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What's the best bakery in Chicago for sweets?

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I have a taste for something sweet, whether it be a cupcake, lemon bar or rice krispie treat. I am a huge devotee of Sweet Mandy B's but want to try something new. Recommendations, Chicago foodies? TIA!

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  1. The best bakery is one you here very little about, the House of Fine Chocolates, in Lakeview... This is a european style bakery, and they make the best danish and coffee cakes I have ever eaten- try the poppy, blueberry, and cherry- Also a huge variety of cakes and cookies, and they sell most of their cakes by the slice as well- love the german chocolate.

    Of Course, they are also known for their chocolates, and the truffles are as good if not better than you will find in Belgium, Staff is friendly and efficient.

    Located just North of Barry on Broadway, next door to the Bagel Restaurant

    1. Sweet Mandy B's is great but Sweet Thang (on North Avenue just east of Damen) is a French-style bakery that I like even better than Mandy's. I got a cake there for my husband's birthday a few years ago that had a passion-fruit filling that people are still raving about.

      6 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        I believe that Sweet Thang is currently closed, but will be opening in another location soon.

        1. re: rubinow

          gasp!

          I hadn't noticed. Please keep us informed when you find out when and where it will be re-opening..

          1. re: chicgail

            According to their website, they will be opening soon at 2142 West Roscoe.

            1. re: rubinow

              Thanks!

              1. re: rubinow

                Anybody know whether Sweet Thang is now open at that address?

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  The "new Sweet Thang" has closed. And it was not like the one at the previous address. You can read the whole sordid story at http://gapersblock.com/drivethru/2008...

        2. Twisted Sister on Wells just south of North

          1 Reply
          1. re: SGFoxe

            I totally agree w this. I especially love their Red Velvet Cupcakes (best anywhere IMHO) and their lime cornmeal cookies

          2. For breakfast pastries and butter cookies and cakes, my money is on Dinkel's on North Lincoln. Nothing gourmet, certainly – just an institution that's satisfied sweet tooths for decades.

            1. Try Bleeding Heart Bakery at Belmont and Damon. I've loved everything I've had there and they have a great selection. Its an organic bakery, but still produced very decadent food. Its a little pricey, but some of the items are huge and can be split.

              1. Good recommendations so far. Two other Chicago classics: Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square, and Lutz Cafe & Pastry Shop on Montrose @ Ravenswood. Have had wonderful experiences both places.

                1. Bittersweet on Belmont.

                  1. ALLIANCE BAKERY ON NORTH AVE IS GREAT THEY HAVE A NEW PASTRY CHEF YOU WILL BE VERY SURPRISED

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dukcass

                      Alliance Bakery is excellent. Great flavors and a whole lot more!!

                    2. No list would be complete if the Swedish Bakery on Clark St. wasn't on it.

                      Out in the northern burbs, Deerfields would win hands down.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: abf005

                        Agreed on both!

                      2. Bittersweet on Belmont, per mcyentyre's post, is my recommendation too!

                        1. In the burbs, I highly recommend Weber Bakery - Archer and Harlem. For sweet rolls/coffee cakes there is no equal. Poundcake is also outstanding.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: lvhkitty

                            Definitely Dinkels for their donuts and almond croissants- the cakes are so-so, kind of artificial. Southport Market for their cupcakes (you can also get them at Intelligentsia Coffee), Fox & Obel...and I love the pound cake (thickly cut and rich, buttery) located at FoodLife in Water Tower place (lower level). Twisted Sister makes killer, highly addictive chocolate banana cream pie...definitely New York standard.

                            1. re: pickyfoodhunter

                              I was searching the web to find a pound cake recipe that seemingly comes close to the pound cake sold at the Water Tower Place and came across your comment. I totally agree that this is the BEST pound cake around. I no longer live in Chicago, but whenever I visit, I'm sure to stop by the Water Tower to pick up a slice of pound cake. I love the chocolate marbled pound cake. If you know of a good recipe for moist pound cake, please post it. Thanks!

                            2. re: lvhkitty

                              I totally agree. Weber's is the best. I just love the chocolate covered pound cake, too much!
                              Whenever there is a birthday, I always order the strawberry/banana cake with real whipped cream. I have been going there for many many years and it will always be my favorite bakery.

