From the bacon-dust powder that rims the margarita glass during happy hour to the bacon lattice topping the apple pie for dessert, one ingredient will make an appearance in every dish at Five Points’ newest restaurant.
Sizzle, opening next month on Harden Street next door to Pawleys Front Porch, brings the bacon food craze to Columbia.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to open up some sort of themed-type restaurant,” said Gary Uwanawich – known around Columbia as Chef Gary. “It became bacon and then it just sort of snowballed.”
Bacon – once reserved for the breakfast table and the occasional BLT – has found its way into chocolate bars, dishes at top restaurants and the hearts of legions of carnivores. It has festivals dedicated to its very existence.
“It’s a trend,” said John Militello, chef and owner of Let’s Cook along Assembly Street, which is not involved with the new restaurant. “Years ago, when everything was anti-caffeine, they came out with double the caffeine (products).”
The bacon fad similarly is a revolt against the trend toward healthy eating, he said. “I don’t know if people get tired of hearing, ‘This is healthy for you.’ ”
But there are lots of tasty, fattening foods around, so why bacon?
Besides its sheer deliciousness, it’s versatile, Militello said. “It does have a very unique flavor. It goes well with almost anything. It’s a natural added salt component to any dish.”
As long as the trend lasts – and the price of bacon doesn’t skyrocket – the restaurant concept “should be fun,” Militello said.
Uwanawich – a chef for 15 years and traveling restaurant consultant who has a show called “Manmade Gourmet” on the local FOX affiliate – was tired of traveling and making other peoples’ restaurants successful.
“You just say, ‘Wow, I could have done that; I did do that,’ ” he said.
After choosing his concept, Uwanawich went on a bacon-cooking blitz – creating appetizers, entrees, desserts: “It was like one thing after another.”
Uwanawich had a lot of fun experimenting with different dishes for the menu, such as a naked bacon sandwich made with uncured bacon. One recipe he hasn’t perfected is deep-fried bacon, which was crispy on the outside but soggy on the inside. “We’ll keep trying.”
The chef played around with the idea for about a year and then around the holidays last year, got together with Matt Canyes, who was back in Chapin after an unfulfilling stint working at an investment firm in Florida.
“I said, ‘Matt, why don’t we just stop talking about it and make it happen.’ ”
The two looked in the suburbs but, while driving through Five Points one day, they spotted the Harden Street location. It was the right size, in a central location and in a strip next to an already popular eatery.
“It was like one of those ‘aha’ moments: The music starts playing, the clouds break open and the rays of sun fall over this place,” Uwanawich said.
Uwanawich, 48, said lunches will average around $8, and dinners, $15. He and his 22-year-old business partner also will have a late-night menu and eventually want to add brunch and breakfast.
Most of the bacon will be locally sourced, he said, but the restaurant will feature some bacon from around the world and a line of alternative soy bacon for vegetarians.
Patrons will be seated and served by the “Sizzlettes,” servers wearing T-shirts with bacon prints.
Customers can pig out on appetizers, such as “scorpion bites,” which will include jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese and shrimp wrapped in bacon and sauteed in a garlic lemon white wine butter sauce.
Entrees will include dishes such as Carbonara, a classic pasta with Italian bacon and egg, and a chicken dish with tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese topped with pancetta.
And for drink specials, he has developed a bacon Bloody Mary and a Bacontini, a martini featuring a bacon-stuffed olive.
But what Uwanawich is most excited about are the desserts: bacon-infused brownies and milkshakes.
“All of these things I’ve tested personally,” he said. “I’ve gained 20 pounds.”