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Best Bakeries
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  • Post #31 - February 10th, 2005, 7:45 am
    Post #31 - February 10th, 2005, 7:45 am Post #31 - February 10th, 2005, 7:45 am
    rien wrote:I'm definitely a fan of Palermo. However, I'm down near UIC frequently and have become curious about bakeries in that area. I've heard mention of Ferrara, Italian Superior Bakery, and Scafuri Bakery. This seems to be the sum of Italian bakeries in the area. Throw in nearby Artopolis and the Greek pastry shop just up the street, Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop, and you've got good density. Unfortunately, I've only been to Artopolis and the Greek sweets-spot. I recommend both. Does anyone have a breakdown or recommendations for the Italian spots? I recall Ferrara and Scafuri getting "pass" remarks in the pizza threads.


    Years ago I tried the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop a few times and was not all that impressed. Enough time has passed, however, that I ought perhaps to give them another try. Insofar as Greek and Middle Eastern sweets overlap, I have satisfied my occasional need for baklava and such with visits to some of the Arab run sweet shops up in Albany Park.

    With regard to the Taylor Street Italian bakeries, I must say that I still am yet to visit Scafuri's. The other two, Ferrara's and Masi's are within short walking distance from where I live and so I consider myself to be extremely fortunate when it comes to access to great baked goods. I plan to post detailed reports on both of these places, the first of which is on Masi's and nears completion at this very moment (well, actually not, because I'm writing this instead, but it should appear later today or tomorrow).

    Ferrara's (2210 Taylor, by Ogden) is first and foremost a pasticceria, specialising in Italian pastries, cookies and cakes, though in recent years they have also started to produce some bread on weekdays.

    Masi's Italian Superior Bakery (933 South Western, by Taylor) is an excellent bakery that specialises in bread but is little known outside the Italian community. Details will appear shortly.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #32 - February 10th, 2005, 8:48 am
    Post #32 - February 10th, 2005, 8:48 am Post #32 - February 10th, 2005, 8:48 am
    I would echo Antonious's remarks about Middle-Eastern bakeries and Albany Park. The bakery next to Salaam, which has changed names and ownership over the years has consinstently put out great product. I especially love their two bigger pastries, one stuffed with a custard, one with a sweet cheese. The bakery just north of Lawrence, in the same mall as the Korean BBQ place, also seems to change hands, and also seems to put out great product, but if push came to shove, I would choose the one next to Salaam.

    As to Ferrari, I've been a few times within the last year, and my overall impression is of inconsistency. At times, the pastries can be great, other times tired. I suppose it is an inventory thing as much as anything. I wonder if Palermo will stay as great on a few more visits. I have been there several times in the past, but never remember it being AS good as it was on the coffeeathon. I hope it was not the caffeine.

    There are so many cool bakeries around, no one's mentioned Ann's, one of the few Ukranian places left in Chicago. Outstanding small pastries and cheesecake. It's on Chicago near Damen.

    There is Vienna on Addison, way, way west, I believe west of Laramie, that does a sublime cheese strudel.

    There's...well that's why I never did my planned bakery compilation.

    Rob
  • Post #33 - February 10th, 2005, 11:54 am
    Post #33 - February 10th, 2005, 11:54 am Post #33 - February 10th, 2005, 11:54 am
    Antonius wrote:Years ago I tried the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop a few times and was not all that impressed. Enough time has passed, however, that I ought perhaps to give them another try. Insofar as Greek and Middle Eastern sweets overlap, I have satisfied my occasional need for baklava and such with visits to some of the Arab run sweet shops up in Albany Park.


    The funny thing about this is that I like Pan Hellenic insofar as it does NOT overlap with the Middle Eastern spots in Albany Park. That is to say the items that are more cake and pie like. A very general observations that probably does not hold true categorically, but the Greek items tend towards moisture while the items at the Arab run spots tend towards crispness/dryness.

    If I remember correctly, I liked the galaktombouriko (a creamy cake ... almost like a cheese cake), bougatsa (or was that the one at Artopolis?), kalitsounia me kanella (cheese and cinnamon pastry), and some other items that incorporated noodles. I think both they and Artopolis still have melomarcarona, a traditional Christmas/winter spice cookie dipped in honey. I like them; they tend to have a cakey texture rather than being really cookie-like. Artopolis also has some grape lent cookies. I'm hoping one of them will have Tsoureki, an Easter sweet bread that traditionally (as far as I can tell) includes died hard boiled eggs embedded in the bread.

    rien
  • Post #34 - February 10th, 2005, 12:10 pm
    Post #34 - February 10th, 2005, 12:10 pm Post #34 - February 10th, 2005, 12:10 pm
    Antonius wrote:... Insofar as Greek and Middle Eastern sweets overlap, I have satisfied my occasional need for baklava and such with visits to some of the Arab run sweet shops up in Albany Park.


    rien wrote:The funny thing about this is that I like Pan Hellenic insofar as it does NOT overlap with the Middle Eastern spots in Albany Park...