                            3. I need to try this Sweet Mandy B's...I've heard great things..

                              1. You all have noted some nice upscale bakeries. I love Baker's Square. It is a nice, laidback, family-oriented restaurant that has some wonderful cakes and pies. I love Pecan Pie warm with some milk...hmm mmm mmm

                                1. Gee, I love pastries! I've been trying as many of our best pastry shops as I can, one by one. I also try pastry shops when I visit other cities. However, I haven't found a single pastry shop with a HUGE VARIETY of things that scream "YUMMM!!!". I recently had such an experience in another city, where I walked in and they had over a dozen pastries that I had never seen before, all looked scrumptious, and the 6-8 that I bought were all heavenly. I can't think of a single pastry shop in the Chicago area that has a dozen different scrumptious items. Here, we have some very good pastry shops, places that have a few items that are wonderful. However, we just don't have a single place with such amazing breadth as I saw there, so you have to go to a bunch of different places to find a lot of really wonderful things. (And by "really wonderful things", I'm referring to more complex pastries, not simple items like lemon bars and cupcakes, which just don't do it for me.)

                                  My $.02 on the best that we've got, in order starting with the very best and working down from there...

                                  1. Three Tarts Bakery (Northfield, www.threetartsbakery.com ) - Their quality is uniformly excellent, but the variety of pastries is somewhat limited. Great eclairs. Great pear almond tart. They have a variety of small cookies (linzer, etc) that are excellent. My personal nominee for the best pastry shop in the Chicago area.

                                  2. Gourmet Frog (Highwood, www.frenchrestaurantschicagocatering.com ) - They have a variety of cakes available by the slice. A few are great; most are good. Best French macaroons in town, great cookies, and great soups. They're the carry-out adjunct of Froggy's restaurant.

                                  3. Vanille Patisserie (Clybourn Corridor, www.vanillepatisserie.com ) - I really love their entremets. And their croissants are excellent as well. Not a lot of variety, but what pastries they do, they do exceptionally well.

                                  4. Fox & Obel (River East, www.fox-obel.com ) - Their quality is consistently excellent, but they really don't have all that many kinds of pastry. Their tres leches cake is excellent, and I love their bread pudding, as well as their chocolate version that they call chocolate brut. (Pop 'em in the microwave briefly before serving warm - mmmmm!) Best bran muffins and best cinnamon rolls ("swirls") I've ever had. But their fruit tarts and cream pies and such are just okay. (Of course, they have a lot more items than just pastry, including wonderful breads as well as meats and prepared foods etc. But this topic is about pastry.)

                                  5. Swedish Bakery (Andersonville, www.swedishbakery.com ) - I love their marzipan roll - one of the few cakes anywhere with both whipped cream and pastry cream, in different layers - and I love their marzariners, small almond paste based tarts.

                                  6. Pasticceria Natalina (Andersonville, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372142 ) - They have some wonderful things, and some others that are just okay. Their specialty, Sicilian pastries, is something you don't find elsewhere.

                                  7. Angel Food Bakery (Uptown, www.angelfoodltd.com ) - The most whimsical of our bakeries, with a retro tone to the pastries. I tried several things here; some were just okay, but a few were exceptional (and I'm sorry but I forget what they were).

                                  8. Bittersweet (Lakeview, www.bittersweetpastry.com ) - I recently went there for the first time. Again, like so many places here, the variety of pastries is limited, but they have a few good things. Their scones are the best I've had anywhere. I was disappointed by their various macaroons.

                                  9. Al's Deli (Evanston, www.alsdeli.net ) - Not really a bakery, primarily a carry-out sandwich shop, but the real baked treat is their cookies, especially their chocolate chip cookies. If you can think of the very best homemade chocolate chip cookies you've ever had in your life - from the recipe on the Nestle's bag, of course - that's what these are like. Note - they're only open for lunch (11-4, I think) and closed Wednesdays.

                                  10. Bennison's (Evanston, www.bennisonscakes.com ) - A very conventional bakery, nothing absolutely to die for, but a lot of things are decent, including good black and whites and rum balls.

                                  11. Tag's (Evanston, www.tagscakes.com ) - Another very conventional bakery, with very good almond macaroons, and known for their florentines.

                                  12. Lutz (Ravenswood Gardens, www.lutzcafe.com ) - This place has been around forever, and is the most European of all our bakeries. Nothing to die for, but a lot of things are decent.

                                  13. Café Selmarie (Lincoln Square, www.cafeselmarie.com ) - Like Lutz, this is a place where I have pleasant memories of eating in the café. Some decent items, but nothing to die for.

                                  14. Patisserie P (Edgewater, www.lapatisseriep.com ) - Asian as well as European pastries, nothing really impressed me.

                                  15. Sarah's (Gold Coast, www.sarahscandies.com ) - I tried a bunch of things here and the only thing I really liked was a savory item (a ham and cheese brioche).

                                  16. Dinkel's (Lakeview, http://www.dinkels.com ) - very conventional, nothing really impressed me.

                                  17. Foodlife (Water Tower Place, http://www.foodlifechicago.com ) - very ordinary fast food carry-out, nothing really impressed me.

