Best Bakeries Downtown...Chocolate preferred.
My wife and sister-in-law are headed to the Hyatt downtown this next week (29th-2nd) for business. Living a few hours from San Francisco, they both regularly enjoy the bakeries throughout the City and in North Beach. I'd like to send them to the best bakeries in the Chicago area preferably ones with an inclination towards chocolate! They won't be driving at all, but are willing to take public transportation.
Also, reviewing the board I've discovered Leonidas for Gelato and Chocolate and CaramelCrisp for...caramelcrisp? (Never heard of it but it sounds good! They will be wandering through The Taste of Chicago while they're there also. Thanks from the West Coast!
Regular board readers will recognize this response, but I think the best bakery in the city is BomBon in Pilsen, on 18th street. Their cakes and pastries are unique (many of them are tres leches recipes, so astonishingly moist and light), tremendously beautiful and delicious. They have many various chocolate variations, though you won't find any traditional three-layer cake type creations there. There is a free shuttle from downtown that goes to Pilsen; I'm sure they can inquire at their hotel. A great afternoon of eating would include lunch at Neuvo Leon right across the street and then a stop at BonBon. If they really like cake, they could bring a small one back to their hotel -- I guarantee they'll eat the whole thing.
Welcome to Chicago, but I'm sorry to tell you that you won't find bakeries downtown. I don't know of a single one between Roosevelt and North Avenue except for a couple of bread places. However, you can easily reach a good bakery by using public transportation. Go to the CTA Chicago website for information but here are a couple of ideas: 1) From Michigan walk west to Dearborn and take the Clark 22 bus going north to a block or so above Foster, your objective being Swedish Bakery. See phone book for address and also give them a call to make sure they're not on vacation when you're here. 2) Take Red Line subway from State & Chicago heading toward Howard. Get off at Fullerton, walk across platform and take Brown Line heading toward Kimball (no transfer needed). Get off at Paulina and walk south on Lincoln one block to Dinkel's, an old German bakery (see website). 3) You might like Albert's Patisserie on Elm between Dearborn and Clark---it's not really a bakery, more of a tearoom., but this is walkable from your hotel.
If you are going to the trouble of leaving the Loop, try Bittersweet Cafe. It's on Belmont Ave. reachable by walking a couple of blocks west of the Belmont Avenue el station from the Red or Brown lines. Try Chocolate Mousecake if a single portion is available. Flourless Chocolate Soufle Cake ditto. If you taste the Chocolate Macaroons you will never even see another Oreo. There are other occasional available chocolate confections. The chocolate orange ice cream is wonderful. Currently they may have lemon verbena ice cream too.
"CaramelCrisp" is the tradename Garrett Popcorn Shops uses for its caramel corn. They have several downtown locations and yes, it is worth checking out. Try a mix (caramel, cheese and butter popcorn) for the ultimate indulgence. For caramel corn, I actually prefer one of their competitors, Nuts on Clark, which has a location in Union Station and would be handy for them if they plan to visit the Sears Tower (Nuts on Clark is primarily a roasted nut shop and the original location is on Clark Street a few blocks north of Wrigley Field -- thus the name peculiar-sounding name).
on the chocolate front (since you wrote about Leonidas), you might also be interested in vosges haut chocolates which are made by a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu (Paris).
The store is at 858 West Armitage (very accessible via public transit - a couple of miles north of downtown in a boutique-y area) but they are sold at downtown locations:
520 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Hours: M-Sat 10am-7pm Sun 12pm-6pm
The Peninsula Hotel, Chicago
108 East Superior
Chicago, IL 60611
Hours: Su-Mon 7am-9:30pm T-Sat 7am-11pm
they have exotic flavors that involve chili peppers and curry and whatnot.
Fox and Obel is a Dean and Deluca-type food store with a terrific bakery for both breads and sweets, and easily walkable from the hotel.
Fox and Obel
401 E. Illinois St.