Hey buddy, how’s it going? So I’m all moved in and adjusting to a kitchen about 1/4th the size I’m used to. The fireplace, jacuzzi and lack of drafty windows, however, more than make up for it. Of course my camera took a huge dump at the end of October and I’ve been too busy moving and working to do anything about it – therefore, I have very few new pictures to share and honestly, very few new recipes.
I don’t think I’ve hidden the fact that I hate the holidays, and as you can imagine the whole November/December transition puts me in a grumpy mood but I have lots of fun stuff planned for the blog. Even more fun once I get a new camera. (My birthday is December 12th, hint hint.)
I’m kind of a go with the flow-type chick (not really) and I figured if I’m in a pissy mood I might as well wallow in it. Thinking about things that piss me off got me remembering a really, truly awful experience I had writing for a hideous magazine called Mint. See, I was still in school and I had an opportunity to write a feature for them and earn a few hundred bucks. I did the work, saw it get published and spend a good 5 months fighting with the frizzy-haired, spoiled-brat editor for the money she owned me. In the meantime, I had already started work on a “sweet tooth list” for another issue of the same shitty magazine. Of course the magazine folded before that one ever got published and for a year I’ve had a half-finished list of Chicago sweet spots in my Word files.
I wasn’t allowed to choose what I wrote about, as you’ll soon discover, and I’ve spend the last half hour or so editing my “reviews” to express how I truly feel about what someone with absolutely no taste whatsoever determined to be the quintessential list of Chicago-area sugar shacks. Please enjoy my bitterness and thanks for not giving up on me.
American Girl Place Café
111 E. Chicago Avenue
I called to find out about some queer cupcake tea party this place supposedly has and the lady on the phone couldn’t be bothered to speak with me about it. Wow- I’m sorry someone not pressuring her daughter into obsessing over creepy, expensive dolls is calling with a genuine question. I guess I’ll let you go back to – I can only imagine – wearing way too much perfume.
The Bent Fork Bakery
333 Waukegan Rd
Highwood, IL 60040
Tucked away in the suburbs you will find The Bent Fork Bakery, a friendly, family-owned sweet spot. A small batch, all butter bakery, they bake everything fresh from scratch each morning. Crowd favorites include buttercream-frosted ginger molasses cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, Mom’s Chocolate Cake and Intense Brownies. I gave this place what I consider the ultimate bakery test – the Red Velvet Test – and they passed with flying food colors. (FYI cake mix red velvet and real red velvet taste nothing a like, so this is my favorite way to put a bake shop to the test.)
Bittersweet Pastry Shop
1114 W. Belmont Avenue
From brunch time to snack time Bittersweet has something for everyone. Grab a number and get in line- but pay attention because those regulars can be really aggressive about getting their cookies before you get yours! Don’t miss the chocolate raspberry tart or the intricately decorated shortbread cookies. These fancy little tarts kept me from killing Tony while I was pregnant. They also supplied the mini cupcake for Teno’s 6 months birthday. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of owner Judy Contino decorating a show-stopping wedding cake behind the counter.
The Bleeding Heart Bakery
1955 W Belmont Ave
I am no longer a supporter or fan of The Bleeding Heart Bakery. That’s all I have to say about that.
Blue Sky Bakery & Cafe
4749 N. Albany Ave
This place is so awesome and everyone in Chicago is too stupid to know about it. I’m pretty sure Jesus is involved somehow, and that’s a little creepy – but they employ homeless and at-risk young people and make a mighty fine cheddar scone while they’re at it. Every time Tony drives by it’s empty, which might be because it’s so off the beaten path but if you like the Chef Jeff Project you should probably stop in for some coffee and a muffin.
1000 N. Clark St.
Just down the street from the middle-aged abortion known as Dave & Buster’s you’ll find this sweet little bake shop. In fair weather sit on the side patio, enjoying your coffee and cupcake pretending you’re not steps away from the Clark bus stop. I had cupcakes with Cakespy here, therefore, it is awesome.
Café Wicked Desserts
2151 W. Armitage Avenue
Café Wicked fucking sucks. It went out of business and I laughed my ass off. They just bought stuff from real bakeries and sold it with a shitty attitude. That’s what you get when I call you to do some fact checking and you’re a dick to me.
Canady Le Chocolatier
824 S. Wabash Avenue
This place is right by Columbia and totally weird. They always have random books in the window and it’s really hard to make your way over there from school when the 7-11 has such a great selection of MnMs.
3425 N. Southport Ave
I want to love Candyality because it’s an adorable candy shop run by a really nice lady. In fact, I do love those things about it. I don’t, however, love gummy candies and gummies make up about 85% of their inventory. Once in a while they have vegan chocolates, and if you like sick candy from the 50’s it’s worth stopping by. There are very few places in Chicago in which you will find an Idaho Spud. In fact, this probably the only place you will find the giant chocolate turd. So check it out.
613 W. Briar Street
Who doesn’t love a cupcake? Nazis and assholes, that’s who. Weren’t all Nazis assholes? I don’t know, I never actually met a real Nazi. I’d imagine Hitler was a pretty big asshole, and he doesn’t seem like he liked cupcakes much either. So fuck him. Cupcakes was the first cupcakes-only shop in Chicago. They’re not always worth the $3 but props to them for doing it first.
813 N Waukegan Rd.
Deerfield, IL 60015
and other locations
I’ve never been here, but apparently they’ve been around since 1886. How that’s possible I have no idea.
3329 N. Lincoln Avenue
Dinkel’s smells like shortening and old people. 98% of Chicago loves Dinkel’s, and Luca will try to tell you that their donuts are good, but Luca is high. (Sorry Luca, I like you anyway.) Dinkel’s sucks. Their Easter lamb cake, however, is pretty amazing. In fact, if there’s one god thing about Dinkel’s besides the hilarious name, it’s the fact that every cake they make is Cake Wrecks-worthy.
Epoch Floral Home & Event
615 N. State Street
Pie and flowers. WTF?
Flamingo’s Ice Cream
6733 W. Cermak Rd.
Berwyn, IL 60402
Some of the ice cream flavors found at Flamingos are a little less “mom and pop’s ice cream shop” and a little more Iron Chef, but don’t let the jalapeno, sweet corn or Parmesan confections scare you. They also have conventional flavors and adventurous-but-not-scary flavors like Mexican cinnamon chocolate. Located just outside the city it’s the perfect place to try something truly unique and if nothing else, you’ll have a great story to tell your friends.
1520 E. 57th Street
and other locations
“Corporate coffee tastes funny” says café owner Paul Pribaz. He never returned my second phone call, however, so that’s all you get about Istria Café.
35 S Arlington Heights Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
I called this place to ask about their sweets and the owner was like “Yeah, yeah we make lots of things – bread, sweets, you come in we show you!” I never went because Elk Grove is way too far from my house and I knew shitty Mint magazine wasn’t going to reimburse me for anything. But if you stop in, be sure to let me know what you thought.
La Patisserie P
1050-52 W. Argyle Street
Chicago, IL 60640
Chef Peter Yuen may be an award-winning bread baker but you’d never know it from the super-low prices at his sweet little Euro-Asian pastry shop. For less than a dollar you can lunch on an Asian pocket sandwich, stuffed with anything from Chinese barbeque pork to sweet buttercream. You’ll be in line with old Asian ladies, Chicago cops and probably my husband but it’s well worth the wait.
Letizia’s Natural Bakery
2144 W. Division St.
Forget those gigantic downtown cheesecake restaurants because Letizia Sorano makes the best cheesecake in Chicago. Try a slice of caramel cheesecake with your coffee, or go for the gusto with a piece of the creamy cappuccino flavor. Letizia’s specializes in Northern Italian treats like the crostata, a mini pie filled with anything from cherries to chocolate ganache. Top your treat with a scoop of gelato and pretend you’re in bella Roma as opposed to stupid, gay Wicker Park. (PS Letizia is the reason why I can swear in two languages now.)
