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Best croissant from Chicago bakery

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I love croissants. Anyone know of a great bakery with an exceptional croissant? I need to satisfy this craving!

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  1. My favorite in town in Vanille Patisserie. Sinfully buttery. The other one I remember liking quite a bit is Fox & Obel's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jjo

      I recommend both of those as well.

      www.vanillepatisserie.com
      www.fox-obel.com

    2. Sweet thang on milwaukee- most authentic and delicious croissants this side of the atlantic. (everyone who works there is french)

      1 Reply
      1. re: pierrot

        same with Vanille. Also voted the Best Croissant in Chicago by chicago Tribune!

      2. thanks pierrot and jjo!!

        1. Aren't most of the employees at Sweet Thang Moroccan? Or some other francophone north african nation?

          Anyway, Sweet Thang, Fox and Obel, and Vanille are, indeed, probably your best bets. There's also a product you can order that ships frozen and par-baked, and you finish it in your own oven. Pretty expensive though, at about $3 per frozen pain au chocolat or croissant.

          For what it's worth, I give the edge to Vanille for the pain au chocolat. Sweet Thang's are undeniably tasty, but the pastry is very puffy and is missing the crispy eggwashed top that really makes a croissant and pain au chocolat shine.

          1. Not in Chicago but Cocoa Bean in Geneva, IL has incredible Croissants!! They are as good as any I had in Europe. The almond croissants are amazing as well!! If you are in the far west burbs, it's a must.

            1. Bennison's Bakery in Evanston makes delicious chocolate croissants. It's a family owned place, in the city for 40 years.

              http://www.bennisonscakes.com/

              1. By the way, for those living in the northern part of the city and near north suburbs, I recently tried some pastries at the Leonidas pastry and chocolate shop in Wilmette, and they were outstanding. I found out that the entremets (French pastries) are made by Vanille Patisserie, and I'm pretty sure that the croissants are too. (Go there when they open in the morning and the croissants are still warm!) So if Vanille is too far to travel, you can get the same great stuff in Wilmette.

                Leonidas Café - Chocolaterie
                1157 Wilmette Avenue
                Wilmette 60091
                847 256 5250
                www.cafechocolaterie.com

                1. The asiago and prosciutto variety at Red Hen Bakery are my favorite.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jefesloan

                    I have to say, that for my money (which is shamelessly spent on anything delicious) goes to the Williams-Sonoma (catalog or internet only) croissant. They arrive frozen, and you let them thaw and rise to room temperature for 8 + hours, then bake. These are the best croissant I have had outside of France (and I have spent quite a bit of time there.) They are just the proper balance of everything a good croissant should be. They are worth every penny!

                  2. Today, my wife and I tried croissants from the following: Vanille, Sweet Thang, Fox & Obel, Ritz Carlton, Gerhard's, Peninsula, and Cocoa Bean.

                    While Vanille's is tops in flavor (very rich), Cocoa Bean and the Ritz receive the highest marks with a texture, structure, lamination, shine, and complex not too sweet not too yeasty flavor.

                    At the Ritz, we asked the very accomodating cafe host if we could purchase one croissant ($3.00). Points to him for letting us do it. He didn't even flinch at my Bears cap.

                    Cocoa Bean provides the best value ($1.50), but you pay in the amount of gas used up for the drive (Rte. 38 & 7th St. in Geneva). Bottom line, though, it's worth the drive.

                    Fox & Obel was just awful. One wiff of the "bread-shaped-like-a-croissant" and we knew it was a waste of time and money ($2.70). A surprising disappointment coming from Pamela Fitzpatrick, a Nancy Silverton disciple.

                    Another jaw dropper (again of the bad kind): Pierrot Gourmet, the street level cafe at The Peninsula. Three words: "Vie de France". One more word: "Why?"; especially if you're going to charge almost four dollars ($3.85 + tax).

                    While Sweet Thang and Gerhard's were respectable efforts, they both needed more flavor.