                                  18. House of Fine Chocolates (Lakeview, www.houseoffinechocolates.com ) - very conventional, nothing really impressed me.

                                  19. Deerfields (Deerfield, www.deerfieldbakery.com ) - very conventional, and consistently disappointing.

                                  20. Bakers Square ( www.bakerssquare.com ) - the national chain formerly known as "Poppin Fresh Pies". The answer to "what kind of place would rank below one considered 'consistently disappointing'". :)

                                  I haven't been to Sweet Mandy B's, Sweet Thang, Twisted Sister, Alliance Bakery, Weber Bakery, Southport Market, Bleeding Heart, or Red Hen, although I've seen them mentioned here on Chowhound (some for the first time in this topic). I hope to try some of them some time soon.

                                  If you consider yourself a pastry connoisseur and you really appreciate the difference between good pastry and great pastry, then I highly recommend trying any or all of the first six pastry shops on the above list. The rest, you can easily skip and you won't be missing anything, IMHO.

                                  Those who enjoy croissants should also see this discussion:
                                  www.chowhound.com/topics/367903

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                    I was in Vanille Patisserie again last week, and was reminded why I consider it the very best bakery for sweets within the city limits. Their entremets - individual-sized mousse cakes - are sheer bliss for any pastry lover. The French macaroons are the best in the city. The croissants are sinful. It's a small place owned by a young French couple you'll meet when you go there. It's located on Clybourn between Armitage and Fullerton, around the corner from the Webster Place Cinema (and just a few blocks west of Sweet Mandy B's).

                                    1. re: nsxtasy

                                      i'm also a macaron fan, and i do think vanille makes the best in the city. although sometimes it's a hit or miss. i have gotten macarons there that taste like they are not fully defrosted.

                                      1. re: nsxtasy

                                        this is by far the best, most gorgeous shop in chicago imho...

                                      2. re: nsxtasy

                                        Well, today I went on a "pastry tour" of sorts. Since several of the bakeries recommended in this topic are in somewhat close proximity to each other in Lincoln Park and Lakeview, I decided to try four of them in succession, including two that I was visiting for the first time. Here is what I found.

                                        I started at Sweet Mandy B's, on Webster Street (no website). This was my first time there, and I must say, it was a BIG disappointment. They specialize in "American comfort food" bakery items; you'll understand from the items I describe what I mean. They had numerous kinds of cookies. I tried several of them, and found that they were consistently undercooked; furthermore, they were very bland, so that the sugar cookie tasted like the chocolate cookie which tasted like the other one (oatmeal? Chocolate chip? I forget, and it was impossible to distinguish). They had pies. Meh. They also had several puddings. I tried the banana pudding with vanilla wafers, which was another disappointment, with very little banana flavor. (If you want a great banana pudding with vanilla wafers, check out the one at Fox & Obel.) And they had a cabinet pudding, which consisted primarily of yellow cake, with a slice of frozen banana in the middle (leading me to believe that the entire pudding had been frozen and thawed - at a bakery???). All in all, I was underwhelmed with the choices, and the actual tastes were just not very good, IMHO. In my above rankings, I would put it between number 18 and number 19.

                                        I then stopped briefly at Vanille, which I had previously visited in the past week or two. Vanille is so small, and they don't have a lot of different kinds of things, but what they do, they do incredibly well! I love their entremets (mousse cakes) and French macaroons, but on this visit, I decided to go for a plain croissant ($2.70). It was outstanding, with a crispy flaky exterior, and a light airy interior. Yum!!! This alone justified my previous rating of it as the best bakery for sweets within the Chicago city limits.

                                        I then went to Bleeding Heart Bakery ( thebleedingheartbakery.com ). This was my first time there, and this was another HUGE disappointment. Their website shows the kinds of things they have. Many of them, such as the muffins, have a more "rustic", less refined appearance. Although I judge primarily by taste, not appearance, a lot of their items just didn't look all that attractive to me. I did not notice any bread pudding; like uhockey, this is one of my favorite desserts, and I probably would have ordered it. (Although I must also note that one of the big problems at Bleeding Heart is that none of their items are labeled, which makes it very easy to overlook what they have; that's just plain silly on their part.) I decided to get a small piece of their chestnut mousse layer cake, and a plain croissant ($3.25). I did NOT like the layer cake at all, and ended up throwing most of it out; it just had a bunch of mild "off" flavors, just NOT GOOD. The croissant was decent, although not as good as the one from Vanille; the outer layer was properly crispy and flaky, but the inside was sticky/doughy, like it didn't rise sufficiently. The other problem with Bleeding Heart was that it's ridiculously expensive. $7.00 for a small piece of cake? Really??? In a restaurant, maybe - but not in a bakery. So Bleeding Heart Bakery gets a big THUMBS DOWN from me. In my above rankings, I would put it between number 19 and number 20.

