We don't have to cut corners because we don't have to," said Mr. Spanky himself, otherwise known as John Schultz, 31, a Bridgeport resident whose culinary experience includes stints with a Maui pizzeria and three years as executive sous chef with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"I worked the circuit ... but decided it wasn't my thing," he said.

He launched Mr. Spanky's — it's a childhood nickname — two years ago as a booth at several suburban farmers markets, selling homemade hummus, fruit salsas, sausages and bacon.

With the help of his wife and former circus colleague Xin Yuan, he's brought the business into a corner storefront at 31st Street and Shields Avenue, also the site of his catering business that supplies fresh and affordable grab-and-go items to the University of Chicago’s student-run coffee shops.

It's expected to open Jan. 3.

In addition to offering a freezer full of farmers market favorites — there are four housemade sausage blends, two types of bacon, tubs of applewood smoked pulled pork and root-beer baked beans — Mr. Spanky’s will crank out gourmet salads, fresh soups and two daily  sandwich selections from Schultz's 20-sandwich roster, all made with slow braised, slow cooked meats.

Eventually, Schultz said he'd like to offer heat-and-serve dinners like meatloaf and shepherd's pie.

"We want to do our set menu,  but our set menu is going to be changing all the time," he said.

Schultz said he favors locally grown produce and responsibly raised animals and proudly highlights his suppliers on the store's website. In a nod to local flavor, Mr. Spanky uses Ottawa's La Pryor Farms for pork, occasionally cooks with Bridgeport's Kaminski Meats and will sell Filbert’s sodas exclusively.  

But back to that bacon.

It's more like a bacon steak, he said, sliced thick and "unlike anything you've ever tasted."  The curing process means it doesn't need to be refrigerated. He said he can barely keep it in stock.

"People know when they buy my product. They know. They know. They can taste it," he said.

Beginning Jan. 3, Mr. Spanky's Farm Fresh Artisan Foods will be open 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.