                    Can anyone offer thoughts on the croissants at BitterSweet? Finally, I've had croissants at the Medici Bakery (u.of.c. eddie?) once.......once. (allusion to Joe Piscopo's character in Johnny Dangerously)

                    Cheers.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                      U of C eddie, you're a man after my own heart. Anybody who'd drive to Geneva just to try a croissant, my hat's off to you. I too despair of finding decent croissants in Chicago. I live in near west burbs, it's probably worth a trip to Cocoa Bean.
                      I have had the croissants at Bittersweet. Decent, nothing special. I recall they were similar to Sweet Thang. Bittersweet has great scones, but that's another topic. I can't agree more with Fox & Obel; astoundingly bad croissants. PS I never though Vie de France was too bad. Though maybe I'm just nostalgic about the disappearance of most good french bakeries in Chicago.

                      1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                        Thanks for the report! That's very helpful - especially for explaining *why* you did or didn't like each one. Bravo!

                        I hope you don't mind if I add the addresses for the places you tried:

                        Vanille Patisserie
                        2229 N Clybourn Ave
                        Chicago, IL 60614
                        773.868.4574
                        www.vanillepatisserie.com

                        Sweet Thang
                        1921 W North Ave
                        Chicago, IL 60622
                        (773) 772-4166
                        www.sweetthangcakes.com

                        Fox & Obel Food Market
                        401 E. Illinois Street
                        Chicago, IL 60611
                        312.410.7301
                        www.fox-obel.com

                        The Ritz-Carlton Chicago
                        160 East Pearson St. at Water Tower Place
                        Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. 60611-2124
                        (312) 266-1000
                        www.fourseasons.com/chicagorc/dining....

                        Gerhard's Elegant European Desserts
                        720 North Western Avenue
                        Lake Forest, IL 60045
                        847 234-0023
                        www.gerhardsdesserts.com

                        The Peninsula Chicago
                        108 East Superior Street (at North Michigan Avenue
                        )Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA
                        (312) 337 2888
                        http://chicago.peninsula.com

                        Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts
                        11 S. 7th Street
                        Geneva
                        630-845-2990

                        And the others mentioned above:

                        Bennison's Bakeries
                        1000 Davis St.
                        Evanston IL 60201
                        847-328-9434
                        www.bennisonscakes.com

                        Leonidas Café - Chocolaterie
                        1157 Wilmette Avenue
                        Wilmette 60091
                        847 256 5250
                        www.cafechocolaterie.com

                        Red Hen Bread
                        1623 N. Milwaukee
                        Chicago, IL 60647
                        773-342-6823
                        500 W. Diversey
                        Chicago, IL 60614
                        773-248-6025
                        250 N Western Ave*
                        Chicago, 60612
                        (312) 433-0436
                        www.redhenbread.com

                        * Note - I found the Western Ave address in Google, but it was not listed on their website.

                        Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Cafe
                        1114 W Belmont Ave
                        Chicago, 60657
                        (773) 929-1100
                        www.bittersweetpastry.com

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          The Cocoa Bean in Geneva now has a website: www.cocoabeangeneva.com

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            Unfortunately, the quality of the bakery items has slightly decreased.

                          2. re: nsxtasy

                            Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter
                            100 East Walton Street
                            Chicago, IL 60611
                            (312) 649-6717

                            Made fresh everyday on site. If you go early enough, they're warm and fresh out of the oven. You can even meet the baker - an authentic Belgian baker. Excellent country bread, eclairs, waffles and apple strudel too. Wish they made rye bread. I've always wanted to go early in the morning to learn how they're made but I like to sleep in.

                          3. re: u.of.c. eddie

                            Thank you for your careful report. I will have to try the Vanille croissant.

                            Regarding your comments on Hyde Park croissants, I agree that the Medici croissant is far less than exciting. Instead, I like to have the Bonjour cafe croissant (1550 East 55th St), which seems quite correct to my palate. They also have a nice almond croissant.

                            1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                              Fantastic report Eddie! You should try Bennison's though. It's not in your neck of the woods, but if you'll drive to Lake Forest and Geneva...

                              About Cocoa Bean in Geneva - could they really be selling all-butter croissants for $1.50 or do you think there's other stuff in there?

                              1. re: CathleenH

                                I've tried Bennison's, and I find them quite ordinary - without either the flakiness or flavor of the ones from Vanille (as sold either there or at Leonida's in Wilmette). But let's hope Eddie will try them for himself and report back!

                                1. re: CathleenH

                                  Sorry about the delayed response. I don't think there is shortening in the croissant because it has a very rich well developed flavor that only butter can produce. My guess is they price everything on the cheap end since they are relatively new and trying to build business. I would expect that if I check back there in three or four years, croissant prices will be up about 25%.

