Searching for great bakeries in Chicago
I know my question/request is very vague but where and what are the good to great bakeries in Chicago? The two types I'm looking for are places that bakes great bread and the other would be fancy but delicious pastries.
Thanks in advance.
Dinkel's (Lincoln just above Belmont) is an excellent traditional German bakery that has been in business since 1922, see website. Swedish Bakery (N Clark at Balmoral) is another old-timer and is so popular that there may be fifty people ahead of you, see website. Their Julekaka and tea rolls are fine but they are famous for marzipan cakes. Tel Aviv Bakery (Devon Avenue) has (I think) the best rye bead in Chicago and also wonderful rolls made of challah dough and filled with onions (mysteriously, these are called French rolls). Babkas are good here too and come with apple, raisin, or chocolate filling. Austrian Bakery (N Clark below Diversey) has cheese Danishes (called "pockets") and a hazelnut-filled bread so good that I wouldn't care if that's all they sold but their fancy pastries are lovely. House of Fine Chocolates (N Broadway at Barry) also has elegant fancy pastries and very good coffee cake, see website. Both Khan Zaman (N Kedzie just below Lawrence) and Middle Eastern Bakery (Foster just west of Clark) have a full line of Middle-Eastern pastries and breads. Bennison's (Evanston) has European cakes like Dobos Torte, Sacher Torte, Bienenstitch, strudels, and a pecan bread that is loaded with pecans, see website. I doubt you could go wrong with any of these. Not forgetting pie, Hoosier Mama (Chicago at Ashland) is worth finding, see website, and while you're in that neighborhood, Ann's Bakery (Chicago at Leavitt) has all the Polish breads and cakes.
I've tried the pastry at almost all of those. I agree with you on Swedish Bakery, which not only has great marzipan cakes, but fills some of them with their excellent real pastry cream (creme patissiere), and I love their marzariners. However, most of the other bakeries you mention just don't cut it IMHO. There are various reasons for that; for example, Tel Aviv Bakery is an all-kosher bakery and if I'm not mistaken all their items are pareve, which means no milk, butter, or cream; what they do within that constraint is pretty good (such as the best egg kichel in town), but you won't find fancy pastries there, which is what the OP was asking about. Same thing for Hoosier Mama, which only has pie (and I've found theirs to be only so-so, as well as overpriced). As for some of the others, such as Bennison's with their ersatz pastry cream (as noted in the eclair topic), and the mediocre cakes at House of Fine Chocolates, well... Let's just say that if you're looking for the best European-style pastry, there are other places in Chicago (those named above) whose offerings are far more satisfying.
Incidentally, if you're looking for a truly great buttercream frosting, rich and light without being oversweet or cloying (and way better than the mediocre buttercream at Bennison's or House of Fine Chocolates), consider going to Sweety Pies in Skokie. I didn't mention it above because most of what they normally have in stock is just your ordinary run-of-the-mill items like cookies, bars, and as their name implies, pie. They really don't keep much fancy pastry in the shop (although they can make various types of cakes to order). But their buttercream is one of the best you'll find anywhere. Try one of their cupcakes to experience it. (They frost them to order while you wait.)
Sweety Pies Bakery
8042 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, IL 60077
Kaufman's website at www.kaufmansdeli.com has a new note from the owners, which says they are currently planning to re-open on October 1. Watch there for updates.
Their bagels are excellent, and they do a very nice caraway-studded rye bread and good challah. Some of their other items are just okay (and much is rather bland).
If they aren't open in time for your visit, you could consider Tel Aviv Bakery on Devon Avenue. Tel Aviv is strictly kosher. They have the best sugar kichel in town. Note that October 5 is a Friday, and they close before sundown on Fridays and are closed all day Saturday for the Sabbath.
Their bagels and rolls are awesome. That's what they are most famous for. Challah bread and cream cheeses are also very good. On the sweet side, I've enjoyed their pound cake and danishes/sweet rolls. Also, check out their day-old section. You can find perfectly good bread and sweets for discounted prices.
I'm not a pastry gal, but I love really good bread. Fox and Obel is one option, but not the only one.
Red Hen on Milwaukee near Damen makes wonderful bread. Many fine restaurants in town contract with them to bake the "in-house" bread.
Mariano's a new grocery chain to Chicago carries some good breads. Perhaps not the best you've ever tasted, but better than most grocery stores.
Bennison's in Evanston has won awards for it's breads. They not only sell at the Evanston location, but also at the Green City Market which is open indoors at the Peggy Notebart museum on Saturdays over the winter.
Also in Evanston and some of the other northern suburbs, Foodstuffs carries excellent breads.
In Wilmette, I really love the bread from Heavenly Hearth. They are located on Central St. in Wilmette and have some of the best bread on this side of "the pond."
Green City Market
1750 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
1000 Davis St, Evanston, IL 60201
I love trying bakeries, especially for pastry - to the extent that, when I'm visiting another city, I'll spend an entire day traipsing all over town, trying out things at various bakeries and deciding which one(s) I like best (e.g. www.chow.com/topics/781935#6641531 ).
For pastries, I've tried a lot, and I've found that these are the very best in the entire Chicago area IMHO:
1. Three Tarts Bakery - Northfield, www.threetartsbakery.com
2. Gourmet Frog - Highwood, www.froggysbakery.com
3. Floriole - Chicago/Lincoln Park, www.floriole.com
4. Vanille Patisserie - Chicago/Clybourn Corridor and Chicago/Loop-French Market, www.vanillepatisserie.com
5. Alliance Bakery - Chicago/Wicker Park, www.alliance-bakery.com
6. Fox & Obel - Chicago/River East, www.fox-obel.com
7. Swedish Bakery - Chicago/Andersonville, www.swedishbakery.com
8. Toni Patisserie - Hinsdale and Chicago/Loop, www.tonipatisserie.com
9. Fritz Pastry - Chicago/Lakeview, www.fritzpastry.com
There's a previous discussion with a lot of detail, where I've posted about what to get at each of these, and why these are the best places in the Chicago area (as well as comments about other places that just can't compare, sometimes for overall quality, sometimes because one or two items are really good but others are nothing special):
What's the best bakery in Chicago for sweets? - www.chow.com/topics/542316
There's also this discussion of the best chocolate eclair:
Best Chocolate Eclair - www.chow.com/topics/614589
For breads, I think Fox & Obel is head and shoulders above the other bakeries in town. It's no surprise that Bon Appetit named it one of the ten best bread bakeries in the country ( www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2011/01/top_10_bread_bakeries_in_america ). They have so many breads I love - everything from sweeter items like their rich cinnamon swirl rolls, to the best brioche loaf in the city, to an amazing rustic "raisin and nut" bread (it has apricots too), to excellent croissants, and lots more.
There's also this discussion of the best croissants:
Best croissant from Chicago bakery - www.chow.com/topics/367903
Fox & Obel Food Market
401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611
5348 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
316 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, IL 60040
2229 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Floriole Cafe and Bakery
1220 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Toni Patisserie & Cafe
65 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
Toni Patisserie & Cafe
61 S Washington St, Hinsdale, IL 60521
Three Tarts Bakery
301 Happ Rd, Northfield, IL 60093
1736 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
1408 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614