Last Sunday the temperature in Chicago reached above 70F. It was glorious. Harold and I drove up to Devon with the windows down and then walked our way to Argo Georgian Bakery (2812 W. Devon Ave. Chicago, IL 60659. 773/764-6322). Upon entering the quaint storefront, the most unique and obvious feature of Argo is the brick, domed oven in the center of the store. According to a website called Savoring Chicago, the kind of oven is called a 'tune' oven (*Update* the oven is in fact called a 'tone'). Further, the site claims that is the only Georgian bakery in the country. Another Googling seems to support this (though there is one in Canada). As you will read, I believe we Chicagoans are quite blessed in this case.
The staff and owner are very sweet and friendly and they even opened up the lid to the domed oven to show us the interior when we walked to the railing to gaze at it.
Harold and I purchased three items to eat in house, plus two loaves of bread, and a seltzer water. We sat at one of the few, small tables and began with a spinach pie. This was a savory pastry with a soft, not particularly flaky crust and filled with chopped and cooked spinach. The spinach tasted as if it could well be fresh and my only complaint was that the overall effect was bland. With some seasonings, even as simple as some salt and pepper added to the spinach (or perhaps more decadently, some type of cheese such as feta), the taste might have been improved. All the same however, this was a very worthwhile purchase.
Next we tried a tapluna, which is a honey and walnut pie. It consists of a long triangle of flaky pastry dough, rolled from the base of the triangle to the tip, dusted with powdered sugar, and filled with the honey and nut paste. This was also quite delicious, though perhaps a bit too sweet for my tastes.
Lastly, we dug into a hachapuri (see picture below), which to our delight we realized was still quite warm. And might I say, this alone is worth the trip to Argo regardless of where you, lovely reader, might live. The hachapuri was a square shaped puff of flaky, golden pastry filled with the most divine mixture of mozzarella, feta, and farm cheese which, thanks to the still warm pastry, was warm, creamy, and oozing out of the pastry as we ate.
At this point, to our horror, Harold and I realized that in our overzealous consumption of these delicious things I had completely forgotten to take pictures before digging in, which must be a mark of how good everything looked. (See how well-disciplined Harold and I are for you most of the time? Sometimes it is pure torture to take a decent picture before ripping into some fabulous looking loaf or pastry). At about the same time, with no real consultation, Harold and I decided we MUST have another hachapuri. This batch had come right out of the oven, and as I already admitted on my post at Chicago Foodies, I burnt my face on the hot steam escaping from the puff's interior as I bit into it perhaps a bit too hungrily. The warmer the better folks, but do be careful. I was lucky to escape without a red mark on my nose and cheek from the burning steam.
The second hachapuri was gone in seconds and as we came back to our surroundings we noticed how quickly the hachapuri was disappearing as it emerged from the oven every 10 minutes or so. People were being asked to either wait our come back. This said, let me clear that you simply must try a hachapuri if you visit Argo and it would be quite wise to leave an extra 20-30 minutes just in case you need to wait.
Harold and I then returned to my apartment to try the two breads. The first was a long bread called a shoti (pictured above). You probably aren't going to believe this, but the first taste this bread gives off is exactly like honey-dew melon. This is not a bad thing, but just an odd one. This taste disappears into more traditional bread flavors almost immediately, and you might not even notice it. This is a soft, creamy, and chewy bread. It has a dry crust, a slightly salty taste (though a bit less so than the second bread below) and a dense, glossy crumb.
The second bread was shaped in a large circle and is called a puri. This was a very chewy, quite dense bread, with many tiny holes. It had a dry crust and a glossy crumb which was creamy in texture to the mouth. It had a pleasant slightly salty taste and I believe it would be fantastic with a dill Havarti.
Both of these breads were superb and very unique. I have never had anything quite like them and I highly recommend giving them a try. Argo Georgian Bakery was quite impressive and I will definitely be back. Harold commented and I agree that this was the best bakery we have visited since Red Hen. One of the best.