Move over Mardi Gras. Chicago celebrates Fat Tuesday with some serious deep fried deliciousness. Enter the paczki. The what? People may not agree on how to pronounce them, “Pooch-key,” “Poonch-key,” or “Punch-key.” Toe-may-toe or tah-mah-toe. Whatever way you say it; it’s all correct!
Chicago has deep roots with the Polish community and in true polska style they serve up this traditional treat before the Lent season begins.
These round, powder sugar-coated or glazed Polish pastries have traditionally been filled with fruit fillings, custard or mousse. Originally, paczki were made for practical reasons, to use up the ingredients in their refrigerator and pantry which were prohibited during Lent (lard and eggs). Fast forward to today, and they are looked at as a special binge-worthy sweet before the sacrifice. This “little package” of sin has Chicagoans lining up around bakeries all over town.
In fact, in past years, bakeries have sold up to 40,000 paczkis to hungry Chicagoans! From traditional paczki to boozy newcomers, I’ve discovered where to get the best of the best Chicago has to offer.
Jarosch Bakery will have fresh paczki every day from now until March 4. Choose from 13 flavors including apricot, cheese, pineapple or chocolate custard. They’ve been doing it the traditional way since 1959.
35 Arlington Heights Rd., Elk Grove Village
A North Shore institution since 1938, they even hold an annual paczki eating contest! (It was just held on Saturday, February 25; so you’ve got until next year to perfect your competitive paczki eating strategies). They offer the standard traditional flavors, but have some newcomers for 2017 including Lemon Curd and German Chocolate.
1000 Davis Street, Evanston
The best kept secret in Des Plaines, Cumberland Bakery is slinging up some serious paczki competition. They are offering 24 traditional and unique flavors like peanut butter and jelly, coconut cream and key lime. Better stop in and get some!
36 Northwest Hwy
Des Plaines, (847) 827-7810
With six locations scattered around the Chicagoland area, this polish bakery is committed to providing their customers with fresh European style baked goods made from the freshest, natural ingredients. They have quite the expansive list of paczkis–including some standouts such as the advocaat (an egg liqueur), rose petal preserve, Nutella, and kid favorites, the chocolate sundae or cookie monster!
Check out their website for all locations.
This fourth generation bakery serves traditional Slovak and Polish desserts in Mount Prospect. With so many offerings, this place really knows how to wow their customers. The standout for this bakery is their vast gourmet paczki offerings–the Elvis, Root Beer Float, Irish Chocolate Mint, Lady Godiva and many more! However, they have two very special sports-related paczkis that are dedicated to our city champions, the Cubs and the Blackhawks.
101 S. Main St., Mount Prospect