    Perhaps that was part of the problem for me with Pan Hellenic, for there is generic overlap between Greece, Turkey and the Levant in all manner of things culinary, including a number of sweets. As I said, if I seek phyllo dough stuffed with nuts and drenched with honey, I look to the northwest and the Lawrence and Kedzie area. But one day, I'll try Pan Hellenic again, though certainly not till after Lent.

    Speaking of Lent, Artopolis' lagana last year was really very good.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #35 - February 10th, 2005, 12:28 pm
    Post #35 - February 10th, 2005, 12:28 pm Post #35 - February 10th, 2005, 12:28 pm
    Jaafer Sweets, 4825 North Kedzie, Chicago (in plaza with Clark Market (Korean, excellent panchan) Kang Nam (best dol sot bibimbap) and Albanian pizza place)

    Nazareth Sweets, 4638 N. Kedzie Ave. Chicago (next to Salaam).

    My taste for the two places above is opposite from VI's. Both are great and better than anything in Greektown, IMO, for baklava-type stuff. Jaafer has been the same for at least 3 years, though Nazareth was something else not too long ago. Both are Palestinian, I'm pretty sure (Nazareth, obviously). I think Jaafer's stff is more delicate and skillfully prepared. Neither has coffee (that they are willing to sell me, at least, as "regulars" are always drinking it) which seems like an oversight. Maybe they don't want folks hanging around and eating in.
  • Post #36 - February 10th, 2005, 12:42 pm
    Post #36 - February 10th, 2005, 12:42 pm Post #36 - February 10th, 2005, 12:42 pm
    JeffB wrote:Jaafer Sweets, 4825 North Kedzie, Chicago (in plaza with Clark Market (Korean, excellent panchan) Kang Nam (best dol sot bibimbap) and Albanian pizza place)

    Nazareth Sweets, 4638 N. Kedzie Ave. Chicago (next to Salaam).

    My taste for the two places above is opposite from VI's. Both are great and better than anything in Greektown, IMO, for baklava-type stuff. Jaafer has been the same for at least 3 years, though Nazareth was something else not too long ago. Both are Palestinian, I'm pretty sure (Nazareth, obviously). I think Jaafer's stff is more delicate and skillfully prepared. Neither has coffee (that they are willing to sell me, at least, as "regulars" are always drinking it) which seems like an oversight. Maybe they don't want folks hanging around and eating in.


    Nazareth used to be "Al Basha" and, despite some less than friendly service at times, I thought they made great stuff. After "Al Basha" closed, we started going to Jaafer (on JeffB's rec.) and have been very happy with them. We just haven't gotten around to going to Nazareth. Then there's also the sweet shop of Al Khayam, with which we were disappointed once long ago. We should be try them again some time too... But how much Baklava can one eat?

    My favourite item in the Arab shops is the simple semolina cake. Blissful.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #37 - February 10th, 2005, 3:40 pm
    Post #37 - February 10th, 2005, 3:40 pm Post #37 - February 10th, 2005, 3:40 pm
    JeffB wrote:My taste for the two places above is opposite from VI's.


    I concur. The products seem more consistent at Jaafer. I've found the service friendlier as well. Of course, that may be because I go there on the weekends when when the teenage/twentysomething son is working the counter. He may not be that knowledgeable about the products - he always relays my questions to his father who is usually drinking afforementioned coffee with afforementioned regulars - but he doesn't relate to me as an intrusion.

    He might even give me coffee ... if dad would let him.

    :wink:

    rien
  • Post #38 - February 11th, 2005, 9:06 am
    Post #38 - February 11th, 2005, 9:06 am Post #38 - February 11th, 2005, 9:06 am
    Antonius wrote:Then there's also the sweet shop of Al Khayam, with which we were disappointed once long ago. We should be try them again some time too... But how much Baklava can one eat?

    My favourite item in the Arab shops is the simple semolina cake. Blissful.

    Antonius


    But as you even note, there is so much more to these bakeries than baklava. And even the baklava styled pastries come in several varieties. I mean the pistachio tastes VERY different than a walnut.

    But there are all sorts of cool things that are not baklava. As I noted, I tend to favor the nutless pastries like the cheese stuffed phylo triangles.

