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, February 16, and we’ve got you covered with a guide to great bakeries from Downers Grove to Bridgeport so you can stock up and go wild.
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: Custard Topped with Chocolate Fudge, Apricot Jelly, Plum Butter, Raspberry Jelly and Rose Petal Jelly. If you’re more adventurous, try the gourmet flavors such as Fresh Strawberry and Whipped Cream; Fresh Strawberry; Passion Fruit Jelly with a great taste of the Caribbean; Salted Caramel with scratch-made caramel using sea salt; and German Chocolate with pecans and coconut custard topping. 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.
All advance orders must be received by February 10.
5927 W. Lawrence Ave., Jefferson Park; Online: delightfulpastries.com
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; Online: facebook.com/Bridgeport-Bakery
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
The more you buy at Stan’s, the more you save! So stock up on the Doughboy’s Best Pockets, an American take on Paczki, available in Peanut Butter, Almond Cream, Caramel Marshmallow, Cherry, Biscoff Banana and Lemon Espresso deliciousness. As paczki aficionados know, rarely does one buy a single paczek, or donut, so go for the dozen for $39.99!
Available at their 12 Chicagoland locations. Find the location nearest you online.
Fat Tuesday is one of the busiest days of the year at Roeser’s Bakery, one of Chicago’s oldest family-owned bakeries. This year’s Paczki menu boasts over 24 varieties! Since they tend to sell out fast, we recommend ordering in advance. While you’re there, grab a loaf of Roeser’s famous bread, available in rye and buttercrust white.
3216 W. North Ave., Humboldt Park; Online: roeserscakes.com
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
This local polish grocery store offers a variety of baked breads, pastries and fresh meals, all made from scratch year-round. But this time of year it’s all about the paczki. They’re proud of maintaining the old baking tradition of frying the paczki with the filling inside, making them unforgettably delicious.
Locations in Schiller Park, Schaumburg, Wheeling & Mount Prospect; Online: mykdmarket.com
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. This year’s lineup included four different varieties: Housemade Raspberry-Blood Orange Jelly with Powdered Sugar, Malted Chocolate Cream with Chocolate Sugar, Lemon Curd with Lemon Glaze, and Apple Bourbon with Sugar, but it’s the other Mardi Gras donut delight that steals the show here, the baby topped King Cake Donut!
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 8, 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 February 15 & 16.
1000 Davis St., Evanston; Online: bennisonscakes.com
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; Online: oakparkbakery.com
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. Your best bet for making things go quickly is to print an order form and bring to the bakery 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. We say you go with a double-dozen and give every single one a taste.
Unlike in the past, no pre-orders will be taken this year, but the bakery promises to be packed with Paczki for in-person pick up on February 16.
5126 Main St., Downers Grove; Online: ingramsbusybee.com
— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri