Get your kids in on the super sweet Fat Tuesday fun. Start at local bakeries that sell paczki (pronounced “poonch-key”), the traditional must-eat Polish donut that symbolizes the start of Lent. But, you have to act fast: They’re typically available for an extremely limited time. This year Paczki Day is Tuesday, March 5, 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
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: Rose Petal Jelly, Plum Better, Passion Fruit Jelly, Guava Creme and PB & J are on the menu. The bakery’s decidedly non-kid-friendly yet highly delicious “Drunken Paczki” include Vodka & Vanilla Bean Custard, Jameson Whiskey Chocolate Custard and Moonshine and Lemon filled delights.
5927 W. Lawrence Ave., Jefferson Park
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 almost 20 different fillings from cheese to pineapple. There will likely be a long line of local families looking to load up on this traditional pre-Lenten treat.
2907 S. Archer Ave., Bridgeport
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., Humboldt Park
photo: Couleur via Pixabay
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., Avondale
Firecakes Donuts, the delicious artisan donut shop now with four locations as well as Billy, the donut truck, are ready to delight you with Chicago’s tastiest paczki. Last year’s lineup included three different varieties: raspberry and blood orange, chocolate custard and Meyer Lemon. Keep an eye on social media for this year’s flavors as advance orders are recommended and can easily be made online.
photo: free-photos via Pixabay
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. Starting February 25, paczkis 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 to ensure that you get your fill of the pre-Lenten goods as no same-day orders will be accepted March 4 or 5. Consider entering the Paczki Eating Contest, which takes place on Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m., when eight two-person teams will compete to stuff themselves with as many paczkis possible.
1000 Davis St., Evanston
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 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., Oak Park
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 or fax in an order, so you can 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., Downers Grove
— Amy Bizzarri