    What, you say, it's all phylo, even with cheese or custard inside. Well, the Condiment Queen favors the shredded wheat logs (granted they have a similar core as baklava). There are cookies and cakes with nary a flake. What is that orange two layer stuff for instance?

    OK, I know this is a false argument in a lot of ways. I just think that there is a tendancy to shoo Middle-Eastern bakeries away, instead of reveling in the full glory of their offerings. I guess why I am going on here, is that I've been spending a fair amount of time in the loop the last few weeks, and I have had my share of corporate bakeries like Corner "Bakery" (no joke, at one time this place, back when it first opened in River North was pretty good). The Middle Eastern bakeries are part of the bastion of real bakeries left in the city that should be exhaulted and maintained.

    (Alright off the high horse and walking into the "office")

    Rob
  • Post #39 - February 11th, 2005, 11:18 am
    Post #39 - February 11th, 2005, 11:18 am Post #39 - February 11th, 2005, 11:18 am
    I've always agreed with Rob that the overall quality of "Middle Eastern" baked goods in Chicago is very high and pretty widely available considering the numbers. I wonder whether the high quality is attributable to a tradition in the Chicago community or a baking tradition, generally, among Palestinians. Based on my experience in other communities where much the same or very similar stuff is baked (say, the Armenian areas of LA or Syrian/Lebanese places in Pennsylvania or Greektown here) it's clear to me that the Palestinian shops mentioned in this thread stand out.

    On a related note, the intensely monocultural Greek community of Tarpon Springs, FL (used to be a fishing/sponge center) has magnificent baked goods, much better than anything I've had here. The restaurants tend more toward mom and pop places with a few larger exceptions that fit the Halsted St. model. Bakeries and epicure/deli places are more abundant there also. I'd say that anyone trapped in Central FL, including Orlando, that wants an LTH-type food experience should put West Tampa (Cuban) and Tarpon Springs on the short list. For what it's worth, the immigrants came from the following places, all islands, I believe, according to one community site: Kalymnos, Halki, Sumi, Hydra, Spetse, and Aegena. I'm not clear on where most of the immigration to Chicago originated, though I have seen evidence of community ties to Chicago in TS, mostly by way of Chicagoana in some stores.

    PS, Rob, I think the shredded wheat is most often shredded dough, kadaifi. And I agree about the subtle differences in technique and flavor among what appear to be simply the same pastries with different nut fillings. I'm a sucker for the walnut stuff because of the way they handle it, even though I generally prefer pistachios and almonds to walnuts.
  • Post #40 - February 11th, 2005, 11:25 am
    Post #40 - February 11th, 2005, 11:25 am Post #40 - February 11th, 2005, 11:25 am
    JeffB wrote: I'm not clear on where most of the immigration to Chicago originated...


    I believe a very large segment -- probably the largest segment -- of the Chicago Greek community is from the southern Peloponnese.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #41 - February 11th, 2005, 5:54 pm
    Post #41 - February 11th, 2005, 5:54 pm Post #41 - February 11th, 2005, 5:54 pm
    One Greek pastry bakery still exists from the period when the Lincoln Lawrence Western area was Greektown north, so comparison with the Middle Eastern pastry bakeries would be pretty simple on a trip to the Kedzie Lawrence area. The only nonsweet items are cheese and spinach pies. Unlike such Greek bread bakeries as Markellos, which are staffed largely by Guatemalans and Mexicans, Hellas still seems to be strictly Greek. As an aside, Markellos started out on the north side of Lawrence in the same block.

    Hellas Pastry Shop and Bakery
    2637 West Lawrence Avenue
    (southeast corner of Lawrence and Talman)
  • Post #42 - February 11th, 2005, 6:19 pm
    Post #42 - February 11th, 2005, 6:19 pm Post #42 - February 11th, 2005, 6:19 pm
    As much as I enjoy Mid Eastern and Italian pastries, I think of them as a diversion. When I think about going to the bakery to get some sweets, I inevitably end up at a more traditional European (I know Italy is European and Greece wants to be) bakery. For me, it's all about butter, cream and chocolate. I like subtlety in flavors as much as the next LTHer, but when it comes to sweets, I like to be hit over the head with sugar and fat. Now bread bakeries...that's another story.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #43 - February 12th, 2005, 3:09 pm
    Post #43 - February 12th, 2005, 3:09 pm Post #43 - February 12th, 2005, 3:09 pm
    I am the same way. When I go to a bakery I go mainly for desserts. I rarely go for breads of any kind.
  • Post #44 - February 12th, 2005, 4:48 pm
    Post #44 - February 12th, 2005, 4:48 pm Post #44 - February 12th, 2005, 4:48 pm
    Antonius, there was also a large emmigration from Smyrna (and surrounding areas of Asia Minor, I assume) in and around 1922.
  • Post #45 - February 6th, 2008, 9:32 am
    Post #45 - February 6th, 2008, 9:32 am Post #45 - February 6th, 2008, 9:32 am
    rien wrote:The funny thing about this is that I like Pan Hellenic insofar as it does NOT overlap with the Middle Eastern spots in Albany Park. That is to say the items that are more cake and pie like.