                                        Finally, I stopped at Bittersweet Pastry ( www.bittersweetpastry.com ), which I had previously visited. What I really like about Bittersweet is that they have a huge assortment and variety of items. The quality, though, is inconsistent; some of the items are pretty good, while others are not all that great. So I waited at the counter about 15 minutes before one of the several people behind the counter decided to serve me (grrr...). This time, I noticed their small shortbread cookies, and got several different kinds (walnut dipped in chocolate, chocolate, and brown sugar). These were quite good, and the best items I got on this visit. I also got a small blueberry almond tart, which was okay. I got a brioche and it was really very plain and bready, without the richness that I associate with brioches (compare with Fox & Obel's excellent ones). And I got a croissant ($2.50), which was easily the worst of the three I bought today; it was almost like plain bread, with a dense breadlike filling and without the flaky/crispy outer crust that a proper croissant should have. I would say that Bittersweet deserves its ranking at number 8, primarily based on its wide variety of items, despite its overall inconsistency in quality.

                                        I still stand by my previous post and can now include Sweet Mandy B's and Bleeding Heart in my rankings; unfortunately, they're both near the bottom of the list. Again, for the very best pastries in the Chicago area, stick to the top half dozen places:

                                        1. Three Tarts Bakery (Northfield, www.threetartsbakery.com )
                                        2. Gourmet Frog (Highwood, www.frenchrestaurantschicagocatering.com )
                                        3. Vanille Patisserie (Clybourn Corridor, www.vanillepatisserie.com )
                                        4. Fox & Obel (River East, www.fox-obel.com )
                                        5. Swedish Bakery (Andersonville, www.swedishbakery.com )
                                        6. Pasticceria Natalina (Andersonville, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372142 )

                                        1. re: nsxtasy

                                          Should've got the Bread Pudding..........and as for the layer cake.....perhaps you just chose the wrong items. :-)

                                          1. re: uhockey

                                            They didn't have bread pudding. I tried two other items and one was just okay, the other was dreadful. We have so many other pastry shops that vary from great to good to okay that it's not worth my wasting time on a return visit to a place that was so disappointing.

                                            But I'll make you a deal - I'll go back and try it again as soon as you go back to Lola again. :)

                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                              Hence my joke about 'ordering wrong.' ;-)

                                              "We have so many other (restaurants) that vary from great to good to okay that it's not worth my wasting time on a return visit to a place that was so disappointing."

                                              I feel the same about Lola. :-)

                                              I'll definitely be back to Chicago later in March and look forward to either L2O, Alinea, or the main Spiaggia - plus some bakeries I'll surely use this thread to select.

                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                About Bleeding Heart...Some of her stuff is definitely "rustic' in appearance, which appeals to me aesthetically, but the taste is mediocre to ungood.
                                                I think her whole punk rock cute thing is great. When the shop was on Damen, I liked stopping in for a croissant or lemon bar, or one of her truffles. Just a fun place.
                                                Now that she's not in my neighborhood, it's just never worth the effort. Off tasting cupcakes, surly service...
                                                She used to have several sweet vegan options, I haven't been in over six months, but they were all pretty good last time I checked.
                                                Her cakes are so cool... I think that must be her true love. I've never gotten a whole cake, but even if it tasted like freezer, I don't know that I'd care.
                                                Here's a link to her flicker pics
                                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebleed...

                                          2. re: nsxtasy

                                            I believe Bleeding Heart was shut down for a little bit by CBOH a couple of months ago...I could be wrong but I thought it was them.

                                            The last time I was there, I had the bread pudding and it was very very good but that is going on a year ago (my how time flies...)

                                            Wasn't the owner of that bakery on one of Food TVs championship cake competitions? Seems I remember the name...

                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                              I agree on Sweet Mandy B's. Very mediocre. Has stuff you might not have time or want to make at home like rice crispy treats, snickerdoodles - plays to nostalgia and the "after-school" crowd. Does anyone else think the cake in their cupcakes tastes like Betty Crocker mix? Blech. I think its popularity is due in part to its location - next to a school and John's Place (also mediocre).

                                              For cupcakes Molly's Cupcakes on Clark wins my vote.

                                              For a traditional French croissant or pain au chocolat I go to Vanille, but it can get very pricey. The cakes are like those one finds (or used to find) at Payards in NY. Very sumptuous, rich.

                                              My latest "go-to" place is Fritz Bakery on Diversey/Southport. It's a nice atmosphere too,where you can sit down, take your time, have coffee, read the paper, etc. Most pastries are about $2, very reasonably priced, and also smaller in size than you'd normally find.

