The Best Bakeries In Chicago

If there's one thing you'll learn from this guide, it's that the early bird gets the best kougin amann.
The Best Bakeries In Chicago image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

If you’re the kind of person who reacts to the word “bread” the way a dog reacts to the word “walk,” then being at a bakery is one of the best feelings in the world. The air smells like the inside of a buttery croissant, and it’s completely acceptable to stare into the display case like a cat watching goldfish swim around in a tank. Fortunately, Chicago has plenty to choose from, whether you’re searching for brioche buns with creative fillings or sourdough bread that will put your homemade starter to shame.


photo credit: Veda Kilaru



Logan Square

$$$$Perfect For:Coffee & A Light BiteSerious Take-Out Operation
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The line for this takeout-only bakery in Logan Square starts forming at least 30 minutes before they open at 9am, and by 8:50 there will be no less than 25 people happily waiting, rain or shine. But it’s worth spending a precious weekend morning standing on a sidewalk to get one (or hopefully, many) of Sugar Moon’s curried cauliflower croissants, Nutella-pear brioche buns, or crunchy and not-too-sweet espresso cornflake cookies. Somehow, every crumb in the sweet and savory scones crumbles just right, and every pastry is made up of layers flakier than a Spirit Airlines schedule.

Not only does this Filipino spot in Ukrainian Village have one of the best tasting menus in the city, but Kasama also functions as a walk-in-only cafe in the mornings—and that’s when you can get excellent pastries. The ham and cheese danish is a good example of what makes them so perfect, with salty serrano ham and raclette fondue on top of a light and flaky pastry that’s topped with sugar. The person in charge of the baked goods is the former pastry chef from Oriole, so it’s not surprising that the berry creme fraiche cheesecake is lighter than a two-year-old’s conscience.

Lost Larson gets bragging rights not just because they take the extra step to mill their own flour (which is cool) but also because they make incredible breads, sandwiches, and pastries. The pastry case is stuffed with what looks like all 10 weeks’ worth of The Great British Baking Show’s technical challenges. There are delicate tarts, cardamom buns, and plenty of savory croissants and scones. The must-order is an airy afternoon bun—the Earl Grey and citrus sugar on top will inadvertently cause you to start calling cookies “biscuits.”

This West Town bakery is where you’ll find the baking operation that supplies bread to The Publican and Publican Quality Meats, along with a small storefront that has all sorts of pastries and loaves. Fantastic things like earthy buckwheat chocolate croissants and gruyere brioche buns are available on a rolling basis starting at 7am, and fresh bread (like a tangy sourdough that’s crustier than Statler and Waldorf) makes an appearance at 9am. There’s no place to sit, but there’s ample street parking in the area—perfect for when you need an SUV’s backseat to transport everything you bought home.

Inside this dentist's office-turned-bakery is the best key lime pie in the city, made better than the rest by the addition of strawberries and basil. Get a whole one, or try it in an “Earth Wind + Fire” pie flight and decide whether you like the lemon espresso or cucumber, mango, and chili lime versions better. Cakes, cookies, quiches, and banana pudding are on the menu too. Warm dishes like chicken pot pie are available after 11am, made even warmer by the friendliest conversations you’ll ever have with strangers.

The rotating menu at Mindy’s reads like an Encyclopedia of Bread, with everything from donuts to pot pies—but standouts include a mortadella and giardiniera turnover and a honey, brie, and apricot jam danish. This Wicker Park bakery also happens to have one of the best bagels in Chicago. Unfortunately, because everyone shares our opinion, the small space is usually crowded. There are only a couple of window seats, so be prepared to eat over the steering wheel and catch some crumbs in the car.

This cash-only bakery has been in Chinatown for over 40 years, and there is no better place in the city for soft and fluffy baked BBQ pork buns, sesame balls, and egg tarts with flaky crusts that will stick to your lips and embarrass you if you don’t check the mirror after inhaling one. The sponge cakes are airy, and the strawberry version is the perfect balance of just sweet enough without being cloying. Everything is made fresh daily, and anything from the pastry case is well worth the hassle of stopping at an ATM.

