Last Saturday, April 14th, the UIC auditorium was filled with Reptilefest 2012 patrons. Parents chased after their children as they ran to entrance, where a one-story inflatable cobra head welcomed them in. Down the block, the UIC forum was filled as well, but with a different kind of people. There, it was the fourth annual Baconfest Chicago, the second in to be held at the forum. Just imagine, 3,000 bacon fiends lining up two hours before the doors opened, waiting patiently to gorge, stuff, and revel in all things porcine.

Over the past four years, Baconfest has expanded from a tiny hall in Lincoln Park to a Comic Con-sized event. Baconfest has grown up quite a bite, as is proven by their beer sponsors. Two years ago it was PBR, last year Goose Island joined up, and this year the microbrewery Greenbush was added. The proof is in the beer, and the bacon. In 2010, there were only 12 chefs. This year, there were 9 alcohol sponsors, 18 bacontrepreneurs, and 107 chefs. The stars of the two two-and-a-half hour event were of course those 107 chefs, each creating an individual bacon bite. From deep fried bacon-wrapped sauasage in a croissant dough to bacon-wrapped rabbit, to horseradish encrusted bacon bits and bacon gulab jamun, it was a true Baconfest. There have always been bacon tshirts, bedazzled, tie-dyed, and hand drawn, and this year was no different. There was a couple in matching bacon print, with strips all over the man’s fedora and vest, and the woman in a wrapped, bacon-printed toga-like dress.

The good news is, all the madness is happening again next year.  But be warned, tickets sellout within minutes. Have your computer and credit card ready the second the general admission tickets go on sale. Baconup. The best bite I had this year? It was tough, and there were more than pictured here, but I’d have to hand it to the bacon baklava from Chicago q. The perfect combination of salty and sweet, with just the right amount of fat-soaked sugared pastry and cripsy, flaky layers.

1. Chizakaya: Baconomiyaki, Japanese-style stuffed “pizza” with Nueske’s bacon, napa cabbage, pickled ginger, scallion, shrimp, nori, and bonito flakes

2. Public House and Bull & the Bear: Chicken-fried bacon, kimchi slaw, sweet & sour sauce

3. Bleeding Heart Bakery: Bacon-wrapped house-made sausage deep-fried in croissant dough with horseradish mustard

4. Flo and Santos: Peppered bacon-wrapped pork wing with a bourbon coffee barbecue sauce

5. Burger Bar Chicago: Pork Palooza Burger–Berkshire pork burger topped w/ candied cherrywood smoked pork belly, Jarlsberg swiss, red onion pickles, smoked mustard glaze

6. Chicago q: Smoked Bacon Baklava – brined and hickory/apple-smoked pork belly layered between phyllo sheets topped with honey sugar glaze

7. Custom House Tavern: Smoked pork sausage, smoked blue cheese & bacon slaw with pickled mustard seeds

8. Bacon demolition.