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Great rye bread in Chicago?

  • m

I was looking for good dark rye bread today at Jewel, not as hopeless as it sounds because they do carry Baltic Bakery, which makes a fat black-crusted, dark brown loaf which is as chewy and bitter as coffee grounds, it's wonderful. But I was looking for an alternative, not as many points on the Lovibond scale, and all they had were some soft mass-produced breads. Does anyone know of a locally produced rye bread of comparable authenticity and seriousness to Baltic Bakery's? In a city of so many Poles, Germans and Slavs, I must believe it's out there.

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  1. There are what seem to be an ever increasing number of Eastern European bakeries in Chicago lately...try a big Polish grocery like Wally's (one near Belmont & Milwaukee and another on Irving near Naragansett) or just take a little walk on Milwaukee near Belmont or Pulaski....

    3 Replies
    1. re: Giovanna

      I would (and do) go far out of my way to buy seeded rye bread at the Tel Aviv Bakery, 2944 W Devon (764-8877). If you get there, also pick up some of the rolls with onion and poppyseed filling that the Tel Aviv calls French rolls.

      1. re: Giovanna

        I would (and do) go far out of my way to buy seeded rye bread at the Tel Aviv Bakery, 2944 W Devon (764-8877). If you get there, also pick up some of the rolls with onion and poppyseed filling that the Tel Aviv calls French rolls.

        1. re: Giovanna

          I second the vote for a trip to Wally's. They sell both from in-house bakery departments and outside vendors. I'm not sure what their bread slection entails, but I'm sure you will have interesting finds in this place.

          I think Family Fruit Market at Pulaski and Irving Park carries a more complete line from the Baltic Bakery, you might give them a try.


        2. I always have felt fortunate to have the Baltic Bakery’s breads so widely available. They are generally very good and very fairly priced, usually not much over a dollar a pound. I think they generally do a better job with the heavier, darker breads. I don’t know how many varieties they make but I have enjoyed (from dark to light) Pumpernickel (brick), Russian, Bociu Duoncu (sprouted rye, a really good loaf), Bohemian, Lithuanian, Zakopane, and Polish. Have you tried all these rye breads? They also make quite a few sweet breads, like cheese, raisin, banana, and carrot (mostly good, not great).

          It might be lighter than what you’re looking for but probably my favorite light rye bread is made by Forest View Bakery. The address is listed as 6454 N Milwaukee but I have to admit I’ve never been to the source, only picked it up at Polish markets. I’m sure there are plenty of markets with good bread selections but I’ve always been impressed with Gilmart’s (5050 S Archer), at least if you get there early. The light rye sprinkled with charnushka seeds is the one to get. If it’s fresh, the crust is crisp, the inside is very light and tender, and the seeds add a nice extra flavor. I’m not a big butter user but this bread cries out to be slathered with fresh, sweet butter.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Rene G

            It sounds like I'm going to have to actually go to Baltic Bakery, because all I've ever seen-- this was true back when Paulina carried them and seems to be true at Jewel now-- are the pumpernickel (which I really do love, I send people home with a loaf when they visit) and two light ryes (I think called Polish and Lithuanian), plus one or more of the sweet breads.

            I will check out all the other things mentioned here, too-- the non-Indian part of Devon really cries out for more exploration, doesn't it?

            1. re: Mike G
              Vital Information

              You are right that as you continue west on Devon past the Indio-Paki places, there are some cool places. They are, however, well within the same domain as the S. Asian places. Often, when we have a Sunday buffet, we walk off the excess with a stroll down Devon.

              Some cool places all between say Rockwall and Mozart:

              The two big vegetable and multi-ethic markets: Ted's and S. Water

              The Russian deli's

              The Georgan bakery with the oven in the floor (e-mail Ultimo/Gwiv for some fanfare about this place)

              The Turkish and Assyrian grocery stores

              The kosher bakeries such as Gittel's or the "kosher-style" Levinson's. Do no go to these places for extravagant pastries. Instead, go for the rolls, breads, mandelbrot (Jewish biscotti) and wierdly hollow kichel.

              Robert's is a Jewish fish shop but it is not even close to say Russ and Daughters in New York. See recent thread on deli's and Jewish food.

              Speaking of Deli's, with the demise of the Bagel, there is not really anything like that left in the West Rogers Park neighborhood.

              We really should do a chow-day on Devon. Hopefully some others (DK?) can give a few more places in this very, very hot area. Note, all the Jewish places will be closed on Saturday and Sunday used to be THE day to shop Devon.


              1. re: Vital Information

                I am so glad you mentioned the South Water Market produce store on Devon, I think maybe not as well-known as it deserves. I love this store although it makes me feel culturally stupid since it sells so many things that I don't recognize. They must have twenty kinds of peppers, for example. You can count on them to have fresh mint when you want to make tabbouleh, and Indian beans and little baby eggplants and Japanese radishes. They're maybe broader with vegetables than fruit and don't carry the fruits I routinely see in Mexican markets around town. South Water Market also carries about forty kinds of bread. They have a small Indian department but for that you'd do better to go up the street to Patel's for a really good selection. I find it impossible to food-shop on Devon and not come away in a good mood. What a street.