    Rien,

    Stopped at Pan Hellenic for a coffee and cookie pick me up last week and was quite taken with the meringues and coconut macaroon cookies. I did not try any of the more traditional items, I am generally not a fan of honey soaked sweets, but every thing I tried in the cake category was delicious.

    The young lady at the counter made the coffee, standard drip, fresh and there's a couple of tables for in-house snack consumption.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Pan Helenic Pastry Shop
    322 S Halsted St
    Chicago, IL 60661
    312-454-1886
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #46 - February 6th, 2008, 6:25 pm
    Post #46 - February 6th, 2008, 6:25 pm Post #46 - February 6th, 2008, 6:25 pm
    I thought I would mention:

    Sue's Family Bakery & Catering
    5806 Central Ave
    Portage, IN 46368
    219.763.3008

    for Cathy's next urban exploration tour of obscure yet wonderful NWI venues. If you can get here early enough, before they sell out, they have fantastic coffee cakes, and similar items. If you call, they will usually hold items for later pickup that day.
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #47 - May 30th, 2010, 1:55 pm
    Post #47 - May 30th, 2010, 1:55 pm Post #47 - May 30th, 2010, 1:55 pm
    Hellas Pastry shop is a small family owned Greek pastry shop that has been in business for decades. The shop seems to be run by a husband and wife team, who are generally friendly and welcoming. Tasty cookies that I've had recently from Hellas Pastry include:

    Almond paste sandwich cookies, oval shape, topped with sliced almonds and sandwiched together with an apricot jam layer. These cookies are fairly sweet and reminiscent of marzipan. In a good way, for those like me who enjoy marzipan. (They might be too sweet for others.)

    Honey-dipped cookies with subtle spices (cinnamon and not sure what else), topped with finely chopped walnuts.

    Very simple crispy butter cookie, pale buttery color, shaped in various swirl designs (these may only be available at Easter).

    There is a brief mention of Hellas Bakery in the HarvesTime thread (regarding differing experiences that posters have had who sampled Hellas' spinach or cheese pies).

    Hellas Pastry
    2627 W Lawrence Ave
    Chicago IL 60625
    (between Rockwell St & Talman Ave)
    (773) 271-7500
  • Post #48 - September 9th, 2021, 6:48 am
    Post #48 - September 9th, 2021, 6:48 am Post #48 - September 9th, 2021, 6:48 am
    A Secret Society Of Chicago Bakers Meets Every Month — And It’s Keeping Beloved Bakeries Alive

    https://blockclubchicago.org/2021/09/09 ... ies-alive/
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #49 - September 9th, 2021, 7:22 am
    Post #49 - September 9th, 2021, 7:22 am Post #49 - September 9th, 2021, 7:22 am
    Dave148 wrote:
    A Secret Society Of Chicago Bakers Meets Every Month — And It’s Keeping Beloved Bakeries Alive

    https://blockclubchicago.org/2021/09/09 ... ies-alive/

    Interesting, wonderful idea. Thank you for posting the link.
    One idea in the article truly resonated. "somebody might say one sentence that causes you to think about how you’re doing something.”

    Dave148, count me a Fan!
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #50 - September 9th, 2021, 9:50 am
    Post #50 - September 9th, 2021, 9:50 am Post #50 - September 9th, 2021, 9:50 am
    G Wiv wrote:
    Dave148 wrote:
    A Secret Society Of Chicago Bakers Meets Every Month — And It’s Keeping Beloved Bakeries Alive

    https://blockclubchicago.org/2021/09/09 ... ies-alive/

    Interesting, wonderful idea. Thank you for posting the link.
    One idea in the article truly resonated. "somebody might say one sentence that causes you to think about how you’re doing something.”

    Dave148, count me a Fan!

    I'm blushing!
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #51 - October 4th, 2021, 10:21 am
    Post #51 - October 4th, 2021, 10:21 am Post #51 - October 4th, 2021, 10:21 am
    I just found out that Oak Park Bakery has the legendary Pecan custard coffee cake!!
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare

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