Now that those pesky New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory, it’s safe to say that cravings for pastries are back in full-force, and Chicago’s got a slew of recent bakeries and sweet spots to satisfy that itch. From impeccable croissants to pie shop expansions, here’s the low-down on the freshest pastry shops and dessert destinations in town, and what to eat when there.
Maison Marcel: One of the best new bakeries in recent memory, Maison Marcel is a game-changer for Chicago’s French pastry scene. Applying a French accent to locally sourced ingredients, the Lakeview bakery, cafe and patisserie turns out fragrant loaves, the flakiest croissants, buttery brioche, apple tartes and much more, all courtesy of baker Arnaud Brochard. The space is warm, cozy and sunny, providing the perfect ambience for noshing and lingering over a pain au chocolat and and a cappuccino. There’s also a full-blown cafe menu with wholesome plates like porridge and mushroom omelets, but the spotlight is rightfully on the pastries — Maison Marcel’s bread and butter.
Jennivee's Bakery: A far cry from your typical bakery, this Lakeview newcomer features a variety of internationally inspired sweets, late-night hours and cakes by the slice. Owned by Jennifer Vailoces, a native of the Philippines and a member of the LGBTQ community, her namesake bakery features a kaleidoscope of cakes and cupcakes in different flavors, from mango cream and tres leches to the stunning "purple velvet," a sure-to-be signature containing ube chiffon cake, ube mouse and young coconut shavings. The bakery is open until midnight most days of the week, and even until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
La Boulangerie: Another French bakery is making moves in Chicago, though this time it’s a return to roots for La Boulangerie. The bakery originally opened in Logan Square, though closed and moved to Lakeview due to a conflict of croissant interests (https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170209/logan-square/la-boulangerie-bakery-croissant-sales-logan-boulevard-new-wave-coffee) with its coffee shop neighbor. After expanding to Ravenswood, La Boulangerie is now back in its original ‘hood, this time in a new location with ample space and the look and feel of a friendly market. Those famed croissants are back, along with macarons, sandwiches, eclairs, tarts, caneles and madeleines, to name a few.
XO Marshmallow: If you have an Instagram, you’ve likely at least seen pictures of this Rogers Park marshmallow cafe, the cutest, most colorful, most Instagrammable cafe in Chicago. This place is custom-made for the Instagram era, with a kaleidoscopic menu of housemade, fluffy marshmallows in flavors like butterbeer, Champagne, bourbon, green tea, Nutella and salted caramel. You can enjoy any marshmallow as is, put them on hot chocolate, get a warm s’more or try novelties like a donut s’more or even a “s’maco,” a s’more taco folded in waffle taco shells. The pint-sized cafe is just as photogenic, outfitted with bright pinks, yellows, light greens, “X” and “O”-shaped pillows and signage saying “I Love You S’more.”
Hoosier Mama Pie Co.: One of Chicago’s most revered pie shops got bigger and better with a recent expansion to its original West Town bakery that more than doubled its seating space. Even cuter and cozier than before, the shop feels like an old fashioned cottage home, far away from any city, with large window booths, vintage tables and a brand new counter overlooking the baking kitchen. There’s also a steady stream of multiple pies to choose from daily, from sweets like apple and ginger custard to savories like chicken pot pie and frito chili pie.
Firecakes: Lucky for suburban Oak Park, they’ve not got an outpost of one of Chicago’s best donut shops. Firecakes recently debuted its latest, adding fried chicken sandwiches and maple-bacon sliders to its fried dough repertoire. There’s another location slated for Wells St. Market in the Loop this spring.
West Town Bakery & Tap: In other expansion news, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group brought its West Town Bakery brand to Wrigleyville's hot new Hotel Zachary. Adapting to its bar-filled 'hood, the casual cafe and eatery has branded itself as West Town Bakery & Tap, offering a mix of imaginative baked goods, cold-brew coffee and a fully loaded bar with beer and cocktails on tap. The most distinctive element here is the cocktails inspired by bakery favorites, like Bloody Marys garnished with chocolate-dipped chicharrones and boozy shakes made with red velvet cake and baking spices. There’s also donuts, cake balls, sundaes and soft-serve ice cream.
This Logan Square cafe aims to be a traditional 19th-century French bakery. Look for freshly baked baguettes, croissants, country-style loaves, French pastries and sweet and savory crepes. Black Dog Gelato...