                1. re: N Tocus

                  N Tocus wrote:
                  "I find it impossible to food-shop on Devon and not come away in a good mood. What a street."

                  N Tocus,

                  Now that's a true blue Chowhound statement if ever I heard one. {Smile}


            2. re: Rene G

              I am also partial to Baltic's Latvian Rye, it is a little on the sweet side, but it makes the best dressing.

              1. re: Rene G

                There's also the Polish rye carried by T.I. Comes in great dense wedges. Don't know where they get it, but one ought to be able to get to the source. It's light (color not weight), very dense and chewy. With strong mustard and some good westphalian ham....mmmm.

              2. Mike,

                I am partial to the pumpernickel from Kaufman's on Dempster in Skokie. Possibly not as bitter as you would like, but if you order the pumpernickel with caramelized onions on top, it is a heck of a good bread.

                Kaufmans is known for it's bagels as well as rye bread, but I am not overly fond of the bagels, with the exception of the corn rye. They also make a very good seeded Jewish style rye with or without caramelized onions on the top.

                Kaufman's has a deli, connected by a archway, with quite serviceable corned beef, lox and pastrami.


                Kaufman's Bagel & Delicatessen
                4905 Dempster St
                Skokie, IL 60077

                1 Reply
                1. re: G Wiv

                  Of course, the irony of all this is that I went to Kaufman's yesterday, thinking it had sit down, it didn't so I bought some corned beef (as well as some bagels which I agree are not that great), and only hours later did I think, gee, this (reputedly) great corned beef I bought, sure would be nice to have some serious dark rye bread for it....

                2. One of the best light rye breads is at Weber's. I don't know if they have dark, but you can call.

                  WEBER'S BAKERY
                  7055 W ARCHER AVE
                  CHICAGO, IL

                  Another possibility is Vesecky's, the last Bohemian bakery left in Berwyn.

                  VESECKY'S BAKERY
                  6634 CERMAK RD
                  BERWYN, IL

                  1. Never saw a reference to Racine Bakery yet. Try their Lituanian rye bread. Better than Baltic IMHO. Hard to find on the N. Side, but call the bakery on 6216 West Archer Avenue on the SW side and ask. Or stop there and get some of those heart healthy bacon buns, too. Also stop at the Polish grocery on 55th and Harlem just down the street - Frank and Pat's I think.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bobg
                      Marnie Rundiks

                      I have been trying to contact the Baltic Bakery located at 4627 So. Hermitage Avenue, Chicaco (773-523-1510). I usually order the "Latvian Brick" since it similar to my grandmother's homemade bread. They won't answer their phone. Does anyone have any information or another suggestion. I am pining for some good Latvian bread in Denver. Thanks!

                      1. re: Marnie Rundiks

                        The Baltic Bakery located at 4627 S Hermitage Avenue in Chicago does not ship their breads to residential customers anymore. I live in Kansas. I have been getting the Lithuanian Rye from them for about 10 years but as of this year they told me on the phone that they do not ship anymore. I sure enjoyed the Rye bread as I grew up with it in a Lithuanian community in Waukegan years ago. I can't seem to find any stor that handles it. Can anyone help me on this? Thanks (Aciu)

                    2. Is their a rye bread that is called Chicago Rye Bread? If so, where one buy it.

                      1. As of today 12/6/05 I found out Baltic Bakery is permanently closed.I myself was devastated. I grew up on their breads. I learned about a place called Bobaks that has ethnic/baltic foods. www.bobaks.com
                        Haven't been there yet,but will!

                        1. Apparently, Baltic Bakery is back in business. About a week ago I was able to buy a loaf of their Lithuanian Rye at Produce World, 8325 W. Lawrence Ave, Norridge (708-452-7400). Produce World also has another store in Morton Grove but I don't know if they carry the bread there.

                            1. You should try Racine Bakery. It is on South Archer Ave, the phone number is 773-581-8500. I used to live in Chicago and I still call and have them ship me the breads because I cannot find them here on the West coast. My grandfather used to go to both Racine and Baltic so they should be pretty close.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: salniss

                                Lithuanian rye from RACINE BAKERY is my absolute favorite!
                                Racine Bakery
                                6216 South Archer Avenue
                                Chicago, Illinois 60638

                              2. We like Today's Temptations, which we buy at Oakton Market. I have their rye bread at home now; it's very sour - in a good way!

                                1. Any updates on rye bread in Chicago.
                                  I'm visiting for 2 days, I'll be stuck in the suburbs and I'll be lookin' for rye!