                                              Croissants have a lot of bite to them, slightly more salty/crunchy than buttery, which I really like. My guess is that they are more "Breton" than Parisienne, but what do I know. Anyway, they have a lot of character, if that makes sense. Fritz also makes a variety of brioches which are perfect little bites, and their macarrons are intense!

                                              For cookies (especially shortbread) and a very nice quiche, I like Bittersweet.

                                              I still have not found a proper baguette. Anyone? A while back I stopped in on Cook au Vin (which is mostly catering) and their mini's were excellent. But I never seem to make it there during their (very limited) hours.

                                              I once went into Bleeding Heart. The place was dusty and the cases virtually empty. Didn't buy anything. Sounds like it's improved, though.

                                              Also, where do people go for a traditional birthday cake? Growing up we got all our childhood birthday cakes - sheet cakes and layer cakes with wonderful butter cream frosting, yellow roses, etc. - from Field's bakery. That was in the 70's and 80's. Oh, what I would do for the Field's bakery or at least the recipes. They had a fantastic Dobbish Tortes (I can't spell that!), German Sweet Chocolate Cake, and these wonderful iced chocolate cookies with walnuts. Anyone remember??? At one time it was fabulous.

                                              -----
                                              Sweet Mandy B's
                                              1208 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

                                              Molly's Cupcakes
                                              2536 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

                                              John's Place
                                              2132 W Roscoe St, Chicago, IL 60618

                                              1. re: fooddoggie

                                                Thanks for posting your comments! I agree that Fritz Pastry - that's the actual name, as well as on their website www.fritzpastry.com - is very good indeed. I would include it along with the six other places I mentioned above for the best pastry shops in the city.

                                                I can't answer the question about where to get a traditional birthday cake, because I haven't shopped for one. But I CAN tell you that my biggest problem with most birthday cakes is that they use crappy frosting made from vegetable shortening, rather than authentic frostings and fillings like real buttercream, whipped cream, and/or pastry cream. If it were my birthday and you were asking me where to buy me a cake, I'd send you to Swedish Bakery. They have individual marzipan cake slices that are filled with a layer of real whipped cream and a layer of real pastry cream; get me an entire cake like that and I'll be happy. Another place that makes authentic European cakes like the ones you describe is Lutz, which is still around on West Montrose ( www.lutzcafe.com ). (Note that those authentic frostings and fillings all require refrigeration, so if that's a problem for your birthday plans, choose something else.)

                                          3. In the west 'burbs, try Toni Marie's in downtown Hinsdale.
                                            And I agree that Bittersweet on Belmont is excellent

                                            1. Here are two of my North Side favs that haven't been mentioned yet:
                                              Flourish (1138 West Bryn Mawr, just west of the El Station) is a great place to get your fix. They have sort of a retro "stuff your Mom makes" theme, so naturally they've got cupcakes (in several flavours including an awesome Red Velvet), lemon squares (more eat with a fork than with hands), rice krispy treats, along with a good assortment of cookies, pastries, and the like. Since they have a deli too, they get a bit busy around the lunch rush, so the best time to go in is after 3:00 most days. Then you can take time to savour your treat with a cup of Metropolis (bonus point) coffee.
                                              Though ,if you are looking for a more European sugar fix the Austrian Bakery (2523 N Clark) has great tiramisu, éclairs, tortes, and the like. They also make cute marzipan figurines (like in the film "The Marzipan Pig"). This place, also has food, so it is also best to go for cake during the off-peak times especially since seating is limited.

                                              -----
                                              Flourish Bakery Cafe
                                              1138 W Bryn Mawr Ave, Chicago, IL

                                              Austrian Bakery
                                              2523 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

                                               
                                               
                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kzoopetro

                                                I'm OBSESSED with the carrot cake @ Flourish. It's to die for. That is all.

                                              2. Sweet Mandy B's has the best cupcakes, but Bittersweet is the best pastry shop in town. They use the best ingredients - everything is real - and the cakes are truly delicious. They're all butter(which isn't true of most bakeries). My wedding cake came from Bittersweet and even after spending a year in the freezer(the tradition is for the bride and groom to freeze a portion and eat it on their first anniversary), it was still delicious!

                                                1. Definitely Laury's Bakery in Oak Park and Wolf's Bakery in Evergreen Park

                                                  1. The red velvet cupcake with vanilla frosting from Fox and Obel is one of the best cupcakes I have ever had. The texture is smooth and light, absolutely amazing

                                                    1. I would like to add Hoosier Mama Pie Co. to the list. They only serve pies, but if you have a hankering for anything with a crust, you must try this place. My favorite (so far) is the Chocolate Chess, a not-to-sweet chocolate overload! Located at 1618 W. Chicago, just West of Ashland. Closed Tues and Sun. Enjoy!

