UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — If Whisk's half-pound burger wrapped in a pound of bacon sounds tailor-made for Ron Swanson, well, it is.
The "Parks and Recreation" character has been Whisk's "mascot" since brothers Rick and David Rodriguez opened their "brunch by day, burger by night" joint nearly a year ago. The Ron Swanson bacon-beef mashup debuted as a dinner special last fall and permanently joined the menu in January.
The Ron Swanson: half-pound beef, 1 pound bacon, half-pound bun, 4 ounces of bacon mayo. (DNAinfo/Patty Wetli)
During the month of April, dubbed Bacon Month by the organizers of this weekend's Baconfest Chicago, Whisk, 2018 W. Chicago Ave., will donate 20 percent of all Ron Swanson sales to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. So far, 64 diners have ordered the $18 bacon burger.
Rick Rodriguez, 31, said the creation was inspired by an episode where Swanson eats a turkey leg wrapped in bacon.
See how The Ron Swanson is made. (DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner)
Rodriguez couldn't bring himself to duplicate the dish down to the turkey — "I'm a burger guy," he said — so he made one major adjustment and a couple of minor additions.
It took four or five tries to nail the burger's preparation, with the beef bursting out of its bacon casing during early tests.
It wasn't until David Rodriguez, 26, hit upon a method of basket-weaving the bacon first and then molding it around the patty that the Swanson took hold.
Oh, and did we mention that the bacon-wrapped burger is deep fried after spending time on the grill?
"It's the only way to cook the bacon without completely destroying the burger," Rick Rodriguez said.
Once it comes out of the fryer, the Ron Swanson is slathered in 4 ounces of housemade bacon mayo and sandwiched between an 8-ounce bun David Rodriguez said is specially made for Whisk by Logan Square's La Farine Bakery.
Rick and David Rodriguez with the Ron Swanson. (DNAinfo/Patty Wetli)
Contrary to the Swanson ethos, where a salad is "the food that my food eats," the burger is decked out with frills like lettuce, onion and tomato.
Asked if he'd calculated the Swanson's calories, Rick Rodriguez smiled and shook his head.
"No," he said. "We don't worry about that here."
Rodriguez estimated that 70 percent of the people who order the Swanson finish the whole thing — he's had it twice himself this month alone.
"For the other 30 percent, it's too much," he said, adding that most take the leftovers home with them.
Not up for the Swanson? Whisk has a bacon-wrapped shrimp on the menu during Bacon Month. At Baconfest, the Rodriguez brothers will be serving mac 'n' cheese bites with bacon and chocolate-covered bacon roses.
"Gotta fancy it up," Rick joked.
Rodriguez, who grew up in Rogers Park and now lives in Lincoln Square, would be the first to admit that his cooking isn't highfalutin.
"We like to bring flavor and make the food fun," he said.
It's the same approach Rick's had since he started working in kitchens when he was teen, and a philosophy he passed along to David, whom he took under his wing when his younger brother reached adolescence. A third brother, Daniel, is a freshman at Amundsen High School, but is "super smart" and more academically inclined than his siblings, Rick said.
Rick and David Rodriguez, owners of Whisk. Though things can get heated in the kitchen — "We're both hard-headed," Rick said — they have their playful moments, too. (DNAinfo/Patty Wetli)
Having his own place and concocting his own dishes "was always a dream since I was 15," Rodriguez said. "Making it happen is surreal."
The only thing that could be more surreal would be watching Ron Swanson eat a Ron Swanson.
Actor Nick Offerman, aka Ron Swanson himself, is aware of Whisk and his namesake burger, Rodriguez said.
A veteran of Chicago's theater scene before hitting it big in Hollywood, Offerman makes frequent visits to the Windy City as a performer and for promotional tours.
When the actor hit town last October, the Rodriguez brothers showered Offerman with a gift that could only be described as Swanson-esque: 3 pounds of bacon, 2 pounds of prosciutto and 2 pounds of French toast.
Offerman returned the favor by signing a copy of Whisk's menu, which is proudly on display at the restaurant.
That's Ron Swanson's signature on Whisk's menu. OK, Nick Offerman's. Same thing. (DNAinfo/Patty Wetli)
Before Offerman's upcoming appearance at the Chicago Humanities Festival in May, Rodriguez said he's been tweeting the actor, hoping to lure him to Whisk.
Asked whether he's concerned about hitching Whisk's wagon to a character in a television series that ended its seven-year run in February, Rodriguez admitted he did have a moment's pause when the show went off the air.
Whisk puts its affection for Ron Swanson front and center. (DNAinfo/Patty Wetli)
But "Parks and Rec"'s die-hard fans light up the second they see the Swanson portraits that dot Whisk's walls, he said.
"He's a character. He's never going to die," Rodriguez said. "Ron Swanson, he lives forever."
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