BRIDGEPORT — The road to the new Bridgeport Pasty Company storefront begins not in England, where the savory pastry creation originated, but in Ireland, where a young Carrie Clark first discovered them.
As folklore has it, the pasty — a flaky handheld pastry traditionally filled with meat and vegetables — began with the tin miners of blue-collar Cornwall, England. But Clark's mother baked her own version, which she cooked during her family's frequent summer trips to Ireland.
An obsession was taking root.
It would be re-ignited decades later, when Clark and husband Jay Sebastian were vacationing in England and stopped for a bite to eat during a cold, rainy bicycling trip.
"I swear to God, we're eating these things — you walk with them because pasty is a portable food, that's the point — and we're biting into these things with our bike helmets on looking like nerds from God only knows where and everybody's looking at us," she said. "And at the same moment we wondered 'Why don't we have these in Chicago?' It's a perfect Chicago food.'"
That led to the creation of their electric-powered Bridgeport Pasty food truck, which scoots around the city to festivals, parks and university campuses.
Now they’ve opened a new store at 3142 S. Morgan St., graduating out of their own kitchen and that of nearby Zaytune Mediterranean Grill, where the pair borrowed counter space and ovens to bake their creations.
Like its mobile counterpart, the store offers seven versions of the pasty: pork sausage and apples, classic beer-marinated beef, steak with blue and Swiss cheeses, a mildly spiced chicken curry, a veggie with spinach, Gruyere and béchamel, ginger chicken and BBQ beef. Complete descriptions can be found on the store's official website.
They’re all $5 each.
Clark, 53, is quick to say she’s not a trained chef. In fact, she recently left her job as a coordinator for Argonne National Laboratory's Center for Nanoscale Materials to help run the business full-time.
But she’s always been a student of classical French cookbooks and has spent most of her free time perfecting pasty recipes and fillings.
In a nod to French cuisine, she’s created simple salads to accompany the pies, sort of an appetizing bite of freshness before diving into a savory pasty.
Homemade soups are also on rotation. This week, it’s corn chowder and tomato soup.
Patrons can dine indoors at the counter or outside in the grassy patio, outfitted with tables and chairs.
Sebastian and Clark live just above their store. The building, owned by Sebastian, is powered by solar panels that also supply power for the food truck, which has a custom-rigged, eco-friendly warming oven.
For Sebastian, 60, an administrator for a downtown law firm, it's all part of a commitment to environmentalism.
"I was kind of discouraged and overwhelmed by the thought of something that would be a gas guzzler," he said. "I wanted to put propane on one of those three-wheel popsicle carts and tootle around the Loop but the city wasn't too keen on the idea."
If you're keeping score, there are now two places to get pasties in Bridgeport, and they're about a block away from each other. Pleasant House Bakery, 964 W. 31st St., serves a classic pasty in addition to its famous Royal Pies.
Bridgeport Pasty Co., 3142 S. Morgan St., is open seven days a week from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The shop plans to add expanded dinner hours soon. Follow the food truck's Twitter account to find out where it'll be next.