THE LOOP — Move over, bacon — here comes Schmacon.
It's a big week for the Naperville-based, all-beef answer to the illustrious cut of pork that's reached near-fanatic levels of culinary fandom in Chicago and beyond.
On Monday, Loop eatery Haute Sausage, at 335 S. Franklin, debuted a new premium menu item that features the novelty beef cut, the first Chicago restaurant to do so. Chef and co-owner Joe Doren said their house-made chips with cheddar and Schmacon are flying off the shelves.
"Customer response has been great," he said. "Sometimes we put up specials, and we really have to push them. I put together about 10 orders in the first hour" Monday.
Lizzie Schiffman joins DNAinfo Radio to talk about Schmacon:
At $4, "it's our most expensive side," Doren said. "Based on where we are, people usually want a quick, cheap lunch, but everyone was loving it. People one after the other were lining up to get it."
This weekend, Howard Bender, who created the product and named it after his company, Schmaltz Products, hopes to make his best pitch for the crispy beef cut at the 2014 National Restaurant Association industry conference at McCormick Place, where he'll officially launch Schmacon after nearly two years of development.
Bender hopes to bring his 12-ounce retail packages into grocery stores in Chicago this summer and fall.
"Schmacon has a much more 'jump out at you flavor' when you taste it side by side with normal bacon," Bender said. "You get all the flavors of beef, but it can be very crispy, and you get more lean versus fat.
The nutrition stats back that up: Schmacon has half the fat and calories and 60 percent less sodium than pork bacon.
With a lower heat point and more cooking during the preparation process than traditional bacon, it also fries up in about half the time of its pork counterpart.
At the conference, Bender hopes to pique the interest of local restaurants and big chains like Red Robin, and to get feedback to further refine his project before expanding his distribution. Schmacon is currently only available in the food service market, supplying restaurants, schools and hotels through Sysco Food Services in Chicago.
"The [restaurant] show for us is going to give us exposure, sure, but I believe that our product will continue to advance and improve based on the feedback we continue to get, especially at the restaurant show," he said. "You never have the opportunity like that show at McCormick Place to get that much immediate gratification, and immediate feedback on things you need to tweak to improve your product."
Just don't call it bacon — or you could get Bender in trouble with the Feds.
"We filed for a patent on our product, and the USDA has does not give us the identity of bacon," Bender said. "Bacon has a very specific standard of identity that the government has given it ... so Schmacon's standard of identity is 'smoked and cured glazed beef slices,' which tells the whole story about the process of making it."