                                                      1. Weber's Bakery is the best bakery in the city. All these other places are fads. Webers has been around for over 20 years for a reason.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Illuminatus

                                                          Since 1930 per Weber's website.

                                                        2. I really like this little bakery in Wicker Park on Division St called Alliance Bakery and Cafe. They make awesome macarons, flourless chocolate cakes and cookies. Haven't tried their cupcakes yet but I intend to. They also make gorgeously decorated cakes just like on the show Ace of Cakes!

                                                          1. I'd like to throw some love to the Bent Fork up in Highwood They really do a great job!

                                                            355 Waukegan ave
                                                            Highwood
                                                            Closed Sunday and Monday
                                                            www.thebentfork.com

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: imguido2000

                                                              I agree. The Bent Fork Bakery is my favorite. Yummmm!!

                                                            2. ivhkitty, you are so right on about Webers! The best cakes ever and the sauerkraut bread is the stuff I dream of! Makes me want some now!

                                                              1. mollys cupcakes
                                                                theres also an awesum mexican bakery at ashland where it turns into clark

                                                                1. Great new bakery!

                                                                  I tried a bakery for the first time yesterday, and I have to tell you, it ranks right up there with Vanille as the best of the best in the city. It's called Alliance Bakery and it's on Division in Wicker Park. It's owned/run by Peter Rios, who has run the baking department in several of Chicago's finest hotels, including the Fairmont and Sofitel. I first heard of Alliance Bakery in the recent photo-spread in the Tribune, at www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/...

                                                                  I tried a little bit of everything. The French macaroons are the best I've had anywhere in the city - yes, even better than Vanille's. The croissants are very good, although those are topped by Vanille. They have a nice assortment of fine pastries, many of which are shown on their website. (So far I've eaten the Ellen and the Elyce, and they are really, really good!) I'm not a fan of ordinary stuff you can easily make at home, like cookies and bars and cupcakes - blech - but if that's your thing, they have those as well. They even have biscuits for man's best friend (and this Chowhound's chowhound gives her hearty endorsement on those, too, although she is not picky when it comes to her treats). They have outdoor seating outside the bakery and a lounge next door, with coffee available.

                                                                  If you enjoy really great pastry, Alliance Bakery is worth a visit. I can't wait to go back!

                                                                  Alliance Bakery
                                                                  1736 W Division St
                                                                  Chicago IL 60622
                                                                  773-278-0366
                                                                  www.alliance-bakery.com

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                    I tried another new bakery yesterday, and it too is excellent, one of the best around. Floriole just opened three months ago, and they are doing some very nice work! Floriole is in the west end of Lincoln Park, four blocks east of Vanille Patisserie. Every bakery seems to have a different mix of products, and Floriole's is a bit different from some of the others. They aren't big on the entremets (mousse cakes) like Vanille, or the exotic pastries like Alliance, but the things they do, they do extremely well. Their French macaroons are excellent, as good as the ones at Alliance, so they're among the very best in the city. (The flavors I had were lemon lavender, chocolate, and I think the third was caramel.) They had a buttermilk panna cotta topped with blackberries, which was really good, almost as good as their amazing pots de creme. There aren't many bakeries selling pots de creme, although you can get it in many of the French bistros around town. Pots de creme is usually a very rich, dense pudding, but Floriole's is significantly lighter than others I've had; the caramel pots de creme was extremely light, whereas the chocolate pots de creme was not quite as light as that one, but still a bit lighter than the typical density. Both were creamy and delicious. Another thing they're really great at is puff pastry; I had a galette that was puff pastry with fruit filling and it was marvelous. They do a very nice fruit tart with fresh passionfruit and blueberries, a great peach fruit crisp (they have a sign showing the sources of their produce, all local), very nice croissants - hey, I tried a lot of stuff! They also have sandwiches and pizzettas. I had the bacon and arugula sandwich with a date spread on it and loved it. The pizzetta (Italian sausage) was also good. They show caneles on their website menu but I didn't see any there yesterday. Oh yes, one other thing I liked is that they have a big window at the back looking out on the kitchen so you can watch them preparing and baking all their masterpieces.

                                                                    They have a few tables inside as well as more seating outside on the sidewalk. Thanks to the sandwiches, this is a great place for a light lunch as well as a sweet snack. They have evening hours and if I'm not mistaken, I think they had a sign saying they hoped to be able to serve beer soon.

                                                                    Chicago seems to be advancing nicely on the bakery front now, with excellent new bakeries including Fritz, Alliance, and Floriole. For a long time, virtually all we had were the plain old everyday bakeries selling bread and cookies and too many cupcakes. Now we finally have some choices which span a far greater range of pastries, offering the same level of quality and variety as our great restaurant scene. Floriole is a welcome addition to the city, and any lover of pastries and desserts should try it.

