In the city
Okay, I have to admit. I didn’t know the deliciousness of paczkis (pronounced PAWNCH-ki) until a couple of years ago. Living in a city with a love affair of the delicious fried delicacy, made this practically blasphemous! I mean, come February, the talk of paczkis fills the conversations of those of us who love anything fried and stuffed with copious amounts of cream or fruit fillings. After careful research, I found out that the traditional reasons for the advent of paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Catholic fasting practices during Lent.
I must say, when I first saw one of the fried pastries, I did ask what exactly made it different than the Boston Creme pastries that I love so much. It all comes down to the ingredients and how rich the dough is. Of course, the filling is just as important, and some purists only want fresh strawberries it seems. I’m not one to deny the fabulousness of the red berry, so I follow along, but paczkis are going gourmet – as does everything in Chicago, and Nutella has found its way into the rich treat. You’ll find that waiting UNTIL Fat Tuesday to order the dessert may not be the best idea, as they sell out almost as fast as bakeries can showcase them. No worries though, I’m coming to the rescue with a list of Chicago bakeries that can be tapped to fulfill your paczki craving.
Upon asking my friends – who have an affinity for the delicious like I do – I found out that no two paczki’s are made the same, AND it’s about as serious as asking which baseball team you root for. Overall, there seemed to be four that were always recommended WITHIN the Chicago city limits:
3216 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Pastries By Kay’s Bakery, Ltd.
7332 Madison St, Forest Park, IL 60130
50 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
131 N. Clinton St, Chicago, IL 60661
1710 N. Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614
5927 W. Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60630
I’m sure that with Fat Tuesday coming up next week, we’ll have several more hats in the ring, or more rings around our midsection. Either way, it’s sure to be a sweet day before going into the Lenten season.
– Natasha Nicholes
In the suburbs
You can blame my Polish heritage or my large sweet tooth, but I love a good Paczki. And I know where to find the best ones in the suburbs, and it’s not at a drive-thru. These are the best of the best places to go to get your Fat Tuesday fill.
1000 Davis St, Evanston
You know they’re serious because they have a Paczki eating contest. Now when I lived there, they didn’t do that, but you did need to order early, or be there first thing in the morning! They offer nine different varieties and will take advance orders.
If you go: Get the fresh strawberry with whipped cream.
61889 N. Canfield, Chicago
I know this location is not technically suburban, but if you stand across the street from it you’re in Park Ridge, so just pretend I can’t read a map.
I grew up on this bakery and while small in size, it’s big on taste. You will generally find a crowd and a line out the door on Sundays as picking up a coffee cake after church is a tradition for almost everyone in the area.
If you go: Get the classic custard. You can’t beat their custard.
2207 N. Route 8333, Round Lake Beach; 355 N. Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville
Hands down the best paczki in Lake County and possibly the state. They have all the traditional ones and a huge selection of gourmet ones. Call in advance to order because they will be hopping on Tuesday. I have, though, on more than one occasion, walked in and walked out with a dozen on the day of. But it’s still best to be prepared to wait.
Their paczkis are made at the Round Lake Beach location and driven to Libertyville, so start there if you didn’t pre-order.
If you go: Get the bacon maple. It’s got chocolate frosting and bacon on top with a pale custard inside. It’s practically a meal.
*Little Lake County Readers also recommend the Mundelein Polish Deli (1460 Townline Rd.) for the traditional custard filled varieties.
– Melissa Haak