                                2. re: u.of.c. eddie

                                  Just for the record. Vanille, Fox & Obel, Penninsula and the Ritz all buy ther crossiants ready made. They are fully proofed and these properties simply bake them off. Cocoa Bean and Gehard are the only ones who actually make the crossiants from scratch. F.Y.I. from someone who knows the inner workings of chicago bake shops.

                                  1. re: xoco

                                    Wow! Where do you think Vanille and the Ritz get there croissants?

                                    1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                                      how about Le Patiserrie P:
                                      1050 W. Argyle St

                                      i KNOW Peter Yuen isn't buying ready made pastries:
                                      http://www.chicagotribune.com/feature...

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        I was TOTALLY going to suggest Patiserrie P

                                        I have just recently discovered this amazing bakery. Everything is made from scratch, Peter is an award winning baker, and his pastries are not only an amazing treat for your taste buds, but your eyes as well. He recently made a special order tart tatin for me and I was floored with its perfection. Try it!

                                        Here is his site
                                        http://www.lapatisseriep.com/

                                        1. re: ChefRoger

                                          I went to La Patisserie P last week for the first time. It's an interesting combination of a French bakery (eclairs, mousse cakes) and an Asian bakery (bean cakes, etc). I tried several items, including the croissants. The only croissants they had were plain (they didn't have either chocolate croissants or almond croissants, for example). I thought theirs was very tasty. The only odd thing about it was the density/distribution of pastry; while most croissants are less dense in the middle, theirs was basically hollow (big air cavity in the middle). I think I still like Vanille's better, but the ones at Patisserie P were pretty good.

                                          Eddie, you should try theirs.

                                3. Hi chowgrrl. I must recommend Medici on 57th in Hyde Park. I am a lifelong Chicagoan; these are the best in the city. Highly recommended.

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: RottenTanx

                                    Last Sunday, my wife and I hit a few more spots. Here are some thoughts:
                                    Bennison's - This nice looking, well-shaped croissant would be best used in a sandwich, as it does not offer much on its own. The flavor is not very deep, much like white bread. It's interesting to note that in the shop window you can find the newspaper article about Jory Downer, Bennison's owner, and his participation on the winning U.S. team of the 2005 Coupe Du Monde de la Boulangerie. The Bennison's croissant was obviously not one of his competition submissions.

                                    Le Patisserie P - Very interesting. The croissant probably started as a fine piece of dough, but suffered during the shaping and baking process. The croissant looked like it was rolled too tightly. The middle of the croissant looked like it was being squeezed, while the ends were disproportionately flared with separating dough layers. Furthermore, as a result of overbaking, the dark crust penetrated too far into the croissant and imparted a bitter flavor. Unfortunate, seeing that you could tell it really was a once fine piece of dough.

                                    Bittersweet - Even the cashier commented on the height of the croissant we purchased. From the outside, the croissant was large and high in the middle. But when you broke it open, the layers had compacted and sunk creating a big gaping hole. It was a poorly handled piece of dough. Lastly, it had a simple sweet flavor more reminiscent of table sugar rather than the complex sweetness and richness that can be found in great croissants.

                                    The Med on 57th - Unfortunately, this was the poorest croissant we have tried so far. Pale, heavy, and overtly sour, this was unpalatable. We suspect that the yeast in the dough ate up all the sugar and that the dough was either overfermented or old. This would explain both the pale color (lack of sugars available to caramelize) and sour flavor. Interior layers were very thick and heavy, having none of the lightness we would expect from a properly made crossiant. When we tried to pull a piece off of the croissant, we were unable to break the dough due to the tough, glutenous layers. We love the Medici restaurant, and it was disappointing to have had this experience with their croissants.

                                    Thank you to everyone for your recommendations and suggestions. All of these croissants were consumed only once so results could have differed any other day (see nsxtasy's Le Patisserie P visit.

                                    We'll keep you posted on further croissant finds. And I'll come back from this weekend's Dane County Farmer's Market with some thoughts on the baked goods at Cafe Soleil.

                                    1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                                      Thanks for your thorough reporting! It's very helpful.

                                      1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                                        u of c eddie and others, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the croissant at Dinkel's Bakery on Lincoln just north of Belmont. I was so happy to have stumbled onto this forum thread. The best one I had was sold by Tipsycakes, but I was told they no longer sold them - it was also a pre-baked one imported from France.