                                                                    Floriole Cafe & Bakery
                                                                    1220 W. Webster Ave.
                                                                    Chicago, IL 60614
                                                                    773-883-1313
                                                                    www.floriole.com

                                                                  2. Since my earlier entry in this thread last year, I have had a chance to try a couple other places recommended in here.

                                                                    I am a huge fan of cannoli made the right way and Pasticceria Natalina did make a great one and they made it the right way as well. The only drawback was the cost. Around $4-5 dollars for one cannoli if I remember correctly.

                                                                    I also got to try Swedish Bakery which was a very long drive from where I was. It was good and the selection was large. Of course, I could not try everything but the couple things I tried seemed to be good, but not great.

                                                                    I still maintain that Weber's Bakery in the southside of Chicago is one of the best around. For chocolate cake donuts, carrot cake, kolachky, pound cake and other typical fare, I have found no equal.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Swedish Bakery
                                                                    5348 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Illuminatus

                                                                      >> For chocolate cake donuts, carrot cake, kolachky, pound cake and other typical fare, I have found no equal.

                                                                      Really? Those are the types of conventional items you can find in bakeries all over the city, including plenty that do reasonably well with ordinary, everyday baked goods. Examples mentioned above include Bennison's, Dinkel's, etc.

                                                                      Incidentally, speaking of kolachky and paczki and such, I should have mentioned Delightful Pastries, which carries them. They do a pretty good job - not the best of the best, but decent. Some of their items are outstanding - I love their rainbow cookies, for example - while others (e.g. French macaroons) are just okay, nothing special. Their original location is on Lawrence in Jefferson Park on the northwest side, and they now have a booth in the French Market downtown and another location in Old Town. Whole Foods carries some of their items also, but unfortunately not the rainbow cookies. www.delightfulpastries.com

                                                                      1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                        nsxtasy -

                                                                        Well I haven't tried all the places mentioned, of course. So I cannot attest to how good all of them are or not. I can only go based on what I have tried. For my money, in my opinion, Webers is the best for the things I mentioned which is what I usually get there.

                                                                        Most of their stuff is standard bakery fare, though. They don't get too exotic with their offerings but everything they do, they do very well.

                                                                    2. If you liked Sweet Mandy B's, go to Molly's Cupcakes and also Phoebe's Cupcakes. Both are even better than Sweet Mandy B's. Also Deerfield Bakery is much better than Bennisons or any of the other suburban bakeries because everything is so fresh and beautiful.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Sweet Mandy B's
                                                                      1208 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

                                                                      Phoebe's Cupcakes
                                                                      Chicago, IL, Chicago, IL

                                                                      Molly's Cupcakes
                                                                      2536 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: GraceW

                                                                        The problem with Deerfield Bakery isn't freshness or appearance; it's taste. I've found most of their offerings bland and tasteless relative to other suburban bakeries. On comparable items, Bennison's (to cite one example) is far, far better. I've found some things at Bennison's very good, others just okay, whereas I've been to Deerfield Bakery and gotten half a dozen things and found none surpassed mediocre.

                                                                        1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                          Bennison's is notable for bread.

                                                                          Deerfield is notable for cakes.

                                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                                            Both bakeries do both bread and cake. One of them does both fairly well. The other doesn't.

                                                                            From what I've observed (in about a gazillion visits at all hours), the top sellers at Bennison's appear to be their donuts and their sweet rolls (danish); they typically sell tray after tray of each on any given morning. My personal favorites there are their palmiers, cup custard, and black and whites. Yes, they have bread too, and they sell a fair amount of it in loaves, as well as items like croissants.

                                                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                              Now that Floriole Bakery is open, I would have to say this is it hands down. Their canele's, gallettes, tarts, banana bread, brioche....gosh any and everything is so amazing. Way too much of my paycheck goes to their coffers. Totally worth it.

                                                                      2. stumbled upon floriole when my wife and daughter brought back some tasty treats and flavorful chewy baggets(sic). subsequently had a special order prepared consisting of several breads, selection of cookies, whole lemon verbana pound cake, lemon tart with marange ? topping and a fruit clafotti- its late and my spelling sucks. everything was how shall i say it, all mine, i paid for it and should therefore decide who gets what and how much. unfortunately it was almost all consumed at a dinner party for 8 or 9 friends. the cookies and small finger pastries were eaten during the afternoon prep and cooking, by yours truly in association with my 2 trusty assistants. what was left over were the remains of a 3 foot long lemon pound cake. i drew the line at the last 8 inches. no one and i mean no one was going to sneak, pick or in any do anything other than smell the wonderful lemon aroma that eminated from this little piece of heaven. i threatened my wife with impending divorce if she so much as looked at this tender morsel with anything that remotely resembled even a twitch of lust-this after she sent everyone home with little packages of my pastry remains. talk about depression. i secreted away the pound cake in the wine cellar. and everyday for the next four days no matter how bad or dreary the day, i had a huge smile on my despicably selfish face

