Bacon Social House isn’t the easiest place to find. The all-day eatery in Sunnyside doesn’t have a big, flashy sign on the street or even a front door facing the sidewalk. Just turn down the brick corridor between the cheese shop and the women’s boutique and keep walking: You’ll know you’ve found it when you hit the party. That’s what Bacon Social House always feels like, even if you saunter in at a slow moment, which is rare for a kitchen that handles 650 covers at brunch.
Founded in 2015 by a real estate veteran with a family background in restaurants and a nose for branding, Bacon Social House has caught on for reasons that extend way beyond the popularity of brunch in this city. The restaurant feels comfortably hip, with a retro-industrial vibe fueled by cartoonish pop art, a glass-lined mezzanine and light-blue banquettes. Garage doors open to a patio with umbrellas, trees, and plenty of room for kids to let out their wiggles. It’s a great place for groups, and has a full bar to keep last night’s festivities going.
Then there’s the bacon, which could very well qualify as a controlled substance. Servers sport black tees proclaiming, “Peace & Love & Bacon & More Bacon.” Bacon comes in everything from stroke-of-genius, build-your-own flights (try the habanero, barbecue and candied) to bacon-chocolate chip pancakes (not too sweet or heavy) to bacon-bourbon cocktails. With all this going for it, no wonder Bacon Social House was named one of OpenTable’s 100 Best Brunch Restaurants in America this spring, a list subsequently picked up by Forbes and Travel & Leisure, ensuring the Internet-sanctioned stardom that feeds on itself and drives further traffic. Expansion is in the works in the metro area (Littleton and Westminster) as well as Minneapolis.
That busy kitchen turns out more than bacon, though. Lemon poppyseed pancakes are tender and bright, with fresh berries and mascarpone-whipped cream. Chicken and waffles offer a little bit of everything: rosemary sausage gravy, crunchy boneless chicken with a garlicky, peppery dredge, and a sweet-hot kick from chipotle honey. Benedicts are refreshingly original: the Costa Rica includes chipotle Hollandaise, pineapple salsa and jalapeño cornbread. The Carolina-style pork bun loads a bacon-cheddar biscuit with a mound of mesquite-smoked pork and pickles. Even macaroni and cheese has been reimagined; this version, dubbed the Mac Daddy, comes with enough fusilli for the entire table and is studded with — what else? — bacon.
Much of the menu was created by opening chef Brian Crow, a North Carolinian whose Southern mores and culinary finesse had already elevated the kitchen at Devil’s Food in the Washington Park neighborhood. By the time Crow left, in February 2017, success was creating its own challenges at Bacon Social Club. “You can imagine the adapting we’ve had to do, as the kitchen wasn’t designed for that volume,” owner David Dill told me by email. “It’s a different operation now to execute consistently.”
And consistency is definitely an issue. Many dishes were good to very good, but nearly everything should have been better. Pancakes had been thinned so much, they could’ve passed for thick crepes. Sausage gravy was also thin; the sauce ran all over the plate, leaving the sausage crumbles alone, like sandbars when the tide has gone out. Fried chicken (in both the sandwich and the chicken and waffles) had apparently been abandoned in the fryer, then served up tough. Even the shrimp and grits, one of the restaurant’s strong suits under Crow, needed work. The twist of polenta for grits was unexpected and welcome; the cake was silky from milk and cheddar, but the dish was overloaded with mushrooms and tomatoes. Bacon tots had earned kudos early on, but these resembled fried mashed-potato balls, and instead of tasting like bacon, they tasted strongly of seafood.
We took a risk on the parsnip gnocchi after the server raved about the fried parsnips on top, but our plate was served without them. The carrot-like root vegetable had instead been added to the dough, resulting in something as wet and dense as my grandmother’s cheese pierogi. So it will be no loss when the dinner menu changes in a few weeks and the gnocchi come off, along with nearly all of the mains and entrees. The new roster is taking a more approachable slant, Dill explained, emphasizing burgers, salads and sandwiches. But the brunch menu is expected to stay the same: Why mess with success?
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The fact that Bacon Social House can put out such inconsistent food without a low-ratings backlash says a lot about the golden trifecta of brunch, bacon and booze. It also says something about the restaurant’s party atmosphere, which was built into the brand; after all, “Social House” is part of the name. Brunch is a low-key meal, rarely eaten alone and nearly always enjoyed with one — if not eight — friends. If you’re eating it on Sunday, as many hundreds of people do every week at this restaurant, it’s typically the last hurrah of the weekend, with Monday staring you down. So what if the chicken is overcooked, the pancakes too thin?
Socializing is chief among the reasons you’re out. And as an environment in which to socialize, Bacon Social House remains on top of its game.
Bacon Social House, 2434 West 44th Avenue, 720-550-7065, baconsocialhouse.com
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
Select menu items
Lemon poppyseed pancake $6
Bacon+chocolate pancake $6
Bacon, flight of three 5.25
Costa Rica Benedict $13.50
Bacon shrimp and grits $15.99
Southern Comfort sandwich $13.99
Chicken and waffles $16.50
Mac Daddy $7/$12