With its ping-pong set-up, picnic tables and charcoal grill, the outdoor seating area at Chicago’s Ada Street feels a lot like a buddy’s backyard—but with way better food. Every day, the restaurant fires up that grill to make smoky, charred dishes like aged strip loin, crunchy Chinese long beans and a fairly incredible summer bruschetta: grilled bread topped with fresh ricotta. “We grill our bread because we love the additional smoky flavor charcoal grilling imparts as opposed to just toasting,” says executive chef Zoë Schor. “It’s also extremely fast as long as you have a hot grill.”
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To make the toast, Schor slices thin rounds of bread (she opts for either a whole wheat and hemp loaf or a shallot bun from Publican Quality Breads) and places them on the grill, dry. “Too much fat over live coals causes smoke,” she says. (If you’re going to add oil or butter, do it after the toasts are done grilling.) Check the toasts after about 15 seconds. “But it could take 30 to 45 seconds or longer if you’re dealing with indirect heat,” she says. “A good rule of thumb is to move, check and turn the toasts often so as not to burn them.” As the toasts finish cooking, move them to the cooler outside of the grill to keep them warm until you are ready to serve.