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David Lissner
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Two days to celebrate paczki in Chicago!

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.)

In Poland, today is Tlusty Czwartek or Fat Thursday, otherwise known as Paczki Day (say “POONCH-key”). In the U.S., though, many Poles celebrate on Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Mardi Gras, which will be next week. Chicagoans are lucky — we get to observe both days!

Thousands of Polish Chicagoans as well as other pastry lovers are 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.

  1. Bennison’s Bakery, Evanston.

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

  3. Delightful Pastries, Jefferson Park, Old Town and West Loop.

  4. Fleckenstein’s Bakery, Mokena.

  5. Jarosch Bakery, Elk Grove Village.

  6. Miara’s Bakery, Deli & Beverages, Dunning.

  7. Oak Mill Bakery, Bucktown and other locations.

  8. Orland Park Bakery, Orland Park.

  9. Pticek & Son Bakery, Garfield Ridge.

  10. Racine Bakery, Garfield Ridge.

  11. Spunky Dunkers, Palatine a.

  12. Weber’s Bakery, Garfield Ridge.