                                        1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                                          I've tried the bittersweet croissants twice now, and they may have improved since your experience. There was some hollowness, but it wasn't as empty as many croissants. Furthermore, the dough inside was slightly "cottony" and still layered - not collapsed.

                                          I really liked the level of sweetness - which I found to be only slightly sweet. I thought the sweetness was in balance with the buttery flavor. Also, at less than $2 - a great deal.

                                          1. re: brianmik

                                            Thanks a lot, brianmik. I will need to go there again soon.

                                            1. re: u.of.c. eddie

                                              Eddie, thanks so much for continuing your ongoing evaluations of Chicago croissants. Your posts have been insightful and very helpful!

                                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                                My pleasure nsxtasy. I only wish there was some quality Neapolitan pizza to be found in the NW burbs.

                                        2. re: RottenTanx

                                          Croissant update: After being told there was a 45 minute wait for brunch at Tweet, my friends and I strolled around the corner to La Patisserie P. I ordered an almond croissant. It was scrumptious! I think the problem with overcooking/too tight rolling has been resolved, though I personally had no problem with a little crunchiness at the tips. Lots of almonds on top, dusting of confectioners, nice soft almond filling. It was also still warm from the oven. I am a new convert. Chinese baked goods looked great, and there was a consistent line of customers coming thru the door on a Sunday morning. I will definitely be back.

                                          1. re: chihound

                                            I will also need to visit this place. Thanks, chihound.

                                        3. My favorite place to get croissants is Sarah's Pastries and Candies in the Gold Coast. She just moved from 11 E Oak to 70 E Oak, but everything is stil just as delicious. She makes everything in house, and her chocolate croissants are to DIE for! If I'm picking one up in the morning I get an Intelligentsia cappuccino, but if it's a midday snack, I'll pick up some of their freshly made lemonade. Wonderful place!

                                          1. I think the new addition to this debate would be the Lovely bakery on Milwaukee (about a block south of Ashland). I've been going every Sunday for their amazing croissants and pain au chocolate. The buttery flakes are there (not really damp or chewy at all on the inside) and the outside is deep golden brown. The pain au chocolate (or chocolate croissant) has more of a bittersweet chocolate which balances well with their yummy coffee.

                                            1. I became addicted to Flourish Bakery within the past couple of weeks. They make their own croissants, and they're just amazing; light but not too light, flaky, and buttery. Try the ham and cheese. At five all the baked goods from that morning are half off. Oh, and they also have amazing bread. I seem to end up buying a loaf of sourdough every time I'm in there, although I wasn't as much a fan of the onion farm bread.

                                              1. I live a block away from the Isabella Bakery on Foster. croissants there are great, croissant sandwiches are better, and the empanadas rule! and if anyone happens to go there, make sure you get a chille rellano sandwich! outstanding, everything is dirt cheap!

                                                1. Try the croissants at Bonjour Bakery in Hyde Park on 55th and Lake Park. They are exceptional. Call before you go to make sure they have them. The often sell out by 2 or 3 pm.
                                                  They were just voted the best in Chicago by the Tribune.
                                                  You can also sit outside and have a pastry or lunch or even breakfast. The owners are French.

                                                  -----
                                                  Lake Park Restaurant
                                                  7 E Old Ridge Rd, Hobart, IN 46342

                                                  Bonjour Cafe
                                                  100 W Randolph St Lowr 115, Chicago, IL 60601

                                                  1. The little retail shop at the big commercial Turano Bakery, 6501 Roosevelt, Berwyn (actually the south end of Oak Park) has the Italian version of croissants. I forget what they're called but you'll easily recognize them. They are hard to find---I think the bakery must bake only about a dozen a day---but when you eat them with coffee you'll think you are on vacation in Italy. How I wish Turano would up their production and distribute these everywhere along with their lovely bread.

                                                    1. They may not compare with some of the elegant croissants described in this thread but, neither are they Wonder Bread: Trader Joe's has frozen raw croissants that come as a little nubbin of dough. You lay them out, frozen and raw, on a buttered cookie sheet before you go to bed at night. Overnight they thaw and rise. When you get up in the morning they have puffed up to HUGE and are ready to go in the oven. Bake them for 20 minutes. Lovely for weekends.