                                                                        1. I have been a longtime fan of Dinkel's, and was under the belief that it was the best bakery in town. That's what all of my friends had been telling me. But, a couple of years ago I moved to Edgewater Beach. Since then, my mind has completely changed. There isn't a bakery in town that compares to Swedish. At first I just really loved their Seven Sisters and turnovers. I started branching out to many of their other pastries and they were all fantastic. But, this past weekend I paid $1.50 for a plain loaf of bread and it was the most delicious bread I've ever had in my life!! You would be crazy to ruin it with jam or butter. Just eat it plain.

                                                                          I REALLY wish these guys were open on Sundays.

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                                                                          Swedish Bakery
                                                                          5348 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

                                                                          Edgewater Beach Cafe
                                                                          5545 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640

                                                                          1. I like Lovely on Milwaukee. Great macaroons

                                                                            1. I wanted to update this: I went on a cupcake crawl....

                                                                              ......20 cupcakes in 1 weekend.

                                                                              I tried them all. Molly's was hands-down the best.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: GraceW

                                                                                Good numbers - but I personally liked Sugar Bliss and Southport better. If only Southport had more flavors!

                                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                              2. Pasticceria Natalina will blow you out of the water. One of my favorite in the country!

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: tcmman

                                                                                  Pasticceria Natalina has closed.

                                                                                2. This past Thursday I stopped by Toni Patisserie & Cafe in their new Loop location, and I liked it a lot! (They've been in Hinsdale since 1994, but I've never been to the original, although it was mentioned above by DRN0001.)

                                                                                  I tried a lot of different things, and almost everything was excellent. I tried all the flavors of French macaroons they had that day - peach, almond, chocolate, pistachio, and strawberry - and they were excellent, very fresh and moist, among the best I've had anywhere in the city. Their mini palmiers were wonderful (a bit on the sweet side, as they should be), and the small linzer cookies were excellent. They had panna cotta (with cherry adornments) in a glass and it too was outstanding. They had several brioche pastries (one in a roll with apricot jam, another in a slice topped with fruit) that were good. The only thing that didn't wow me was a chocolate eclair; it wasn't bad, but it was small and thin, thereby skewing the balance towards the chocolate frosting and away from the creme patissiere filling, which is not the way I prefer mine (also the shell was somewhat stiffer than usual). They also had the usual types of croissants, as well as an assortment of breads behind the counter, but I didn't try either, although they looked good.

                                                                                  All in all, I think Toni is a great new addition to the Loop, and I would include it among our ten best pastry shops.

                                                                                  www.tonipatisserie.com

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                                                                                  Toni Patisserie & Cafe
                                                                                  65 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602

                                                                                  1. I know this thread was started a LONG time ago, but my favorite place to stop for a slice is A Taste of Heaven http://www.atasteofheavenchicago.com/

                                                                                    They have the best layered cakes (by the slice too) that I've ever had. Awesome carrot cake...but my favorite has to be the Janine's Cake - layered cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream between each layer...it can't be beat.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    A Taste of Heaven
                                                                                    5401 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

                                                                                    1. I made a return visit to Hendricks Belgian Bread on Walton when I was in the Gold Coast today. This was my second visit there, and the second time I was disappointed. I still don't understand the attraction. Not that it's *bad*, but I just don't find it all that impressive. This time I got three items. One was an almond-chocolate croissant, which was okay, but not anything special; the biggest flaw was that it wasn't at all flaky, but instead was quite... chewy. The second was a mango-flavored French macaroon, which too was okay but not anything special; the nut-based layers were rather tasteless and slightly salty. The third was a Liege-style waffle. I really love Liege-style waffles; these are the ones made with pearl sugar, designed so that the pearls of sugar melt and caramelize while cooking. You can find superb ones served warm at Baladoche in Lincoln Park, and the ones sold in grocery stores under the Julian's brand name are okay. The ones at Hendricks, not good. The pearls of sugar were oversized (about 1/4 inch in diameter) and never melted or caramelized, so there were little rocks of sugar in them. Plus it was covered with a hardened sugar syrup (like some sticky buns). The overall effect was WAY too sweet and cloying, and not at all appealing.

                                                                                      I guess Hendricks is okay if you happen to be in the immediate vicinity, but I wouldn't go out of my way to go there. We have other bakeries that are much, much better and worth traveling for.