Get your kids in on the super sweet Fat Tuesday fun. Start at local bakeries that sell paczki (pronounced “poonch-key”). The traditional Polish filled donuts symbolize the start of Lent and are a must-eat. But you have to act fast: They’re typically available for one day only. This year Paczki Day is Tuesday, February 28, and we’ve got you covered with a guide to great bakeries from Oak Park to Bridgeport so you can stock up and go wild.
photo: Delightful Pastries via Cindy Kurman, Kurman Communications
Owner Dobra Bielinski and her team are planning on frying up thousands of paczki using a beloved, generations-old family recipe with a few modern-day twists when it comes to the filling: Passion Fruit Jelly, Jamison Whiskey Chocolate and PB & J are on the menu. But Delightful Pastries’ take on paczki also focuses on the dough, made with premium ingredients including fresh Wisconsin butter. Grab one from the charming, Euro-style Old Town and Jefferson Park bakeries or drop by their stand at Chicago French Market.
927 W. Lawrence Ave.
It’s Fat Tuesday 24/7/365 at this no-frills but much loved Polish/Lithuanian bakery. They specialize in paczki and serve them year ’round. You’ll always find at least four types, but on Fat Tuesday they go into overdrive with at least 20 different fillings from Boston creme to raspberry. There will likely be a long line of local families looking to load up on this traditional pre-Lenten treat.
2907 S. Archer Ave.
photo: Michael U via Yelp
Fat Tuesday is one of the busiest days of the year at Roeser’s Bakery, one of Chicago’s oldest family-owned bakeries. Strawberry, blueberry, apple, apricot, custard, chocolate custard, raspberry and pineapple are among the featured paczki fillings. Since they tend to sell out fast, we recommend ordering a day or two in advance. While you’re there, grab a loaf of Roeser’s famous bread, available in rye and buttercrust white. Kids love peeping at the many colorful cake toppers displayed throughout the store depicting just about every beloved cartoon character on television.
3216 W. North Ave.
Kurowski’s and Rich’s Bakery
Located in the heart of Avondale, the northwest side neighborhood nicknamed “Polish Village” for its large Eastern European population, Kurowski’s and Rich’s Bakery is an emporium of all things Polish and yummy. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into babcia’s kitchen thanks to the sweet smells of kielbasa and paczki that waft through the air. The paczki lean toward the more traditional here, with plum, poppyseed and sweet farmer’s cheese among the top three requests. Take home a kielbasa to make your Fat Tuesday even fatter: You’ll find more than 20 varieties, all freshly smoked on the shop’s second floor.
2976 N. Milwaukee Ave.
photo: Bennison’s Bakery
Bennison’s has been baking up European-style pastries, cookies, and custom decorated cakes on Chicago’s North Shore since 1938. If you haven’t stepped into the small, Old World-style bakery, perhaps you’ve peered through the big glass window that gives a peek into the cake decorating room. On Fat Tuesday, paczki hit the shelves with fillings ranging from the traditional (prune, apricot, cheese, raspberry, custard) to the decadent (fresh strawberry with whipped cream, praline chocolate mousse, fresh banana cream). Call to pre-order your paczki starting on Monday, February 20, to ensure that you get your fill of the pre-Lenten goods.
1000 Davis St.
Oak Park Bakery
Family owned for over 30 years, Oak Park Bakery offers a wide selection of homemade-from-scratch baked goods. Polish baked goods are a mainstay here, with over 12 types of kolacky offered daily, and Paczki Day is a big deal. The pre-Lenten Polish treats are fried fresh and filled with 14 different flavors, with lemon and cherry being the most in-demand. This bakery is small and old-school. But while it could be lost in the modern, glossy age, its retro-Americana vibe and service is what makes it remain a favorite.
904 S. Oak Park Ave.
Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery
The yellow-and-black striped awnings are beacons for west suburban paczki fans. You can brave the line to get your fill; bakers work in earnest to make customers happy. But your best bet is to phone an order to the bakery, so you can just pop in for a quick pick-up on the big, fat day. A whopping 20 fillings are on the menu at this sweet bakery, making it hard to choose the best of the bunch, so go with a double-dozen and give every single one a taste.
5126 Main St.
photo: Firecakes Donuts
Firecakes Donuts, the delicious artisan donut shop now with two locations as well as Billy, the donut truck, are ready to delight you with Chicago’s tastiest paczki. This year’s lineup, available just in time for the annual Fat Tuesday celebration, includes three different varieties: raspberry and blood orange, chocolate custard and Meyer Lemon. Advance orders are recommended and can easily be made online.
68 W. Hubbard Ave.
2453 N. Clark
Do you have any tips for Paczki Day? Spill them the Comments section!
— Amy Bizzarri