                                                      1. I really like the croissants at Hendrickx. Little Belgian bakery - you can easily walk past and miss it. They have plain, almond and chocolate. Their breads are quite delicious as well.

                                                        100 E Walton St (between State and Michigan)
                                                        Chicago, IL 60611

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: missanusha

                                                          We just had the croissant at Hendrickx Belgian Bakery today and found them to be outstanding. Crispy, flakey outsides with tender and flavorful insides. They also served a wonderful cup of coffee brewed in a filter that rests near the top of your cup. When the water filters through you remove the filter and enjoy the best cup of coffee I've had in a coffee shop. Truly delicious. As a matter of fact, we ended up having lunch at a place that served Intelligentsia and were disappointed after our morning coffee. The owner said they have started to offer a french roast coffee, too, because so many people prefer a larger cup of coffee and the one we had is just a normal sized serving. Wonderful stuff. I wish we'd found this on the first, rather than last day of our few days in the city!
                                                          You're right about the location, you could miss it. The building says 100 E Walton Condos or something like that. Go on in and there it is.

                                                        2. La Provence imports- laprovenceimports.com hands down the best french bakery in chicago.. All the Bakers there are from france and the Crossaints are SOOOOOO good!!! there located on 2041 west carroll # 214.. I think Whole foods uses their goods as well. That means people LOVE em'

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: adambadamb

                                                            It appears that La Provence is a wholesaler not doing business with individual consumers who typically want to buy one or two at a time.

                                                            I've found that the best croissants are those baked on the premises shortly before sale, like at Vanille Patisserie. Granted, they may be baked on the premises from products purchased wholesale, but the key is in the freshness of what's in the bakery case, which is under the control of the local retailer, regardless of who might supply their dough.

                                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                                              Let me guess you went to the website? they have a full bakery as I stated.. and they have stands at all of the french markets in the city on Saturday! Trust me I used to live in the suburbs and I would go to thier stand at the french market in Wheaton every Saturday!!!

                                                          2. Well, I would be shocked if any Chicago-area croissants have that trademark lightness and shatter of a real Parisian croissant.

                                                            I'm very familiar with Bittersweet - lived in Lakeview 10+ years. The croissants are passable. My 5 year old loves the ham and cheese croissant. But their croissants not authentic in the least. Bittersweet's best offering is the pecan rolls IMO. I also love their hot cross buns (in season).

                                                            Bennison's - also just so-so for croissants. I like their farmer's market offerings in the city. They also have great Pazckis on Fat Tuesday and gorgeous gingerbread kits at Christmastime.

                                                            Both Bennison's and Bittersweet's croissants are too large and too bread-like.

                                                            I had the croissant at Sarah's only once, but remember declaring it the best in Chicago to myself.

                                                            I have not had the croissant at Vanille. But I look forward to trying the (same) croissants at Leonidas.

                                                            I actually agree that the Trader Joe's bake-yourself croissants are a very, very good option - superior to most bakery croissants.

                                                            1. Agree it's quite difficult to find great croissants in Chicago. When we lived in Connecticut, we sometimes would drive an hour to Chapaqua, NY for croissants from Sarah Lawrence, a very nice pastry and ready-made gourmet foodstore (bet it's Bubba's favorite neighborhood store). Can't find good croissants here, so I now make my own. It's not very difficult, really.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: cakediva

                                                                Sweet Cakes Bakery on Damen in the Ukranian Village makes them by hand from scratch and you can taste the difference. So good!

                                                              2. There's a recommendation for the croissants at Beans and Bagels at Rockwell and Leland in the eclair topic at www.chow.com/topics/614589#6922897

                                                                1. Toni Patisserie and Cafe has good reviews, and I believe they have croissants there. Might be worth checking out... It's located at 45 E. Washington in the Loop.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: bufordtwain

                                                                    Toni Patisserie is very good indeed, including their croissants. Note that the correct address is 65 East Washington Street in the Loop. (The address of their original location in Hinsdale, which is still open as well, is 51 South Washington Street.) www.tonipatisserie.com

                                                                  2. Here's one more place to try :-)

                                                                    http://www.laboulangeriechicago.com/
                                                                    La Boulangerie Logan Square - 2569 N. Milwaukee Avenue

                                                                    1. Lately, we've been enjoying the croissants from the bakery department at Standard Market on Ogden in Westmont