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 1, 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 frying up thousands of paczki using a beloved, generations-old family recipe with a few modern-day twists when it comes to the filling: Apricot Jelly, Plum Butter, Salted Caramel with scratch-made caramel using sea salt, Fresh Strawberry, German Chocolate with pecans and coconut custard topping and more. They're famous for the booze-filled options as well: vodka and vanilla bean custard, Jameson Whiskey with chocolate custard and moonshine and lemon. Walk-ins are welcome, but pre-ordering is recommended and must be completed by Feb. 21. The minimum order is a dozen.
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 over 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: bridgeportbakerychicago.com
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
Available in all 16 Chicagoland locations, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee are offering four pazcki offerings that will please chocolate and fruit lovers. Guests can choose from vanilla pastry cream, chocolate pastry cream, cannoli cream and cherry paczkis. Stop into your favorite Stan's, Feb. 26-Mar. 1, or order online.
Locations all around Chicagoland, find the one 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
West Town Bakery
West Town Bakery is offering raspberry, chocolate and vanilla paczkis in their West Town, Wrigleyville and Financial District locations. Avoid lines by pre-ordering through Feb. 24 at noon for pick-up on Mar. 1 or visit them in person.
Three Chicagoland locations; Online: westtownbakery.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. Order by Feb. 27 for guaranteed pick-up on Mar. 1.
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. They started celebrating early this year, so go in anytime between now and Mar. 1 to get your paczki.
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 awnings of Ingram's Busy Bee Bakery have always been beacons of happiness for west suburban families looking to satisfy a sweet tooth. Unfortunately, they had to close their doors after the owner, Chuck Kalousek, lost his months-long battle with Covid-19 in Jun. 2021, leaving behind a loving wife and two kids. Chuck's dedication to his community is greatly appreciated and it didn't feel right removing them from this list just yet. If you'd like to support his family, please consider donating to the GoFundMe in Chuck's honor.
5126 Main St., Downers Grove; Online: ingramsbusybee.com
— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri