Cupcakes, donuts and now croissants – fads come and go. Below, you won’t find the best new spots catering solely to the latest trend; instead, you’ll find the survivors who’ve lived past the fads to become the best Chicago bakeries, period. From 100-year-old institutions to authentic Mexican bakeries, and even a bakery inspired by a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese traditions, these spots will check all the boxes across your vast flavor palate.
Visit Magnolia Bakery for your cupcake fix
Bakery, Dessert, $$$
Magnolia Bakery is mostly an East Coast delight, with the majority of their shops in New York, but they also have bakeries in Los Angeles, Mexico City and, yes, one in downtown Chicago. Cupcakes are Magnolia’s niche. You can opt for one of their classic flavors, like chocolate or red velvet, but their specialty cupcakes are just as good: try the lemon cupcake, which features a lemon cream filling and lemon meringue buttercream frosting; or the banana, which is filled with caramel. Beyond cupcakes, Magnolia also makes delicious pies and mini cheesecakes.
Wicker Park’s Alliance Bakery has become a mainstay on the Northwest side. Offering mostly French pastries, Alliance’s own Chef Peter Rios studied in Paris for several years. Alliance’s ham and cheddar croissant makes for a fantastic breakfast, but if you’re solely looking for sweet desserts, you can try their traditional-with-a-twist fine pastries. Notables: the s’more tart, which combines a graham cracker crust with toasted meringue, and the tiramisu. As you’ll see from the cake and cookie designs, Alliance’s desserts look as good as they taste.
Established in 1922 by a German immigrant, Dinkel’s is a stalwart among Chicago businesses. The Lake View bakery has expanded beyond the old-world recipes that built its reputation. Though the bakery’s stollen – a sweet bread made from almonds, cashews and fruit – is made the same today as it was 100 years ago, Dinkel’s in recent years has also expanded their space to include a modern coffee shop next to their bakery. The buttercream-topped chocolate cakes and chocolate cake donuts are among the best in the city.
Cafe, Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, Fast Food, Pastries, $$$
The pastries at Cellar Door Provisions are delicious
Cellar Door Provisions is a fantastic spot in Logan Square for those who love a breakfast filled with sweet delights. Cellar Door’s croissants may be the best in the city and their kouign-amann – a buttery pastry with caramelized sugar covering the bottom – will reduce you to a blissful state of uselessness. For something less sweet, try the spinach quiche. Cellar Door’s pastry menu does change often, but every croissant, cake and canelé (the pastry’s thick caramelized crust hides a delicious cream inside) is made with the same quality, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
Grab a slice of sweet potato pie at Brown Sugar Bakery
Bakery, Dessert, $$$
Brown Sugar Bakery has been serving up some of the best sweet potato pie in the city for 15 years. The Greater Grand Crossing bakery soothes the sweetest of sweet tooths with a delightful selection of cakes, which include flavors like dreamsicle and caramel pecan. Like the sweet potato pie, the bakery’s peach, pear and apple pies are impossible to say no to.
Savour cakes made from natural ingredients at Letizia's Natural Bakery
Bakery, Dessert, Mexican
Letizia’s prides itself on all-natural recipes. From their “decadent chocolate cakes” – raspberry truffle, white chocolate truffle and Belgian chocolate truffle – to the cheesecakes and pies, everything is made with all-natural ingredients and no artificial flavors or food colors. And the espresso bar is taken seriously, regularly bringing in freshly roasted beans from Caffè Umbria.
Roeser’s is the oldest bakery on the list, serving up delicious cakes since 1911. Few things have changed with how the cakes, tortes and cookies at Roeser’s taste in the past 100+ years. Even better, Roeser’s can custom design cakes to fit any shape, making them a great option for special occasions. The traditional fillings, from fresh strawberries and bananas to creamy custard or thick cream cheese, push the bakery’s cakes ahead of the competition.
Choose between pork buns and sweet treats at Chiu Quon Bakery and Dim Sum
Chinatown’s Chiu Quon Bakery & Dim Sum hits the spot with their BBQ pork buns and, more importantly, cakes: cream cake, chocolate cake, tiramisu, chestnut cake and more. That said, their mixed fruit cake is a fan-favorite. This cash-only bakery has a counter and some tables off to the side, but otherwise isn’t adorned or decorated in any specific style. Chiu Quon lets the food speak for itself.
Fat Rice, specializing in a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese food, had already earned rave reviews from the majority of Chicagoans when they opened The Bakery, offering sweet and savory delights during the day. Egg tarts, sweet buns and a dark chocolate brownie are among a few of the treats on the sweet menu; the savory menu contains highlights like cremoso, which is filled with a savory custard, bacon and scallions.
Visit La Estrella for the best in Mexican pastries
La Estrella has been serving up Mexican pastries in Logan Square for over a decade. Their selection of pan dulce (sweet bread) tastes like homemade perfection. If you don’t know enough Spanish to know what conchas or cuernos are, just point – you won’t be disappointed. And if all else fails, their flan is good enough to make this tiny operation one of the more popular, if not the most popular, Mexican bakeries in Chicago.