“Life is sweeter with a little brown sugar” is the phrase proudly displayed on Brown Sugar Bakery’s website. And this iconic Chicago bakery in Greater Grand Crossing makes cakes sweeter than the declarations of love from your kindergarten-era crush. The counter-service shop is small, but the menu is long—besides cheesecake, pies, and cupcakes, there’s a variety of cakes available by the slice. The real standout is the classic caramel. Like all the cakes here, it’s made with precise, light, open crumb layers that look like they were stacked and frosted by an architect.

Everyone at Loba—from the baristas, to the bakers visible in the windowed kitchen, to the people inhaling pineapple sourdough muffins—seems to have one thing in common: A deep and abiding love for the pastries here. This minimalist coffee shop/small-batch bakery has unconventional flavor combinations (white chocolate curry scones for example), and unique creations, like a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, sesame-topped, oat-based baked custard. The menu rotates regularly, and hours and seating are fairly limited, so on weekends Loba gets packed with people angling to try things before they sell out. Plan accordingly.

If you’ve never had a crush on a baked good, you will after trying anything at this cafe and bakery in Avondale—whether it’s a flaky bear claw topped with almonds or a fruit danish filled with rhubarb jam. Plus, their chocolate cake was one of the stars of season one of The Bear. And unlike some celebrities, we also like it in real life. The chocolatey combination of soft cake, ganache, and frosting is rich and sweet, and even with its multiple layers, never feels too dense. Oh yeah, the housemade English muffins and breads also helped score Loaf Lounge a spot on Chicago’s best sandwiches list. Breakfast sandwiches too.

This former farmer’s market staple made the transition to a full-blown bakery and cafe in Lincoln Park, but one thing hasn’t changed: they’re still making delicious pastries (and breads, and sandwiches) 13 years later. Show up in the morning with your laptop for a cup of coffee and an ultra-flaky croissant, then settle in with a honey-pecan sticky bun to make answering emails more tolerable. And as you approach inbox zero, Floriole has the perfect option for a celebratory lunch: a very good Parisian sandwich with ham and butter on a crusty sourdough-based baguette with a delicate open crumb.

The “Aya” in question was originally the head pastry chef at Maple & Ash, and this neighborhood bakery in West Town means that now you can get her fantastic baked goods straight from the source. It has everything from wonderfully flaky croissants, to pull-apart milk bread, to take-and-bake cinnamon rolls that will change your life. Plus, Aya even has a drive-thru so you can roll up in your PJs before heading home to throw those bad boys in the oven.

The draw at this Logan Square spot is, unsurprisingly, pie and biscuits. The biscuits are large and slightly crisp, moist and fluffy inside, and involve a lot of butter (in the dough, and on the side with some seasonal jam). And the biscuits are almost as good as the outstanding pies. Thick fillings sit in a flaky (or graham cracker-y) crust, and come in rotating flavors like key lime, apple cider donut, and German chocolate. Even the savory chicken versions are good. They’re available by the slice or whole, and if you’ve never had pie for breakfast, it’s time to change that. The inside of Bang Bang itself is pretty small, but there’s a large patio out back with an abundance of picnic tables and chairs that are perfect for lounging.

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Panadería Nuevo Leon


Panaderia Nuevo Leon has been a Pilsen family-owned favorite for almost 50 years, but the intoxicating smell of freshly baked bread that hits you as soon as you walk by is just the beginning. Stop in and pick up a tray, a set of tongs, and browse the overwhelming selection of Mexican pan dulce, like cocoa-dusted conchas and molasses-y marranitos. If you’re looking for something savory to take home, they also sell a dozen flavors of homemade tortillas like spinach, chile de arbol, and black bean jalapeño.

Sweet Mandy B’s in Lincoln Park is our go-to sweet shop whenever we, as adults, want to eat a chocolate dirt cup topped with gummy worms, or rice krispy treats topped with frosting and sprinkles. But they also have tasty baked goods that don’t sound like something you begged your mom to have at your eighth birthday party—like key lime pie, scones, and flourless chocolate cake. That said, you should still order a Double Doozie—a chocolate chip cookie sandwich stuffed with edible cookie dough.

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