Tucked within the Lill Street Art Center, a popular arts studio that offers classes, gallery and a gift shop, is one of several First Slice Pie Cafe outposts. Each pie and all of the baked goods are made from scratch and while they're all ridiculously delicious, the real treat is knowing that proceeds from First Slice sales benefit the needy and homeless as it's a self-funded charity. Want to enjoy more of their meals at home? Its weekly shareholders program receive home-cooked, restaurant-quality meals weekly and those funds are used to make the same quality meals for people in need.
Recommended for Bakeries because: Not only is the food great, so is the community service this restaurant supports.
Megy's expert tip: Schedule extra time to browse the gift shop steps away with handmade gifts, jewelry and accessories.
Artopolis prides itself on producing fresh-baked breads and authentic Greek desserts, all made it their own kitchen. The bakery's name comes from a combination of the words "artos" and "polis" (bread and town, respectively). It's also a cafe, with seating in a modern, loft-style space, so you can have lunch or dinner before your dessert. Try their their signature "artopitas," a puff pastry with spinach and feta. Or for something sweet, their traditional Greek desserts, like a square of baklava or loukoumades (honey puffs with cinnamon and sesame seeds) are among their most popular desserts. Artopolis is a sister business to the Pegasus Restaurant and Taverna, two blocks away.
Recommended for Bakeries because: Authentic Greek desserts are made fresh here, in one of Greektown's most popular bakeries.
Jamie's expert tip: Try their chocolate mousse "tulip" cup, recently ranked among the Best Chocolate Mousses in America.
Homemade pies and biscuits are the name of the game at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Logan Square. They also have a second location in Ravenswood, on 4947 N. Damen Ave. The food here is not only beautiful to look at, but delicious. Pie selections change with the seasons, but there are always a few popular regulars on the menu, like Key Lime and Cookies 'N Cream. Just as exciting as the pies are the biscuits. You can get an entire meal here which or just a slice of pie and coffee and hang out. Indoor seating is limited, but if you go on a nice weather day, there will be plenty of outdoor seating on picnic benches in their grassy patio area.
Recommended for Bakeries because: You won't be able to resist saying "Mmmmm" out loud when you take your first bite of pie.
Jamie's expert tip: Order your favorite pies early because once they sell out for the day, they're no longer available for the day.
If European desserts are what you crave, this is the place to go. The Austrian bakery, which is also a full restaurant, serves items like homemade Black Forest Cake, apple strudel, and Belgian waffles. Some specialties include the Bienenstich, a traditional Austrian-German pastry with layers of sweet yeast dough and light whipped custard cream, topped with slivered almonds. Or the Topfen Strudel, a traditional Austrian sweet cheese strudel made with a hand-pulled, parchment-thin pastry. They even make an excellent Polish dessert, a Chicago favorite, the Paczki. Wash it all down with a Viennese Iced Coffee, made with an espresso shot and whipped cream.
Recommended for Bakeries because: It's a great place for Austrian and German desserts, like Bienenstich and Topfen Strudel.
Jamie's expert tip: Try their buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pretzel croissants, an option for several sandwiches.
Their motto is "Cupcakes make people happy." And they would be correct. Swirlz Cupcake Boutique, located in Lincoln Park near DePaul University, bakes 'haute couture' cupcakes. The cupcakes are pricey ($42 for a dozen), but they're worth it for their delicious whipped buttercream frosting and moist cake. Their small, friendly staff (and smaller store) create an intimate, neighborhood setting. Since one of the founders is a nutritionist, they are also proud to tell you that their reduced-sugar cupcakes equal only five points according to Weight Watchers' point system. They also have one of the largest assortment of vegan and gluten-free cupcakes in Chicago.
Recommended for Bakeries because: Swirlz has received national accolades for its outstanding cupcakes.
Jamie's expert tip: Special dietary needs? A nice assortment of vegan and gluten-free cupcakes are available.
An institution in Chicago for more than 100 years, Roeser's is a classic - and beloved - old-school bakery. Even the neon vintage sign is a landmark in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Opened by German immigrants, members of the Roeser family still work there. Customers rave about their cakes (especially the red velvet), the wide variety of cookies and tortes. The doughnuts are also popular, especially their custard-filled chocolate bismarcks and bacon maple. It's fun to just look at the different desserts through the glass case. There's a parking lot next door, which helps in the busy neighborhood. However, there is no seating, so you'll need to take your order to go.
Recommended for Bakeries because: They've been in business for more than a century, and the business has become a Chicago institution.
Jamie's expert tip: Try the Black Forest Torte, one of their most popular cakes.
Old fashioned desserts, like homemade chocolate chip cookies, apple pie, and lemon bars, are served in this small, adorable and popular Lincoln Park bakery, near the DePaul University campus. Regulars rave about their award-winning cupcakes which come in more than a dozen flavors, including vanilla and chocolate. They're slathered with vividly-colored buttercream frosting and then given creative candy toppings. The bakery is decorated with an old-school-meets-modern style, including the pastel-colored bar stools and glass display cases. Seating can be hard to get, as it's frequently crowded - the neighborhood customers appreciate the reasonable prices and high quality. So you might need to take your order to go.
Recommended for Bakeries because: It's been a Chicago favorite since it opened in 2002.
Jamie's expert tip: If the sugar rush isn't enough for you, coffee from local beanery Intelligentsia is at the ready.
Restaurants and bars line Division Street and nestled between them is Alliance Bakery, beckoning passerby to stop and appreciate the spectacular artistic cakes on display in their front window. Walk inside the small space to a colorful dessert selection behind glass windows, making the decision to choose just one nearly impossible. Once a choice is made, add a cup of coffee to your order, walk outside and back indoors through the next door where you can sit and enjoy your pastry in peace. Alliance Bakery is well-known in Chicago for their desserts, cakes and pastries, including their European-styled desserts like macarons and tortes. In addition to this location, the bakery supplies many of the city's best restaurants, hotels, caterers and sweet shops.
Recommended for Bakeries because: Known for their beautifully decorated cakes, Alliance also gets rave reviews for its French desserts, like eclairs, croissants and macarons.
Megy's expert tip: Need to order a cake that looks like a work of art? This is the place.
Some of Chicago's best pies, cinnamon rolls and savory sandwiches on buttery breads are served in this highly regarded bakery. Among its accolades are two nominations for the prestigious James Beard Awards. They also have a take-out location in Ravenswood Manor, next to the Francisco stop on the Brown Line, at 4642 N. Francisco, where there's an open kitchen and you can see the bakers in action. While the prices may be higher than other bakeries, it's because they use top quality ingredients, including organic whole grains they mill in-house. One of their most popular items are their light but delicious doughboy donuts.
Recommended for Bakeries because: It's one of Chicago's most highly acclaimed bakeries, using top quality ingredients like organic whole grains they mill in-house.
Jamie's expert tip: Go to their Ravenswood Manor location, next to the Francisco Brown Line stop at 4642 N. Francisco, and see their bakers in action in the open kitchen.