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: JayDK

                                    I personally like Tel Aviv Kosher Bakery's rye on Devo in West ROgers Park neighborhood

                                    Tel-Aviv Kosher Bakery
                                    2944 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659

                                    1. re: JayDK

                                      Two places downtown have really good rye bread. Fox & Obel does a great ciderhouse rye. (It was recently named by Bon Appetit as one of the top ten bread bakeries in the country.) www.fox-obel.com And Steve's Deli does a great Jewish rye, although it's a seedless version, common at delis in Detroit, which is slightly different from the traditional one loaded with caraway seeds. www.stevesdeli.com For a traditional Jewish rye, I like the cornmeal rye at Kaufman's in north suburban Skokie (it's only coated with cornmeal on the outside, and is otherwise very traditional). www.kaufmansdeli.com Keep in mind that none of these is the dark Eastern European rye which was the original subject of this topic.

                                      1. re: JayDK

                                        There is a Labriola Bread Bakery on 22nd St. in Lombard, about 4 miles east of Wheaton. Their bread is excellent. I stop there often to pick up bread and know I have seen rye there, although I have not tried it. They have a restaurant on site as well. I have not dined there, but have heard the burgers are outstanding. Served on their house baked pretzel rolls.


                                        1. re: JayDK

                                          Hackney's restaurants, with several locations around Chicago, used to sell loaves of their in-house baked rye bread. It is a dark rye, but soft (it is most popular served with their burgers in place of the traditional hamburger bun), so may not be exactly what you are looking for, but might be worth a try.


                                          1. re: cwchow

                                            I know this will seem like heresy, but I've looked for decent Jewish Rye with caraway seeds in Chicago ever since Augusta bakery closed twenty years ago. I've tried Baltic, etc. as well as toured lots of polish grocery stores.

                                            The best I've found is at Jewel. Seriously. Jewel's Crusty Caraway Rye, when it's fresh baked, is fantastic. Crusty, soft and slightly chewy in the middle, and well seeded. Dont laugh until you try it.

                                        2. Former Chicagoan now living in WashDC.

                                          I'll be back in Chicago later this month. Was hoping get a few loaves of Baltic Bakery's pumpernickel bread.

                                          With Baltic Bakery apparently closed for good, who offers a similar bread? Those German bakeries in Lincoln Square? Fox & Obel?


                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: xtopher_nba

                                            Your best bet is a store that carries bread from Val's Bakery in Skokie that produces a bunch of Eastern European breads. These stores are independents for the most part. HarvesTime Foods in Lincoln Square carries several of Val's breads. Caputo's at Grand and Harlem in Elmwood Park just across the line from Chicago and A& G Fresh Market carry a wider selection of Val's breads.

                                            There are no German bread bakeries in Lincoln Square since Juergen's closed some years ago.

                                            Fox and Obel's bakery situation seems to up for grabs since they fired the head baker last week. See http://stevedolinsky.com/?p=6638 and http://chicagoist.com/2012/01/02/fox_... for more details.

                                            There are quite a few Eastern Europeans in the Niles, Buffalo Grove and Wheeling wedge of northern suburbs, so there are more sources for heavy breads there. There are a lot of Polish bakeries on the Northwest Side of Chicago, but most of their rye breads are fairly light and use a goodly percentage of wheat flour. Some idea of where you will be would be helpful to give better suggestions. With the exception of HarvesTime Foods, which is less than two blocks from the Rockwell stop on the Brown Line, most of the better sources will be a pain to get to by public transportation from the tourist district.

                                            HarvesTime Foods
                                            2632 West Lawrence Avenue
                                            Chicago, IL 60625

                                            1. re: xtopher_nba

                                              The Austrian Bakery on Clark and Deming bakes several rye breads of varying "darkness", and my favorite is their Back to the Earth bread. It's delicious, and so dark it's nearly black. My fiance and I often polish off a whole loaf over the course of a weekend.

                                              1. re: rachelellen

                                                While at Austrian Bakery try the Hazelnut Bread that has a complicated pattern rolled in of ground hazelnut filling. Makes toast........................then you butter it hot.........................

                                              2. re: xtopher_nba

                                                There is news about the Baltic Bakery actually re-opening. Check out their website: http://www.balticbakerychicago.com/

                                              3. Brunos in bridgport is supposed to have a real good rye

                                                1. the grand duke--63 (?) sand harlem restaurant and separate carry out deli--has a fine selection of extremely dark breads --some from racine bakery, others from othr chicagoland ethnic bakeries. eugenes on belmont carries a spotty selection of dark ethnic breads. so , oddly enough does caputo's on grand (fullerton) and harlem.....the above also have quarts of frozen soup-- different borschts, tripe soup, sorel soup(schav) wedding soup, pickle soup, sauerkraut soup....
                                                  i will look for wally's this weekend.

                                                  i am searching reccomendations on batic restaurants in the baltic states