Lovely: A Bake Shop
1130 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Lovely is so cute it makes me want to throw rocks through the windows. Why? Because every time I go I get the feeling I’m bothering the people working there. Shit, it might even be the owners, I have no idea. The first time I visited one of their husbands was manning the counter and he was a doll so they got a good Yelp review. The next three times? Kind of dicks. And guess what, I can make my own thick, dry cookies at home where no one rolls their eyes at my kid.
2536 N. Clark
Named after the owner’s favorite grade school teacher, Molly’s Cupcakes was the third addition to the Chicago cupcake craze. Choose from a specialty favor like lemon curd-filled cupcakes with candied lemon peel, or get creative with their custom cupcakes option. Choose a cake, choose your frosting and toppings and then head over to the sprinkle station to finish it off! There are vegan cupcakes for those who eschew dairy and even cookies if you can’t decide on a cupcake flavor. They also have a full espresso bar and free wi-fi, so stay a while.
Pastry House Hippo
100 E. Algonquin Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Some of the strangest experiences of my adult lifetime have taken place right outside of this Asian bakery located inside Mitsuwa Market. I have bitten into a turtle-shaped pastry to discover a hideously curdled cream filling – but I have also tasted warm espresso custard in a fluffy pastry shell. I’ve had apple bread with a marzipan leaf and pretzel stem and I’ve seen yakisoba on white bread and wondered who in green hell would ever eat such a thing. I have shopped for tea cakes with Jennifer while the anime perverts swarmed the Re-Ment isle. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is. And I love it.
Solomon’s Gourmet Cookies
2222 N. Elston Ave.
So, this place is in the worst location ever. Kind of by Target and Jo Ann Fabrics but with no parking lot and barely any meters outside. I saw them on Food Network once and got the impression that they mostly make cookies for old people.
935 N. Damen Avenue
The Urban Housewife and I popped by a few weeks ago and it was a bittersweet experience. We loved the courtyard, although it wasn’t really being utilized, and we loved the owner’s dad but we kind of hated the dried out cupcakes. Kind of really hated them. Melisser’s too nice to say so, but she didn’t enjoy either flavor we tried. The pie was pretty OK but whatever. Pie is for weirdos. I liked the vintage oven as a cream and sugar station so I’m going to go back for some hopefully fresher baked goods.
Sweet Mandy B’s
1208 W Webster Ave
I’m so torn. I love Sweet Mandy B’s homemade pudding and their creamy, sweet buttercream but a former employee told me they use cake mix, which is totally inexcusable. I guess it doesn’t come up often, because they’re located in one of my top five most-hated neighborhoods but once in a while I still stop in for a frosted sugar cookie that I hope, really hope, isn’t from a mix.
5306 N. Clark Street
and other locations
I had good oatmeal cookie ice cream here with a girl I used to be friends with. We aren’t friends anymore, and David Tamarkin told me their pastries suck so I guess Sweet Occasions can go on the “nope” list now.
2229 N. Clybourn Ave.
Word up to Chef Dimitri Fayard, who recently helped Team USA win the gold at the World Pastry Competition. At his cozy little Lincoln Park patisserie he brings the best of French pastry to Chicago, with a symphony of exciting flavors and textures but absolutely no pretension. For only five dollars be sure to pick up a Manjori entremets, a moist chocolate sponge cake topped with chocolate mouse a dark chocolate glaze and a single curl of handmade chocolate. The flur de sel handmade caramels and authentic French macaroons are equally delicious. (He also skateboards and listens to French hip hop, how adorable is that?)
If you’re from Chicago I’m sure you noticed that many things were left out. This is because, like I said, I wasn’t allowed to write my own list. If you want to see my top ten check out my interview on Cakespy. If you aren’t from Chicago, well- now you know why we’re so fat here.