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David Lissner
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Mardi Gras? In Chicago, prepare for Paczki Day!

Apricot paczek from Spunky Dunkers. Photo ©2011 by Leah A. Zeldes.

Apricot paczek from Spunky Dunkers, which makes them by hand specially only at this time of year. (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Other cities go all out for Mardi Gras, but here in Chicago, Louisiana-style celebrations and Latin-American Carnivale fiestas take a back seat. In our town, the Tuesday before Lent, this year March 8, is Paczki Day (say “POONCH-key”).

Thousands of Polish Chicagoans as well as other pastry lovers be lining up at bakeries to buy dozens of rich, plump Polish-style jelly doughnuts. A proper paczek has an airy, slightly chewy texture and an eggy dough, and traditional fillings include prunes, liquor-laced custard and rose-petal jam, though you can find apricot, chocolate creme, strawberry, buttercream and a wide variety of other flavors as well.

Here are a dozen of the Chicago area’s top spots for paczki. Order ahead if you want them in quantity, and be prepared to wait in line. This year, with Paczki Day falling the day after Pulaski Day, the bakeries are sure to be extra busy.

  1. Bennison’s Bakery, Evanston.

  2. Deerfield’s Bakery, Deerfield, Buffalo Grove and Schaumburg.

  3. Delightful Pastries, Jefferson Park, Old Town and West Loop. Delightful Pastries will also host a class on paczki making at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 6, $35, reservations required.

  4. Fleckenstein’s Bakery, Mokena.

  5. Jarosch Bakery, Elk Grove Village.

  6. Oak Mill Bakery, Bucktown and other locations.

  7. Orland Park Bakery, Orland Park.

  8. Pasieka Bakery, Avondale.

  9. Pticek & Son Bakery, Garfield Ridge.

  10. Racine Bakery, Garfield Ridge.

  11. Spunky Dunkers, Palatine.

  12. Weber’s Bakery, Garfield Ridge.

Can’t wait for your paczki? In Poland itself, Doughnut Day is Tlusty Czwartek or Fat Thursday, March 3, so you may as well buy some now. Smacznego!